This course may feel different from your usual courses in several respects. First, rather than simply learning course content, you will be asked to apply your knowledge to make new things. Not all of these new things will be determined on the first day of the course. Together with a large responsibility for the final product(s) of this course, you will have a large say in what we produce.
Second, to attain the technical skills necessary to make things, you may sometimes be asked to inform and educate yourself outside of class, using extracurricular resources. Be prepared for some DIY moments throughout the semester. There are many places online to find assistance as well. You should also expect to have help, however; you won’t be going it alone as you learn new technical and analytical skills. You will be working not just as an individual, but as a member of a team. Your classmates are not your competitors, but your collaborators. In that role they will sometimes be asked to help you figure out assignment-related problems, evaluate your work, and share workloads. As their collaborator, you should do the same in return. Also expect that some of this is also new to me – I will in many cases be learning how to use software along with you. When possible, we draw on experts on specific subfields to provide you with assistance.
Finally, much of your work for this course will be done “in public” on our course blog or websites like Twitter; while your grades are always private, some of your work will be shared with students elsewhere and with the public at large.
All of these aspects of this course are actually not that new or rare. What may be unfamiliar to you is doing these things in a humanities course, where our emphasis is usually on individual and private reading, writing, and discussion. But whether they are unfamiliar or not, these aspects of the class mean that every student’s engagement and participation will be essential to its success. By the end you’ll have sharpened your skills as an historian while also acquiring digital, teamwork, and project management skills that will be useful even beyond the study of history.
(Drawn largely from Caleb McDaniel’s excellent Digital History @ Rice syllabus: http://digitalhistory.blogs.rice.edu/syllabus/)