This is the first time I’ve designed a DH course (though far from the first course I’ve designed, of course). It wasn’t an easy process, and the product is necessarily idiosyncratic, but, writing the afternoon before the class’s first meeting, I’m pretty excited. I started by thinking about what I wanted students to come away with. A great way to get one’s thoughts together, for those of us who may be visually-oriented, or think non-linearly, or just like playing with toys, is to compose a mind-map. In my case, I used coggle.it, a free web-based tool that is easy-to-use and allows both for downloading mind-maps in a variety of formats and for inclusion in other pages in an iframe; you can see my results on the course home page. I wanted students to get a sense of the main ideas circulating in and about the field (if it is a “field”—that’s a class discussion for another occasion), to gain a basic level of proficiency in some basic skills, and to give them some examples of how people have used or engaged with DH. Plus, I wanted to give them some experience doing.Part of my method was to reinvent as little as possible, especially given that many people more expert than I have developed all sorts of resources, especially links to syllabi. Debates in the Digital Humanities was a no-brainer as an introduction to many issues. For an example of cutting-edge research that actually used DH tools to answer questions accessible to specialists and non-specialists, Matt Jockers’s Macroanalysis was an easy choice. Several syllabi that I looked at included writing a proposal for the NEH Digital Start-Up program as a way to get students to conceptualize a larger project, and I liked that idea.
What probably, no, definitely took me the longest amount of time was figuring out what methods to teach the different skills I wanted the students to get. There are actually many ways out there to learn languages and, increasingly, DH tools (my favorite, as you can see, is The Programming Historian 2). I agonized for a while over each of these, especially what language to start out with, thinking about what was most accessible and useful and current and versatile… and after much reading and thinking, went back to the Programming Historian’s Python tutorial.
We’ll see how this thing goes.