HUM 233 / EAS 233 / COM 233: East Asian Humanities I: The Classical Foundations provides an introduction to the art, literature, religion, and philosophy of China, Japan, and Korea of the classical period. For its last three offerings, the course has made use of a web platform developed in collaboration with staff from the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. The website not only allows instructors in the course to illustrate course readings with images and other media, it serves as a platform for student interaction with texts and media and as a showcase for digital projects developed by students in the course. The website allows students to annotate course readings with blog posts of their own.  Students compose posts in categories such as ‘annotation’, ‘project’, or ‘article’ and then link those posts to specific points in the texts. The original website concept from 2014 outlined some of the aims for the site:

  • To create a digital humanities lab, an online space where students explore the field of East Asian Humanities by interacting with digital texts and media to create online articles and projects.
  • Student assignments do not simply function as means for instructors to judge comprehension; student work will collectively form the bulk of the site’s content.
  • By linking their assignments to passages in the digital texts, students will transform each text into a new reading experience, which will be unique to the insights of that particular class, and will be more likely to draw students to each other’s work.

This third point, for me, is perhaps the most potent. While the underlying choices about specific readings and images vary with the different instructors who have taught the course, the student contributions to the site create a unique resource that reflects their involvement with the course materials and with each other.

The digital projects undertaken by students in the course last year are also worth noting because they highlight some of the most useful online tools for small-scale, collaborative student projects in humanities courses: Prezi, Google MyMaps, and TimelineJS from the KnightLab at Northwestern University.

Prezi is an online application for the creation of animated multimedia narratives.  Text, images, video, and sound can be combined to create visually compelling presentations.

MyMaps is Google’s map creation tool, allowing groups to generate maps and add multimedia annotations.  Students can add markers to the map that link to text and images with further information.  Markers can also be color-coded.

TimelineJS is a timeline creation tool that pulls data from a Google spreadsheet and generates an attractive timeline visualization.