This morning, a colleague emailed some great news: He’s contemplating including a project that would allow students to work on printed early modern poems. I’m a big fan of encouraging students to touch material artifacts and learning how to read literature in an unmediated (i.e., anthologized and edited) version of literature and literary culture. While he’s still in the planning stages, he has some room to figure out just what he’d like to accomplish by including this type of project. What follows is my advice, links, and assignments for creating such a project. Though many of the project instructions below are semester-long, they can be scaled down to accommodate any length of time.

This is a great question! We’re putting together the Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities for these very questions. The volume is still in open peer review (and not finalized), but there is a keyword on Project Management that you might find helpful. Take a look at the artifacts included in this keyword.


With that being said, there are some additional resources for crafting a project in a Humanities course. I’ve written about how to manage your first foray into Digital Pedagogy over at Polymath: “Play, Collaborate, Break, Build, Share: ‘Screwing Around’ in Digital Pedagogy.” 3:3 (Fall 2013) Polymath Special Edition on “Doing Digital Pedagogy at a Non-R1.” In this article, I discuss how to engage learning goals rather than focus on digital tools  (20).  I conclude the essay by defining the squishy boundaries of Digital Pedagogy and staunchly advocating for Digital Pedagogy as part of Digital Humanities. Though written over the course of a year (2011-2012) awhile ago, the articles demonstrates many of the ideas that I still practice for my style of digital pedagogy, including my firm position about the efficacy and authority of Digital Pedagogy.

In 2012, Jentery Sayers, Diane Jakacki and I ran the first Digital Humanities Summer Institute week-long workshop on Digital Pedagogy. The resulting assignments and syllabi are still available online.

Rebecca Frost Davis offers a great checklist for creating a project-based course. Begin here to assess your student learning goals, necessary resources, etc.

I have quite a few assignments for the big project instructions and then some other assignments as intermediary steps. I’ve gone through them below. Feel free to use the assignments!

TechnoRomanticism (2009, upper-division, English major elective) uses a scaffolded semester-long literary project complete with several assignments. While this is a very old version of a scaffolded literary project, you can see the various assignments as they built upon each other:   The British Literature Survey 1800-Present (2012, lower-division, English major requirement) relied on one collaborative project instead of a semester-long project. The digital tools are somewhat dated:

More recently, Gaming & Narrative (2014, upper division, English major elective) contains a collaborative, scaffolded project with intermediary assignments that are graded. This helps students see the building of the project as steps rather than one huge, overwhelming masterpiece at the conclusion of the semester. We used low-tech digital tools with the exception of the game-design software (freely available):


A key element of doing projects (at whatever scale) is to highlight the collaborative nature of the work instead of calling it group work. (We call them teams, and I highlight that teams mimic the working world.) To that end, I give them a Teamwork Evaluation Rubric included with assignment instructions: At some point, they will grade each other (privately only to me) usually twice to let me know how it’s going on the team. The first time they use the rubric, it’s just practice. I give them feedback on creating a better evaluation. The second time, at the conclusion of the project, the feedback is shared (anonymously) with the student. We then either talk or blog about it.


Process blogging along the way is incredibly valuable, and it gets students writing about the project with an invitation for other teams to respond to issues and dilemmas. I use a blogging point system:

On this page, you’ll also see my grading rubric for participation. More and more, I’m finding that this is helpful to show students early in the semester. We do a mid-semester blog post so they can articulate how they plan to improve their participation grade.

With the Gaming and Narrative project, they did a seemingly easy assignment of annotating a single page from a novel. It was surprisingly difficult for them! They didn’t really annotate other than to underline sentences. So we used that moment to discuss a reader’s responsibility to investigate and the freely available tools and library databases (especially the OED database). If you’re working on early modern poems, you might have them do an annotation assignment that then leads to an explication of the poem. See here:

For intermediary assignments or steps along the way of the project, I use free digital tools, such as Google’s N-Gram viewer. This might spark interesting conversation about the poems’ use of language:


I have them do things like recording a recitation:

Somewhere in the process, students perform team presentations and are graded with a presentation rubric that they receive along with the instructions ( Presentations are done twice: once in the middle of the project so they get practice and then at the conclusion of the project, so they have a chance to demonstrate that they improved on presentations. The instructions offer a tremendous amount of help on presentation slides: See also: .

As you think about the structure of your project (and have gone through Rebecca’s checklist), remember not take on too much. For instance:

  • Is it a lot to have them code in TEI in this version of the course? Or do you want to practice a scaffolded assigmment with this first version of the course?
  • Also, taking on Omeka begs the question of the purpose for creating a digital edition (sounds like what you’re doing). Will Omeka be hosted on a school server? Again, might check with the library about hosting these projects on their server. Omeka has a great documentation section as well as examples of other project.
  • Is this a semester-long project?
  • TEI can be tedious to learn, but it’s essential if you are going to create a public project. I’d suggest that you work with your library for this. You might read through Kate Singer’s wonderful article on teaching TEI as a form of close reading:
  • If this will be an ongoing set of exhibits or projects that you’ll have students perform in another version of this course, you may want to formalize this with server space and link to a library exhibit of some kind. This leads to sustainability of the digital results. If the exhibits in Omeka adhere to library requirements for metadata, they’ll be incredibly valuable for other students. If this is a project that’s not meant to contributes to the public knowledge about the material object and the university’s special collections, that’s okay, too. Keep in mind that students address a project differently when they know that it will be public and contributes to a larger foundation of knowledge.
  • You may find that your students are interested in submitting a poster to Re:Humanities , an undergraduate-only conference!

The BeardStair graduate seminar was about Digital Humanities as much as creating a project, so we spent a lot of time establishing the foundation of DH in order to build the project. Also, the BeardStair site is a huge loose, baggy monster with a lot of process blogging as the participants discovered how they wanted to proceed. (The complete history of the project and the process is available as a Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy article: “BeardStair: A Student-Run Digital Humanities Project History, Fall 2011 to May 16, 2013.” Journal of Digital Humanities 4 (2013).)  I think that’s too much for undergrads. I typically don’t discuss Digital Humanities or editorial theory with undergraduate students.

I have blogged about my assignments and in many cases included the actual assignment. Feel free to flip through those:

DH Questions & Answers is also another great place to ask questions about DH pedagogy. The community responds fairly quickly.

Others who have recommendations for Digital Humanities project instructions for the newly-curious who don’t necessarily want to teach Digital Humanities, please insert more in the comments! This post represents specific assignments that I could reference in one morning’s dive.

Follow-up (2/22/16):

This same colleague also requested information on a bibliography about Digital Pedagogy that would help the newly curious about practicing Digital Pedagogy and its sister, Digital Humanities pedagogy. The two areas overlap, most definitely, but they are not the same, so providing a single (or even a few) bibliographies is difficult. I had an old Zotero library but haven’t added to it in years. Here are two definitive bibliographies (rather than sending the colleague to HASTAC or Hybrid Pedagogy or Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy or Syllabus or Journal of Digital Humanities to hunt around for materials):

I also referred him to the introduction/description to our Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities. But we aren’t slated to revise this introduction until September 1 to be published in January 2017 with the MLA.

The query is out in the Twitter verse (with multiple re-tweets already). Let’s see what we find!