Professor Michelle O’Callaghan, School of Literature and Languages
The project ‘Teaching the Digital Text: Literature and the New Technologies’ employed two undergraduate research assistants to help in the design of a Part Three module that aims to introduce students to current research in the digital humanities and teach practical digital skills. Resulting from the project, a workshop was held, led by experts in the field, and a module was developed that will first run during the 2015/16 academic year.
- To work in collaboration with students to design a new Part Three module.
- To identify topics and tasks to include on the module.
- To experiment with open source software.
- To explore different modes of teaching and assessment.
Digital Humanities is an emerging field that brings together studies in the humanities with information technology and raises pressing methodological questions. Given the project leader’s own involvement in digital editing and database projects, the aim was to involve students in developing a module that explores how literary studies is engaging with these new technologies.
The aim of the project was to develop a Part Three module in collaboration with undergraduate research assistants, who were selected through a formal application process. Over a twelve week period, the team worked together on a pilot of the proposed module. Through a process of discussion, the team put together a bibliography of the critical material, developed and trialled tasks and assignments, debated suitable modes of assessment, and explored the resources available. During this twelve week period, the project leader met with the IT Business Partner of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science to discuss the IT requirements for the module.
At the end of the pilot, a workshop, ‘Teaching Digital Humanities’, was held, led by invited speakers from the University of Oxford, Bath Spa University, and the University of Winchester, who currently run successful modules in this area on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, as well as Dr Matthew Nicholls from the University of Reading’s School of Humanities, who spoke on ‘Digital modelling in teaching and learning’.
This pilot project culminated in the successful design of a Part Three module, ‘The Digital Text: Literature and the New Technologies’, which will run in Spring Term during the 2015/16 academic year. The workshop held as part of the project was especially productive. It brought together a range of colleagues from within the University of Reading – academics, librarians, and those in IT – and from other universities, who shared their expertise and experiences of working within the field of digital humanities and the broader issues the new technologies raise for the study of humanities.
The most successful aspect of the project was the opportunity that it provided to design a module in collaboration with undergraduate students. This student-led approach to module design is particularly appropriate in this instance because digital humanities is a field that combines theory and practice, and so provides students with the opportunity to apply their learning through using digital tools and creating their own digital outputs. At a very practical level, collaborating with students on module design is invaluable for identifying what are the most effective and engaging modes of delivery and assessment. It is very stimulating to discuss with students pedagogic issues, not only at the practical level of what works in the classroom and what does not, but also how to engage students in thinking about wider conceptual and theoretical issues.