Project "Develop Self-Paced Open Access DH Curriculum for Mid-Career Scholars Otherwise Untrained"

May 19th, 2010 |

Since “DSPOADHCFMCSOU” doesn’t spell anything useful, I’m using “Project Retrain” as the working title for this project.

Some of you may recall a tweet by me a few weeks ago, in which I “announced” a new project and called for volunteers. Despite not saying anything else about that project besides its lengthy title, many people said “I’m in!” or “that sounds grant-worthy”—all pretty darn fine responses for something as yet undescribed. So, I figured the best place to describe it (in brief) would be here, because what I’d like to do at THATCamp is gather all the folks I’d be asking for help/input anyway and brainstorm (or flat out plan) parts of this project.

NOTE: This may seem to go against the more hack, less yak directive, but I want to walk away from THATCamp with a loosely constructed advisory team, an outline of first phase content and actions, milestones, and a general action plan. That’s pretty hacky although there’s yakky to get there. And if this doesn’t happen in a session of any sort, I will track people down in the hallways. You’ve been warned.

My initial thoughts…

Self-paced: the idea is to create modules (more on that under “DH Curriculum”) that contain a series of topics organized into bite-sized lessons; here I’m thinking of the scope of content within the Sams Teach Yourself “in 24 hours” series, which I have plenty of experience writing, that tries to ensure the content of each lesson can be digested within an hour (although time for end-of-lesson exercises can take longer).

So, for argument’s sake, let’s say one of the modules is “Basic Web Site Construction”. A topic might be: “Setting Up a Web Server (hosted version)”. The bite-sized lessons might be: what to look for in a hosting provider, understanding client-server communication, exploring your control panel, finding an FTP client, uploading your first file. If the topic is “Setting Up a Web Server (geek version)”, the bite-sized lessons might start with installing XAMPP and moving forward with that. Also under “Basic Web Site Construction” would include initial forays into (X)HTML, CSS, and so on.

I think you get the idea of the granularity of the content. I have a ton of my own content I can repurpose, and there’s open access content to be had, or crowdsourced (hint: you’re the crowd). While the topics within the modules would be linear, the modules themselves would not necessarily be linear (and you could be working on more than one module at a time) although I do have this idea wherein completion of X number of modules would prepare a person to attend Y scholarly institute or apply for Z grant (e.g. “you’ve completed basic text encoding and it’s almost summertime? great! think about attending DHSI or an NEH-funded workshop for the next step”).

Open Access: by this I mean pulling together existing open access and Creative Commons-licensed content in order to mashup new “courses” as well as making those new courses open access. While there would be a registration process and the content would be “locked down” to those registered, registration would be free. The account business would have to do with tracking progress, assigning mentors, and so on.

DH Curriculum: the goal isn’t at all to say “this is what you need to know in order to call yourself a DH scholar” but instead “you want to learn about some core technologies that might find their way into your scholarly work, or to know more about the tools others are using so that you can have conversations with them? here’s some stuff you can learn.” I see this content ranging from basic web technology to document encoding to textual analysis tools to library systems to social media to pedagogical best practices with technology to project management to infinity and beyond.

Mid-Career Scholars: why “mid-career”? Obviously this isn’t a requirement—anyone who wants to learn stuff is welcome. But I want to focus on the “retrain” or “ramp up the skills” or “insert something else here” aspect for scholars who find themselves wanting to take the time to learn more in a structured sort of way, but who are too far out from their PhD date to qualify for post-doctoral study/research opportunities. Deciding to start this project came from conversations from two important people—an old friend and my diss chair—who both are midway through their careers and know where they want to go (in general) with technology in their scholarship but do not know the paths to follow or the right questions to ask in order to get there. They both came to me and asked me to teach them stuff. I figured if I’m going to do it for them, might as well do something larger for everyone. Then I thought about what could start to change in academia at large if just ten (ten!) mid-career scholars otherwise unaffiliated with DH-ish things turned toward this path each year by working through the material. How would hiring committees start to change? T&P committees? Heck, even just conference panels?

Ok, so…I’m moving forward with this, somehow and some way, and obviously I’d like all of you to come along for the ride. I have some ideas for how this project could intersect with existing projects (I’m looking at you, nowviskie et al). I actually have more of a plan than it looks here—I’d just like people to round out the team. I see THATCamp as a place to gather the team. I hear that worked last year for ProfHacker.

Comments Feed

16 Responses to “Project "Develop Self-Paced Open Access DH Curriculum for Mid-Career Scholars Otherwise Untrained"”

  1. Bethany Nowviskie Says:

    I’m in! As a matter of fact, there’s universal enthusiasm for the idea around the Scholars’ Lab. And I think it could be a partial answer to my question about useful activities/sponsorships/whatever by professional societies.

  2. Patrick Murray-John Says:

    Don’t remember if I responded to that original tweet, but I’m definitely in, though some of my approach to things might be a little different (e.g., I tend to like synthetic modules (if modules can be synthetic) that pull in a lot of different components, which might be explained elsewhere in analytic, granular modules). But I digress!

    Looking forward to talking about this soon!

  3. THATCamp 2010 » Blog Archive Says:

    […] it looks like there is a good number of campers (Julie, Jeff, Dave – just to name a few…and I know that Beth has a lot to say about […]

  4. Jeffrey McClurken Says:

    Great, great idea.

  5. john theibault Says:

    I’s be very happy to be in too. I could probably serve as part of your test group. Not quite “untrained” but pretty novice despite lots of time mucking about in digital things. And pretty stereotypically “mid-career.”

  6. karindalziel Says:

    Julie, I have been asked to serve on the advisory board of a project entitled “Do IT Yourself” which aims to teach librarians and archivists about similar topics, such as setting up a web server, managing content through a content management system, creating mashups, etc. (the advisory board has not yet met, the project is still in very early planning stages).

    Here’s how Jason Kucsma, the project coordinator put it:

    “The idea for the project comes from needs assessment efforts and conversations about improving information technology skills for librarians, archivists, and information professionals. If it helps to contextualize the project, we’re looking at this an extension of the popular 23 Things project, which aimed to familiarize librarians with web 2.0 technologies. Do IT Yourself, however, will focus on more advanced information technologies for information professionals — a sort of “Computer Science Lite.” ”

    Anyway, this project will also release content under creative commons, and Jason informed me that there will be money to pay the instructors of the modules as well. Hopefully there’s some room for collaboration.

    And aside from that, your idea sounds fantastic. I like the idea of targeting mid career scholars, who, in my experience, are less apt to attend classes in a totally new subject area (either because it’d be odd to sit beside students they’re also teaching or just a lack of time). I think you could get a lot more than ten scholars on board!

  7. kfitz Says:

    I’m in, though admittedly mostly because I want this retraining, rather than because I can provide it. But absolutely, yes, yes.

  8. mebrett Says:

    I’m in! I’m not mid-career, but there’s a ton of things I don’t know. Getting information out there in bite-size chunks would probably facilitate the less yak more hack in the future, too.

  9. Chad Black Says:

    Love this idea. Mostly because I’d love the retraining, or training as the case may be.

  10. Sharon M. Leon Says:

    I’ll only be at THATCamp for the Saturday morning sessions, but I’d love to see a healthy report-out of this session. The need is enormous, and we can no longer ignore the mid-career folks who are vaguely interested but who through up their hands saying “I just don’t know where to start.” I think one of the major issues here, is that most of us don’t remember where we started or even how — the age old problem of education and the position of the novice learner.

  11. briancroxall Says:

    This is a great idea–one that suggests a possible solution to the sometime problem of unconferences: you’re going to leave with something tangible (a group of people) and a project that has clear goals. As someone who is hovering between the world of academia “proper” and the library and who has been tasked with getting Emory’s librarians more digitally savvy, I’d be very excited to play a part in this project. (Plus, like Kathleen said, I’m sure I’ll learn more than I bring to the table.)

  12. Judith Tabron Says:

    This is a compelling-sounding project, so I’m said to say I disagree with its aims. As a person who can claim to be both a tech geek and a teacher, I really don’t think teaching faculty to bootstrap technology themselves will ultimately do them any good. Teaching them HTML a decade ago didn’t do them any good; it didn’t stick for most of them and now it’s obsolete. Teaching them how to integrate online discussion into their classes, now; that’s a task that never gets old, and it doesn’t much matter whether the tool in use is a VMS bulletin board, a mailing list, or a blog.

    Is the purpose to help faculty invent the university of the twenty-first century? Or is it just to close a gap in technology skills that every other type of knowledge worker had to close years ago? I think the two goals would have two different agendas.

  13. Lisa Spiro Says:

    I’m late to the party and was not able to make it to THATCamp, but I think this is a terrific idea. If you’re looking for a publishing for the modules, check out Connexions (, an open platform and repository for educational content. I’d be happy to pitch in however I can.

  14. Samuel Teshale Derbe Says:

    This is excactly what I have been looking for.I have been recently invited to contribute to a web based teaching program at the Amsterdam Network University. But, I am quite a newbie to technology for education, though I have been a college lecturer for many years- in the traditonal way,of course. I am keen on learning the tools and share my expereince in teaching adults. It requires a lot of ingenuity to teach adult students using new technology.

  15. Learning DH the DIY Way | THATCamp Virginia 2010 Says:

    […] Meloni on the Camper list – it would be great to get her thoughts on the best approaches, given her project to “Develop self-paced open access DH curriculum for mid-career scholars otherwise […]

  16. Steven Hayes Says:

    Hi, just read your “project retrain” description as part of my background reading for THATCamp 2011 in Melbourne. Have you considered certifying existing professionals (like me…) who have no formal training but have picked up hopefully a great many of the skills you describe on the job over many years. This would be like a recognition of prior learning process and would – as a nice side effect – identify gaps in knowledge. One of the reasons I want to go to THATCamp is to fill gaps in my personal fairly “perforated” knowledgebase as it is almost impossible to find appropriately configured formal courses that will allow me to undertake professional development in any kind of structured, strategic way.


    Steven Hayes


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