Making DH-Course Together

Dinara Gagarina (, Perm State University, Russian Federation

The project involves the development of the MA-course «Concepts and Approaches of Digital Humanities», which is one of the basic courses in the MA-program «Digital Technologies in Sociocultural and Art Practices.» Currently, the approbation of the experimental methodology in one of the universities is underway. The total volume of the discipline is three credits. The course is placed in the first semester, after which courses in specific areas of the DH are studied.

The goal of the course is to review the existing concepts of Digital Humanities, approaches to defining the subject and methods of Digital Humanities, theoretical and methodological foundations of using IT in various humanities, to get an idea of the relevant directions, tools, and projects.

The relevance of the project is primarily due to the growing importance of Digital Humanities as an interdisciplinary area. The developed MA program and this course as its part, allow combining the knowledge and methods accumulated in the application of IT in separate humanities disciplines, and train specialists of a new type. This association also takes place at the organizational level and facilitates the interaction of faculties, the implementation of joint projects.

Our approach to constructing the course is to actively involve students not only in research activities and projects, but also in the discussion and formation of the structure of the course, and then in filling it. The means of implementing this approach is the dynamic creation of the course site during the entire training period. We want to involve students in the practice of shaping the course, the constant retention of the focus of attention.

At the same time, we solve several problems and obtain a number of didactic opportunities and advantages.

Firstly, there is a problem of the lack of educational literature on DH in general, mainly prevailing literature and pedagogical developments in selected areas of DH. There is a language problem, for example, the only one reader by DH in Russian is released (Digital Humanities: A Reader, 2017). We use various types of materials – video, MOOC-courses, web resources, and actively read scientific literature.

Secondly, it is important for us to show a common landscape and a multitude of DH-directions on a scale. We work with masters who have different backgrounds in the bachelor’s degree: historians, culture and art studies, philologists, PR, etc. There are also students in the group without humanities education at the bachelor’s level.

Third, we want to combine teaching with the formation of a set of important DH skills: designing and retrieving information for web resources and databases, working with maps and timelines, corpora of texts. We use the students’ conscious and active approach to learning and suggest that they become co-authors of the training course, first discussing possible course structures with them, and then jointly creating a special course site (Gagarina, 2017).

All links, texts related to the work of students during the course, are posted on the special site of the course. The entire group has access to viewing and commenting on all sections of the site and editing their own materials. Students learn to work in a team.

In the first lesson after the opening remarks, students are divided into pairs and offer their own model of the course. Since we are now conducting an experiment, we can already confidently say that students see DH with a skewing in its background or experience. During the discussion of these models, we jointly design a common framework and plan. For the convenience of combining the models, I suggest that students make a structure of 3-5 modules with a possible division into topics within the module. At this stage, one can clearly see the feature – students see as the first block the definition and history of DH, as 2-3 modules, most of them suggest considering directions within DH (computer linguistics and digital history, for example). Then many students propose to do their project. Almost no one talks about the consideration of common approaches, the general DH methodology, the DH infrastructure, and the classification of DH by technologies and tools.

The skill of the teacher is at this stage in combining your pre-designed curriculum and the vision of students. It is quite possible to do this by shifting the emphasis somewhat.

At the conference, we plan to present the results of the experiment and the project as a whole.

The study is supported by Vladimir Potanin Foundation.

Appendix A

  1. Gagarina D. (2018).
    Studying Digital Humanities,

  2. Digital Humanities: A Reader (2017). Ed. M. Terras, J. Nyhan, E. Vanhoutte, I. Kizhner, Krasnoyarsk, 352 p. (in Russian).

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