│By Sarah L. Ketchley, Senior Digital Humanities Specialist, Gale│
There are many advantages to incorporating work with digital tools in the humanities classroom. As students graduate and transition to the workplace, demonstrable digital literacy is often a pre-requisite for employment, so students are keen to learn such skills, and to articulate what they have learned in a way that makes sense in professional settings.
The next two posts in this ‘Notes from our DH Correspondent’ series will highlight how classroom use of Gale Digital Scholar Lab provides an accessible entry point for faculty who want to teach Digital Humanities (DH) methodologies using text-based humanities data and offer a learning experience that is both relevant and enriching for students. Part I will provide suggestions and examples for drafting a syllabus and for identifying appropriate learning objectives in the DH classroom. Part II will cover ways to present the platform to students new to the field of DH or to working with historical primary source archives, along with suggestions for incorporating project-based learning, developing granular rubrics and options for assessing student work.
Planning to teach a class usually begins with framing out a syllabus, along with learning objectives for each task that students undertake which cumulatively lead to the desired outcomes. Integrating the ‘digital turn’ into the classroom can, however, present additional management issues. For example, working with tools that require local installation on a student’s laptop can require ongoing troubleshooting and maintenance by the instructor. This can create an additional workload and impact the student learning experience in class. Working with a cloud-based platform like Gale Digital Scholar Lab requires no additional installation steps and ensures that all students can enjoy equitable access to the technology in class.
Developing a Syllabus
The course that will be used as an example in this post is a no-prerequisite interdisciplinary ‘Introduction to Digital Humanities’ course. The syllabus begins by building a foundation of theoretical understanding of the field of DH, which is new to many students in class. Topics discussed include evaluating existing DH projects, copyright, risk assessment, developing data management plans and basic project management including developing team expectations for collaborative work.
Subsequent phases of course content put theory into practice. Students choose a research topic or question from selected Gale Primary Sources archives then use the search functionality in Gale Digital Scholar Lab to gather relevant material into a content set. Inbuilt digital tools are used to analyse the collected OCR text using quantitative and qualitative methods and this process moves students towards an understanding or answer for the selected research question. Finally, the results of this iterative process are made available in a digital format such as a timeline, story map or digital exhibit.
A syllabus template following this instructional model is available in Gale Digital Scholar Lab’s Learning Center in several formats, which can be downloaded and adapted to kick-start course planning and development. Content is broken down by module, or by topic, and is readily adaptable to semester, quarter or term based on an instructor’s locale.
Creating Relevant Learning Objectives
An integral part of syllabus-planning and development is articulating Learning Outcomes or Objectives and aligning them with the curriculum. Doing so sets shared expectations for the student and instructor and promotes both effective learning and a clear pathway for assessment.
In a classroom which may have students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds and with varied skillsets, providing a range of Learning Objectives can be beneficial. Doing so ensures that all students develop core computing competencies and learn how to investigate humanities data using digital tools. Stretch goals provide additional challenge for those who may come to class with some experience already, and who want to develop their existing skills.
Gale Digital Scholar Lab’s Learning Center provides a downloadable set of core Learning Outcomes (both basic and advanced) which instructors can adapt for their pedagogical needs.
For example, there are options for working with text mining methodologies in the classroom, using close and distant reading to infer pattern and meaning in large corpora of texts. The basic Learning Objectives focus on outcomes and process, while the more advanced Learning Objectives dig into understanding output and articulating how and why conclusions were drawn.
Identify the Specific Digital Skills Your Students Are Acquiring
The process of developing a syllabus and aligning it with Learning Outcomes provides the instructor with a framework for creating a meaningful and well-structured educational experience. It can help break the research and project-building process into a series of logical and cumulative steps, and this clarity helps students orient themselves in a field which may be unfamiliar to them. Using the syllabus as a starting point for identifying the specific digital skills and literacies being taught is a straightforward way to provide students with this information.
“Developing Literacies in the Digital Humanities Classroom: A Case Study” gives an overview of the types of literacies students are learning when they work with a platform like Gale Digital Scholar Lab to build a research project in class. Calling out these literacies is a good way to ensure that students develop an awareness of what skills they’re developing, along with the vocabulary to describe their learning and its value to the outside world.
Part II of this post will dig more deeply into project-based learning and project building in the classroom on an individual and team basis. Subscribe to The Gale Review to receive a notification that Part II has published!
If you enjoyed reading about how to set up and deliver an ‘Introduction to Digital Humanities’ course, try:
- Using the Gale Digital Scholar Lab in the Classroom
- How the Gale Digital Scholar Lab made digital humanities less daunting
- New Learningcenter added to the Gale Digital Scholar Lab
- New Experience for Gale Digital Scholar Lab
- Students at the University of Helsinki use the Gale Digital Scholar Lab
- Lifting the lid on how we created the Gale Digital Scholar Lab
You may also like other pieces in this ‘Notes from our DH Correspondent’ Series.