Century America
Spring, 2014
TR, 2-3:15, Eastern Time Zone

Jeffrey McClurken, Ph.D.,  Chair and Professor of History, University of Mary Washington
Ellen Holmes Pearson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History, University of North Carolina, Asheville

Contact information will be sent to students via email.

Office Hours:
McClurken — 9-11 MW; 10-11, TR, and by appointment

Pearson — office hours for all students (in my office and accessible by Google
Hangout/Skype): 3-4 p.m. MW; 10-11 a.m. W; Exclusive virtual office hours for Century America class: 1-2 p.m. TTH

Course Description: The research will focus on COPLAC member campuses founded before 1914, the year when World War I began in Europe. Using special collections and other library, campus and community resources, students will research their college in the year 1914, its mission and its challenges, together with the life of the surrounding community just as Europe plunged into the Great War. The research would then shift to spring 1917 when America entered the War and look at its impact on these colleges and communities. In addition to completing important guided research on their home institution, student researchers will contribute to the building of the multi-campus digital “Century America” site. The participants will work in a digital medium, develop skills in the areas of digital presentation and collaborative research, and hone each of these important skills for professional success in the new century.

Learning Objectives: In this class, students will develop and practice the following:

  • An appreciation of diverse methods and processes of digital history, and utilization of technological resources in research, data analysis, and presentation.
  • To make discipline-specific oral presentations to groups.
  • To work together cooperatively and creatively
  • To conduct research in multiple sites.
  • To master the skills of critical analysis and writing


Course Requirements: Every student will accomplish the following:

  1. Complete a website based on a contract made between the individual and the professors
  2. Post weekly progress reports on your own blog
  3. Regularly present to the class about the status of your project
  4. Participate in class discussions of readings, videos, and the process of creating digital history
  5. Participate in class workshops related to specific digital tools and research skills
  6. At end of the semester, complete a brief paper/blog post reflecting on the process and defending your project as contracted

Students are expected to attend all class sessions or view the class sessions online and meet with professors as needed/required, read all assigned texts, and participate in class. [Students are also responsible for submitting all project drafts and the final product by the contracted due date. Assignments are considered late if turned in/posted anytime after the appointed due date. Late projects will be penalized one half letter grade per day.]

Discussions: Students are expected to attend all classes having read the assigned material or having completed assigned tasks. Class participation includes actively participating in daily discussions and responding to class presentations. To that end, for each class for which there are readings/videos, students should also prepare a list of comments on the material (parallels, problems, factual questions, reminders of past readings, connections to ideas from other classes or from “real life”) so that they have those points in front of them for the discussion. Although we have no current plan to collect these comments, we reserve the right to do so at any point during the semester.

Blogging: Distance learning courses present unique challenges with regard to collaboration and communication. Some of the tactics we will use to bridge the distance gap will be blogs, discussions on Google Hangout or Skype, and use of other social media. Narrating the planning, research, and implementation processes via your blogs is a central part of the class and a way for us to measure your effort, your creativity, and your progress as digital scholars. Blog about your problems as well as your successes. Be sure to comment on each others’ blogs and help each other out. This is a community of people going through similar efforts that you can tap into, so do so. Weekly posts & comments are a minimum expectation of the class.


Daniel J. Cohen & Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web (2006). Available at .

David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society (25th Anniversary Edition, 2004)

Other readings for this semester will be available on-line.

Final Grades: Final grades will be determined based on class participation (including blogging, mini assignments, and regular presentations to the class) (35%), on performance on the contract (5%) and project (50%), and on the quality of the final formal presentations on the projects (10%). Unsatisfactory performance will be reported mid-semester to your advisor on your home campus.  The seminar instructors, Dr. Ellen Pearson and Dr. Jeff McClurken, will transmit the final grade to your advisor, and she or he will enter the grade using an independent study option at your home campus.

Academic Conduct: You should know that if you cheat or plagiarize in this class, you will fail, and we will report the incident to our liaison on your home campus.  On the other hand, having friends or family read and comment on your writing can be extremely helpful and falls within the bounds of proper academic conduct (assuming the writing itself remains yours). If you have questions about these issues, then you should talk to us sooner rather than later.

Project Contracts: Each student will create contracts with Professors Pearson and McClurken about their projects. The contracts are due February 27, though each contract will need to be approved by us & may need to be tweaked before approval. Each contract must include:

  • Mission statement (describe project)
  • Tools the student plans to use
  • Schedule of milestones (when critical pieces are ready to present)

NOTE: These contracts may be revised as the semester goes on, though only with good reasons and only after discussion with Professors McClurken and Pearson

Regular Presentations (or Updates):  Starting in week 6, each individual will be expected to make weekly status updates in class on Thursdays on their progress. Although some weeks 3-5 minute updates will be sufficient, every other week individuals will need to present a more thorough update. More details on when you will be responsible for a lengthier presentation will be posted later in the semester.

End of the Semester (Public) Presentations:  At the end of the semester each individual will make a 8-10 minute presentation summarizing their project. More on this later in the semester.

Reflection post/defense of contract: In the last week of the semester, each person will be expected to write a brief blog post or paper (your choice). This paper (~1-2 pages/~500 words) should reflect on the process and defend your project as contracted.

 Accommodations: If you receive services through your Office of Disability Resources and require accommodations for this class, please speak with us as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs. We will need a copy of your accommodation letter. We will hold any information you share with us in the strictest confidence unless you give us permission to do otherwise. If you need accommodations, please consult with your Office of Disability Resources about the appropriate documentation of a disability.


Course Schedule

Week 1

Jan. 14 — What is Digital History?  [What are the Digital Humanities?  How are the two different?]

— The basics of WordPress — user accounts, posts, pages,

Reading for Jan. 14: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Introduction, Ch. 1; Information R/evolution; Seefeldt & Thomas, What is Digital History?Digital Humanities Definitions by Type; Wikipedia definitions of Digital History & Digital Humanities

Jan. 16 — Archives/research workshop. We will ask students who are experienced in archival research to share your experiences and bring your ideas and advice to this workshop. We will brainstorm other places to look, discuss archive etiquette, taking photos/images/recording/copies, microfilm, befriending archivists, searching broadly and deeply, and other tips for archival research.

Assignments over the weekend:

  • Rename your blog title and subtitle and customize the look of the site with theme, widgets, and menus.
  • Write and publish first blog post about progress so far (this can be archival work, reviewing sites, or thoughts about the the project and class).
  • Prep for the report on archival materials for your campus — [UPDATE–Post this as your second post to the blog.  See here for more details about the report.]
  • Optional: Set up a Twitter account (or use an existing one) and follow us (@jmcclurken & @eholmespearson) and/or your classmates and/or some of the scholars from the DH Compendium.  If you tweet about our class use the hashtag #HIST1914.

Week 2

Jan. 21 — Report on preliminary surveys of archival materials for your campus.

Jan. 23 — Exploring Other Digital History Projects

Reading for January 23: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Chapter 2Chapter 4

Before January 23: Blog about three of these Digital History Sites: Valley of the Shadow, French Revolution, The Emancipation Project; Gilded Age Murder.  Omeka-based sites, including Great Molasses Flood (built in Omeka and Neatline). Map Scholar; University of Houston’s Digital History site; Emile Davis Diaries; Photogrammar; several sites at the Digital Scholarship Lab; Mapping the Republic of Letters; Virtual Paul’s Cross Project; Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.

As you blog, consider the following: Think about what you like about these websites as a whole, and what you don’t.  What works and what doesn’t?  What elements would you want to incorporate and which do you want to avoid in your own project?

Don’t Forget! Continue your archival work.

Week 3

Jan. 28 — Digital Workshop – Mapping and Timeline tools; Google Docs/Drive (DTLT?)

Jan. 30 — Content and use of context: Discussion of Over Here, chapters 1-4

 Assignment:  Build a basic map in Google Maps or build a basic timeline in one of the tools introduced Tuesday. Blog about the experience and about how you might use this in your project.

Don’t Forget! Continue your archival work.

Week 4

Feb. 4 — Digital Archives, Issues of Digitization, and Copyright

Feb. 6 — Touch base about research progress, technical skills, tools you wish you had for completing your project. — To prep for this conversation, create a list of all key primary sources for your project, and develop a rough site plan/outline before this class and post to your blog.

Reading for Tuesday: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Chapter 3Chapter 6, Chapter 7;; Stanford’s guide to fair use.

Also for Tuesday, check out two or three of the following Digital Archives: Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, September 11 Digital Archive,; JSTOR; Internet Archive; A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln; Famous Law trials; Criminal Intent; NYPL’s Biblion/World’s Fair; Influenza Encyclopedia (Of particular interest to our class).

Other copyright resources (not required): Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video; 2007 documentary on copyright (and music and video remixing); 30+ places to find Creative Commons media; Google Search and Creative Commons Images

Week 5

Feb. 11 — Thinking About and Building an Audience
Reading: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Ch. 5

Feb. 13 — Content and use of context: Discussion of Over Here, chapters 5 & 6, Epilogue and Afterword

After Week 5, unless otherwise noted, we will move to one large group meeting per week. Note that on Week 6 we will meet on Tuesday, and during Week 13 we will meet both Tuesday and Thursday.  

Week 6: Feb. 17-21

Feb. 18  (Note that we will meet on Tuesday this week) — Share updates on your progress and conversations about writing contracts.

Week 7: Feb. 24-28

Feb. 27 — Contracts due via Google Docs.  Must include outline of planned site, sources and tools to be used, specific milestones/schedule with draft completed by April 3 and final revised version by April 24. Share updates on your progress and conversations about writing contracts.

Floating SPRING BREAK — Please confirm the dates of your spring break with us by email. We will not be taking a break from weekly meetings, but if you must miss a meeting, you can catch up by watching the meeting at a later date.

Week 8: March 3-7

Mar. 6 — Impact of Digital History on Historians and on the Practice of History

Reading and Assignment: See this set of articles in the AHA’s Perspectives (2007) and Writing History in the Digital Age (2011)  [Pick two or three articles and blog about them.]  See also, the Archives 2.0 article that will be posted to the course site here.

Week 9: March 10-14

Mar. 13 — Share updates on your progress.

Week 10: March 17-21

Mar. 20 — Share updates on your progress.

Week 11: March 24-28

March 27— Share updates on your progress.

Week 12: March 31-April 3

Apr. 3 — Complete website drafts (not a ROUGH draft) due/shared with peers & faculty

Week 13: April 7-11

Apr. 8 & 10 (Note that we meet on Tuesday and Thursday in separate peer feedback sessions)

Week 13: April 14-18

Apr. 17 — Share updates on your progress.

Week 14: April 21-25

Apr. 24 — Final Projects due. Reflection paper/blog post due no later than May 2. Peer reviews of sites due no later than Monday, April 27.

Weeks 15-16: April 28-May 6

Peer reviews of sites due to your peers no later than Monday, April 27

Apr. 29 — Virtual Office hours with Dr. McClurken — no meeting
Apr. 29 — Submissions for timeline due to Leah

May 1 — Presentations
— Augustana, NCF, Minnesota–Morris

May 2 — Reflection Paper/blog post due

May 6 — Presentations
— Midwestern, UVA-Wise, UNC-Asheville

Public presentations of projects will be in the last week of classes and may be “attended” by faculty and administrators from other COPLAC institutions and will be posted on the course and/or COPLAC websites.

Brief paper/blog post due no later than Friday, May 2.  This will be (~1-2 pages/~500 words) reflecting on the process and defending your project as contracted.

NOTE: Given that these are public projects, students will commit to fixing issues found by Professors McClurken and Pearson during the final evaluation of projects.

One thought on “Syllabus

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *