Internet Shakespeare Editions

Overview of the course

Course objectives

The specific skills acquired by students will vary according to the particular modules completed, but in general, by the completion of three modules, as required for completion of the course, students will

In addition, each module will provide the students with sufficient knowledge to use the applications appropriate to the specific area it addresses.

Course content

Four short modules will introduce students to major concepts and applications for computers in typical Humanities disciplines. Each module will have a number of set readings and tasks (not specified in this outline) that will broaden its scope by introducing issues that question the underlying medium. I do not suggest any specific readings in the outlines for the courses, because the field has changed so much in the last decade. In their stead, a course developer will create a Course Pack of recent materials for each module to supplement Web materials.

The delivery of the course

The modules will be designed for students to complete in their own time. Each module will be self-contained, and each worth 1/3 of a semester course; thus students will need to complete three of the four modules. The importance of this option is that it gives students some power in deciding the structure of the overall course they need or prefer; for the same reason, students can take the modules in any order.

Modules will be largely self-taught and self-directed, with "drop-in" labs available for each course at set times each week. The main principle in the structure of the modules will be "mastery learning" where students complete assigned tasks; thus the courses will be evaluated as pass/fail only. Since most students will already have some word processing skills, the first module will not deal with basics; a "catch-up" lab might be made available for those who have no previous contact with word processing. My experience with the online courses on Shakespeare that I teach is that students increasingly prefer to work on their computers at home, so it will be important for students either to be able to work with web-based materials, or, where site licenses permit, to download dedicated applications to their own computers.

As a precaution against plagiarism, the course coordinator will maintain a database of topics and other tradable commodities used in the course; a well-maintained database will very likely mean that there will be less plagiarism than in many other introductory courses.

While I would love to see a course of this kind mandatory across the discipline, I think it more realistic to leave it to individual departments in the Humanities to require or recommend specific modules, or the course as a whole.

Development and administration of the courses

Each module will require an investment of sufficient funds for complete development, and each should be created by a team that includes Web programmers and at least one academic. The creation of varied and effective units of instruction and online tests will require a substantial effort both from the supervising faculty and support staff; a faculty member charged with developing a single module should get no less than two courses relief, with an appropriate budget for programming and research assistance.

Once the modules are established, a single faculty member would get course relief equivalent to two semester courses to direct the program, and additional resources from lab instructors would be needed for the "drop-in" sessions and incidental assistance to students working on the modules. It would be the responsibility of the program director to maintain the courses, by providing up-to-date readings and tests; there would be a modest budget for programming the new online materials. The course would, however, be cost-effective, especially if a significant number of departments (or the Faculty as a whole) required 1.5 units of their Majors. There may also be a possibility of realizing on the intellectual property embodied in the courses.

In due course it would be possible to "plug in" new modules: an obvious early addition would be a course that examined issues in the digitizing of sound and video, and provided an introduction to the use of multimedia in teaching and on Internet sites. A module that looks at computer games and their social assumptions and effects might also be developed. Of course students would pay double fees for this module.


Note 2. These objectives are based on those for the introductory course in Humanities Computing at the University of Glasgow listed in the References. [Back]

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