Should DH be taught at the undergraduate level?
I remember it as if it was yesterday. I was down in the honors center looking at the courses that were being offered for the fall 2010 semester and trying to decide which one to take. 08.201.01 Honors Digital Humanities with Dr. Schlitz caught my eye. I had no idea what digital humanities was and the course description was vague also. I was intrigued by the class and so decided to take it. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Taking this class was one of the most rewarding things that I have done during my college career so far. I learned so much about things that I did not even know existed. For example I did not even know that digital humanities was a field of study. I also learned about creative commons, TEI, XML and so much more. I am so glad that I took this course. It opened my eyes to a new way of viewing the humanities online. It also changed the way I view researching online. I used to be the kind of person who preferred to do individual work rather than group work but learning about the field of DH and taking this undergraduate class changed that for me. I am so excited whenever Dr. Schlitz comes into class and tells us that we are going to collaborate with one another today. The field of DH has changed my view on numerous things and has allowed me to learn things that I never would have learned about without taking this course.
The students today and the students still to come are digital natives. We learn differently than undergraduates used to. The field of DH in my opinion embraces this learning difference. I believe that if students were introduced to this field of study, they would be opened to a whole new world of learning as I was. Also, the world is headed in the direction of DH. Soon, students will be using these sites instead of textbooks. Why not get a head start and begin teaching the undergraduate level now so that they will be able to develop sites so there will be more available for the future generations. DH is also a new field of study. By educating the undergrads in this field it will allow the field to grow larger and have more people involved.
So many of the classes offered today are structured as follows:
Professer lecture while students take notes and then regurgitate what was told to them on a test. There is no collaboration or interactivity. Opinions are not heard or valued. A DH class, and in my opinion the field, is exactly the opposite of this. The whole class collaborates and interacts. EVERYONE’S opinion matters and all inquiries are valid. We are all learning together for the good of the humanities. Another thing about this course is that you can do as much or as little as you want, the same way it is in the field. If you want that A you will to all the work to your best ability, just like if you are a determined researcher using one of the DH sites. However if you just want a C you will do the bare minimum, just like if you are leisurely using the DH site. And you know what….that is completely fine. What you get out of DH depends on how much you put into it just like your grade.
So the question still stands…should DH be taught at the undergraduate level. Of course it should. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity that I had to learn great information in this new and upcoming field of study. I think that all undergraduates should at least have the option of learning about DH. I believe that students will embrace this class because it is what they are used to. They crave the collaboration and interactivity. Students want their opinion to be heard without fear of it being thought of as sill or insignificant. There is no such thing in this field. I think that all undergraduate students have something to offer and the DH community should grab a hold of this. By offering this course undergraduate students will hopefully experience what I have and will embrace this field and allow it to grow. Everyone should have a chance to make a difference, and if they do not even know it exists then how can they do this? You never know who will come out of these courses…you might find the next Alan Liu.