The Digital Humanities value openness and sharing—of knowledge, practices, tools, and data—all the way to its core. This openness is evidenced through the longstanding efforts of DHSI, through the recently announced Tech for Humanities collaboration site. The current movement toward Open Education Resources signals a broader trend to improve the accessibility of academic materials in spite—or in defiance of—the rising costs of tuition and enrollment. With all the attention given to the openness of DH’s resources and products, it is time to turn toward its courses and ask how they can be made more open.
This chapter will give needed attention to course design in Digital Humanities by positioning openness as a critical core factor in sound modern pedagogy. Starting from a position of student advocacy, we will argue that meaningful learning requires divergent thinking and genuine curiosity, and that those can best be facilitated through accessible materials and accessible courses, respectively. The authors will show how applying the principle of openness to the content, resources, and pedagogy of a course helps demonstrate the values of Digital Humanities through its teaching.
While this chapter has a more classroom-oriented subject than most in the initial Doing Digital Humanities collection, its emphasis on the value of openness reduces divisions between classrooms and the work of the discipline. Ensuring the openness of that work will allow various aspects of Digital Humanities to support and develop each other. Our goal is to show that openness should be second-nature for DH projects and courses alike.
Overall, this chapter argues students should be the driving forces behind their own writing, and that the more a writing instructor attempts to constrain student writing, the less authentic — and therefore less relevant and beneficial — it becomes.
Online writing courses have, up to now, applied digital tools to traditional writing classroom approaches. Digital workshop groups, peer-review, essay assignments — no matter how inventively framed using video, animation, code monkeying, and more — adhere, largely, to pedagogies created for on-ground classes (pedagogies that include assumptions of genre and form, as well as assumptions of learning objectives, outcomes, grades, and even the course itself as container for the writing done there). But new pedagogies, and new writing, must be invented to embrace all that digital writing may be.
In November 2012, as part of our work on Hybrid Pedagogy, we designed and co-taught a digital writing MOOC called Digital Writing Month (DigiWriMo). An adaptation of National Novel Writing Month, DigiWriMo sought to break open the boundaries of writing, beyond the concerns of genre and form, and to enlist people into an experiment designed to discover what digital writing is through the enacting of the same. Outcomes were also invented along the way. While we began with the goal of writing 50,000 digital words in one month, we quickly realized that the meanings of “digital words” and “writing” were up for grabs. Through improvisation, collaboration, and revision, DigiWriMo began to reveal the nature of online writing — a nature very different from writing in a traditional classroom — and the ways we learn to write in the digital age.
In the months following DigiWriMo, we’ve continued our investigation of teaching writing at scale through a series of articles on Hybrid Pedagogy and Twitter chats that respond to the recent rash of beginning composition MOOCs.
This article will discuss the discoveries we have uncovered during our exploration of the changing nature of composition and writing in online environments.
The relationship between composition courses and online education is complicated, and attempting to summarize that relationship in a blanket statement may be feeble or futile. As a field, composition faces the challenge of identifying best practices in online education at the same time that it struggles to identify standardized content for its courses. Assessment challenges also plague online composition courses. While other fields might assess student work with standardized methods or computerized scoring, the work of composition requires tedious and labor-intensive assessment methods difficult to delegate to software; indeed, a recent petition illustrates significant instructor opposition to computer scoring (Haswell & Wilson, 2013). This chapter illustrates the current state of challenging conversations within composition studies as a kaleidoscope of positions in which instructors using online education position themselves.