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COPLAC’s Digital Liberal Arts Seminar for Undergraduate Researchers

A multi-campus, team-taught, distance seminar in digital scholarship

COPLAC Distance Digital Liberal Arts Seminars have counted for credit as independent studies or undergraduate research courses, at the discretion of the student's institution. The department chair at the student's home institution has typically served as instructor of record. The COPLAC course instructors determine the final grade and communicate that information to the instructor of record.

The inaugural “Century America: Campus, Community and the Great War” seminar project involved

  • Fifteen campuses
  • 23 student researchers working collaboratively
  • Two faculty leaders from separate institutions
  • Campus special collections librarians
  • Community archivists and private collectors
  • Faculty-student panels at AAC&U and CUR Annual Meeting
  • Public project website at www.centuryamerica.org

Spring 2017

The Social Life of Books

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Benjamin Bankhurst, Shepherd University and Benjamin Pauley, Eastern Connecticut State University

Course Description: We read books, they surround us, yet we do not really notice them. In this course we will learn to see books in new ways. Books and the activity of reading bring people together—both across space and time. Indeed, individual books often have "lives" of their own, and the stories of the books can be just as intriguing as the stories found within their pages. Students in this class will uncover the hidden lives of books. They will conduct research in their local archives and use books of their choosing to reconstruct the stories of the people who owned and used them. Students will then explore a variety of digital tools necessary to bring these stories from the shelves to a wider audience.

Digital History and Community Engagement

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Tina Holmes-Davis, Georgia College and Chiquita Howard-Bostic, Shepherd Univeristy

Course Description: In this course, students from various COPLAC institutions will design websites archiving historical events and community engagement at local organizations. Each student will apply symbols and music to produce a digital time capsule of meaningful organizational traditions. Students will research history and culture, volunteer to engage the community, and showcase their personal experiences and revelations. A synchronous digital classroom experience will allow students to creatively use multiple digital tools and assignments to represent personal community-centered experiences.

Making Strange: Constructing Identities & Making Sense of Our Surrondings

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Yvonne Franke, Midwestern State University and Janet Wesselius, University of Alberta (Augustana Campus)

Course Description: In the light of increased sensitivities towards global threats, people are afraid of strangers. This course aims to give students the time and tools to reflect upon the meaning of “strange.” How is strangeness constructed? What is strange in one place at one time may not be considered strange elsewhere. How do we identify ourselves as being part of a particular culture and nation? What is familiar and what is alien to us and why? Through discussing these questions we can identify and explore larger issues, drawing from our respective local cultures. Course materials include film and short philosophical and literary texts. Students are welcomed from a wide variety of disciplines. They will venture out into their own communities to find local examples of strangeness and familiarity in the form of images, places, legends and stories, sayings, and history and then see how the local fits in with larger narratives. This research will be used to create digital projects on “making strange” that will be part of the COPLACDigital site and provide a resource for thinking through the issue of strangeness.

Divided Houses: Secession & Separation

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Mary Beth Mathews, University of Mary Washington and Ken Owen, University of Illinois Springfield

Course Description: What makes a community break apart? At many moments in American political and religious history, secessionist and separatist movements have threatened to break away from their own communities. In this course, students will identify a secessionist or separatist movement in the vicinity of their home campus and learn digital skills to help them design a website presenting and analyzing the history of that movement. Who were the members of the secessionist movements? What made them different from the community of which they were originally part? Why was secession or separation—rather than dialogue and reconciliation—seemingly the better solution for their concerns? Students will analyze what makes a community and what happens when that community breaks down. In developing their research projects, students will investigate the history of community formation, read studies of social cohesion and social disunity, and learn digital skills.

Fall 2016

Public Access and the Liberal Arts: A Narrative History

Mark C. Long, Keene State College and Cole Woodcox, Truman State University

Course Description: This digital humanities project will collect and publish stories that capture the identities, cultures, histories, and environments related to a public liberal arts education. The context for this research will be the 1944 G.I. Bill and public access to higher education and, later, increasing public access to the liberal arts. Similar to the Story Corps project started in 2003, the course will offer undergraduate students enrolled in the course the opportunity to build an online resource that chronicles the stories and life experiences of students, alumni, staff and faculty—a digital resource that captures the history and the prospects of the public liberal arts. As designers and editors of these digital archives, students will deepen their own sense of place in higher education by making visible the history of the liberal arts at the institution in which they are studying. Two-person teams enrolled at COPLAC campuses will 1) build an online archive of oral histories by alumni, faculty, staff and current student 2) employ digital tools to produce a layered, web-based narrative that includes audio and video stories, images, maps and documentary evidence of their home campus and 3) collaborate with faculty mentors to integrate their web site projects with a main COPLAC site to make visible the story of the public liberal arts. COPLAC Storytelling will serve as a digital resource for current students, alumni, educators, administrators, development and admission offices, historians, archivists, and the wider public.

Cole Woodcox is professor of English and former chair of the Department of English and Linguistics at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. He teaches 18th Century, Romantic, Victorian, and Contemporary British literature; Film Studies; and Art History, with a special interest in architecture.



Mark C. Long is professor of English and American Studies at Keene State College. A former chair of English, current chair of American Studies, and coordinator of the College’s Thinking and Writing Program, professor Long teaches courses in writing, American poetry and poetics, the environmental humanities, and the teaching of reading and writing.



Spring 2016

Voices of Industrial America: The community and individual experience of American industrialization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Carey Heatherly, University of Montevallo, and Deborah Tritt, University of South Carolina Aiken

Course Description: By bringing the stories of individuals, communities, and companies to the forefront, the course will reveal the industrialization of an expanding America during the Second Industrial Revolution, circa 1870-1918. Issues such as population and community growth, social and worker welfare, and transportation coincide with these boons of technology and evolving industry. While this era and its issues are often broadly covered in texts, this course will offer local perspectives by delving into regional collections of primary resources. Industrialization and urbanization reshaped the American experience, but often missing is the micro-level perspective. Students will conduct research and create digital projects to tell the stories of their communities during the Second Industrial Revolution. The course will provide opportunities to curate and communicate local and regional history in a digital medium and encourage critical thinking about the digital liberal arts.

Deborah Tritt is an instruction/reference librarian and assistant professor at the University of South Carolina Aiken. She serves as the coordinator for the Gregg-Graniteville Archives and also oversees the library’s digital collections. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Georgia, possesses a Master’s of Library and Information Science from the University of South Carolina, earned a Master’s of Science in Information Technology from Nova Southeastern University, and is a graduate of the Georgia Archives Institute. Her publications include journal articles in the Southeastern Librarian, Codex, and Computers in Libraries, and two essays in the The South Carolina Encyclopedia Guide to South Carolina Writers.

Carey Heatherly is a native Alabamian. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Samford University, majoring in History, and a Master’s of Library and Information Studies from the University of Alabama. He joined the University of Montevallo’s faculty in November 2007 as the University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian, the school’s first. He has authored several pieces including an encyclopedia entry on noted Southern Gothic writer William Cobb and the book Montevallo, a pictorial history co-written with Dr. Clark Hultquist. He has served campus in a number of capacities such as chairing the Hallie Farmer Lecture Series and as President of Faculty Senate. He is also Immediate Past President of the Society of Alabama Archivists.

Festivals: Remembering and Refashioning Local Identities

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Catherine Kroll, Sonoma State University and Whitney Snow, Midwestern State University

Course Description: The study of festivals straddles the fields of public history, oral history, rhetoric, ethnography, American studies, digital humanities, popular culture studies, and anthropology. In this course, students will select a local festival to research over the course of the semester. With the aid of the combined expertise of Dr. Whitney Snow and Dr. Cathy Kroll, students will learn to formulate original research questions, to conduct and digitally record oral interviews and videos, to use ethnographic research methods, to undertake archival research, and to build websites showcasing their research results. The readings in the course will explore community festivals and their impact on identity, economy, and tourism at the local level. Questions to be considered in researching festivals include: How is time inflected by festivals? Do festivals engender a way of perceiving time as layered: where past, present, and future are experienced and reimagined? How do festivals promote hands-on activities and interaction among participants? How does spectacle come into play in festivals? How are audiences positioned (literally and figuratively) in observing main events? How do festivals ensure multi-generational appeal? Students will perform primary research on their city and COPLAC campus by delving into primary sources and by creating their own by conducting oral interviews. The foci will likely differ and, depending upon the time in which the festival existed or exists, timelines may also vary. Through digital interaction, teamwork, and hands-on research, students will not only be preserving community history, but by creating websites on the subject, providing a platform from which to better share these pieces on the past.

Catherine Kroll is an Associate Professor of English at Sonoma State University. She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. She teaches courses on nineteenth-century British literature, postcolonial African literature, and composition at Sonoma State University in northern California. She is currently involved in several digital humanities projects and has a strong interest in digital and multimodal pedagogies. Among her publications are essays on Cameroonian, Senegalese, and South African authors, including a long article on Alex La Guma and the anti-apartheid documentary image. She serves as a member of the Editorial Board of Research in African Literatures.

Whitney Snow is an Assistant Professor of History at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. Having earned her Ph.D. from Mississippi State University, she specializes in Twentieth-Century U.S., southern, agricultural, and oral history as well as popular culture. Her articles have appeared in several newspapers, magazines, and journals including Forests, Trees and Livelihoods; Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture; The Alabama Review; and The Journal of Mississippi History.

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