How can we prepare our students to be citizens in a networked world? One solution is to give them occasions for action in that world through authentic research using digital methodologies. Let them explore wicked problems that cross disciplinary lines and don’t have clear solutions. Engage them in collaborative research involving both students and faculty members. Involve them in projects driven by community needs and mentor them through that work. All of these answers highlight the value of liberal education in a world of webs and networks because these are the kinds of opportunities offered by small liberal arts colleges rather than large-scale, industrial MOOCs.
One of the key impacts of digital humanities in the undergraduate curriculum is the potential for enabling undergraduate research in the humanities. While undergraduate research—identified as a high-impact practice for liberal education by George Kuh—has long been prevalent at liberal arts colleges, we more often see it in the sciences, especially when we are looking at student-faculty collaborative research. As Chris Blackwell and Tom Martin argue, however, digital humanities projects offer undergraduates significant opportunities to engage in humanities research. Two NITLE digital scholarship seminars have highlighted the results. In “Digital Humanities for Undergraduate Learning,” Chris Blackwell (The Louis G. Forgione University Professor of Classics, Furman University), Laura McGrane (Associate Professor of English, Haverford College), and Jennifer Rajchel (Digital Humanities Intern and alumna, Bryn Mawr College) shared how new digital methodologies allow undergraduates to engage in authentic, applied humanities research both in the classroom and beyond. In “Undergraduates Collaborating in Digital Humanities Research” a panel of undergrads from Wheaton College, Hamilton College, the University of Richmond, and the University of Pittsburgh shared their research, as well as their goals, challenges, and what they had learned from the process of digital humanities research. Recordings of both of these seminars are openly available online, linked from the seminar event pages.
In April 2013, the Re:Humanities Conference will once again offer undergraduates from liberal arts colleges the opportunity to share their digital scholarship. This annual undergraduate symposium on digital media hosted by Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges will take place April 4-5, 2013. The call for proposals is available online; submissions are due November 20, 2012. The organizers seek undergraduates from any college who are exploring cross-platform approaches to course projects, digital scholarship, and student collaborations. Find out about previous conferences on the Re:Humanities website. These events provide a window into how undergraduates view and learn from new digital approaches in the humanities. I especially recommend the recap videos (linked below) from each conference for those who are interested in the value of engaging students in the digital humanities. And, in a NITLE Seminar on November 8, a panel of Re:Humanities alumni will examine how their digital scholarship as an undergraduate has prepared them for their current work and challenges in a digitally networked world. Watch the NITLE Event page for more details on this event.