Case study in DH at a liberal arts college

If you’re wondering how DH got started at W&L and what’s been happening here over the last couple of years with DH, then you’ll want to read Launching the Digital Humanities Movement at Washington and Lee University: A Case Study.

Here’s an excerpt:

Improving student learning, however, first requires defining the learning outcomes expected through DH. One can find an excellent set of learning outcomes and priorities in Digital_Humanities emphasizing “the ability to think critically with digital methods to formulate projects that have humanities questions at their core” (Burdick et al. 2012, 134). Indeed, the mode of critical thinking with digital methods must be incorporated within the mindset of faculty, IT professionals, and librarians to effectively teach with the digital humanities.

Such thinking is the key to the future of digital humanities on this campus. Dean Keen offers an energetic vision:

In ten years, digital humanities projects will be so diffused throughout the curriculum that they no longer look experimental; they gain broad acceptance as a legitimate mode of student work. Student transcripts contain links to their DH projects as part of demonstrated student learning outcomes. Our liberal arts grads possess not only information fluency, but the craft skills to make and manipulate digital artifacts. Parsing large data sets in easily visualized and nuanced ways becomes a normal skill of our humanities grads, along with writing and critical thinking (Suzanne Keen, e-mail message to author, March 11, 2014).

The key for success of the digital humanities at a small liberal arts college is to focus on the learning outcomes. Identify the knowledge and skills that students should acquire through the DH assignments in a course, and think deeply about how students can transfer that digital learning to their other courses and their lives beyond graduation. In the end, the value of the digital humanities is to reinforce the critical thinking and lifelong learning skills that are the foundation of a liberal arts education.

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