Teaching fully-online courses: what works for history?

This session may fall outside the usual range of digital-humanities topics for a THATCamp, but so be it.

I’d like to convene a session on teaching history in fully-online formats– that is, when you may never meet your students in the flesh. At the urban public US university where I teach, there’s increasing pressure to bring more of our courses online, up to and including a fully-online BA in history. We’re encouraged to follow the Quality Matters standards for peer-reviewed best practices in fully-online course design. I was originally suspicious of Quality Matters, not least because of its Orwellian naming, but it’s been very useful for learning how to teach online.

So, how do you teach history online? 3 semesters ago, I walked into a job with a substantial online-teaching component and no prior experience. Frankly, I’ve been making it up as I go along, with the help of a staff instructional designer and my university’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching. Although my initial efforts were very rough, things have improved, and I’m now cautiously optimistic about online courses compared to face-to-face courses. I’d like to share some of what’s been working for me and hear from others about your experiences.

Some topics we might discuss include:

* How to use discussion forums, with or without instructor participation
* Assignments that work for teaching critical-thinking skills in history
* The challenges of self-directed learning; motivating students by teaching curiosity
* Journals and reflective assignments
* Designing assignments that are manageable to grade with a large student load (90+ students per instructor per semester)
* synchronous meetings (chat, Adobe Connect, Skype, etc) and when they’re most effective
* team-based learning (I’m not doing it, but I hear it can work very well online)
* peer-review assignments as a learning tool (via Turnitin.com or similar)
* mini-lectures and when they’re useful
* teaching strategies from MOOCs that we can adapt for smaller courses

So, who’s interested? Comment here with a little more information about how this session relates to you. If we do this, it’ll need to be in the morning, because I need to depart by 1pm for my flight home.

Categories: MOOCs, Session: Talk, Session: Teach, Teaching, Your Categories Are Inadequate | Tags: , , , , |
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About Shane Landrum

I teach history at Florida International University. My book manuscript, which relies significantly on digital methods, explores the history of birth certificates and compulsory birth registration in the United States from the 1840s to the present. I completed my Ph.D. in American History at Brandeis University in 2014. I also have a BA in Computer Science & American Studies from Smith College.