Not Your Parents’ History Course

Concurrent Session 8

Session Materials

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Brief Abstract

I received a grant to convert our World History sequence to make it available online.  I decided to include a number of web-based applications to showcase student projects, including creating a website with blog entries, curating digital content, and creating an interactive video that acts as a portfolio.

Extended Abstract

Critical thinking is clearly the goal of all education.  What is sometimes forgotten in the push to teach students how to think like this is how to teach the students to present their ideas to a global audience.  I’ve developed four online courses (World History I, II, and III, along with the History of Early Christianity) with presentation of critical thinking as one of the major goals.  A standard online history course is usually text-based, meaning “read this, discuss that, write about this.”  I decided that this was not an approach for our students who are usually attached to their phones, computers, tablets, at all hours of the day.  They seem to expect interaction with their digital devices, even in their classes.  I also wanted to make sure that my students had an important “takeaway” from my courses—I tell them that they may leave the course and not remember why the Arians and the Catholics were fighting with each other in the 300s, but they probably will not forget how to make a website, a blog, a podcast, or create a video.  Being able to navigate in the digital world is an important skillset for university students, especially with future employment.  I had these things in mind when I redesigned these online courses.   

In this presentation I would like to go over how I set up one of my courses.  Many of the students are not history majors and I felt that I needed to “hook” the students into the course topic by allowing them to choose an area where they can focus all their assignments on.  For example, students can concentrate on religious architecture in the ancient world, in my World Civ. I course.  They then develop a website around this topic, using, an extremely easy way to create beautiful websites.  Within the website they must create a blog (using the Blog app at Wix).  The students must then blog about their topic four times within the quarter.  The first blog will be an overview of their theme throughout the time-period of our course (usually Neolithic through about 800 AD).  The second blog must on a specific topic from the early period (say, a Greek temple from 500 BC), the third on a slightly later time point (say, a Roman temple from 200 AD), and the fourth, on a topic within 300-800 AD (for example, an early Christian church).  At the same time they are using a digital curation website called  This is really a search engine on a topic of your choosing.  If they have the theme of religious architecture, they then need to develop a series of keywords related to this theme, plug them in to, and then curate and comment on what comes up.  I sometimes have the students create a podcast or two on a specific topic.  Here at East Bay we are converting to semesters so I will make podcasting a regular feature.  Students also write a research essay on their chosen theme.

I would also like to show the audience my interactive lecture videos I created.  The interactivity of watching a video lecture on the part of the student comes from the “tags” I insert in to my videos (using ThingLink video).  These tags are used to present more information to the student than I can cover in my short video lectures.  These tags also have the benefit of keeping the students engaged in the material as they watch the lecture.  I have taken a number of surveys in various courses asking students whether they find these useful and many respond “yes.” 

Lastly, their final project consists of taking all of their assignments (website, blogs, podcasts,, essay) and making their own interactive video on Thinglink video.  Their “tags” will be their own assignments (along with five other academic websites) and they can use the video they created at the beginning of the course.   This would also be included on their website and it acts as a portfolio of their research. 

There will be time throughout the presentation for questions and I would be happy to go over any of these tools I use.  I will create an Aurasma Aura handout (an augmented reality app) that the audience can take with them.  The aura will go over these tools and give them the weblinks to everything I will talk about.  The target audience will be faculty, design thinkers, instructional support, technologists.