Web Modules for the First Semester
The following four Web Modules have been designed as student projects to supplement the study of American History from the Columbian Exchange to the Civil War. They were all designed for student work outside the classroom and make use of the large number of historical documents available on the World Wide Web. Documents may be located on a dedicated server or directly accessed via the Internet. The underlying assumption is that students, at best, have had limited experience in working with historical documents and that the cognitive skills required to successfully complete the assignments are valuable beyond the study of history. These module also reinforce and expand student understanding of significant issues raised in lectures and in their textbook. In using these materials, the instructor made the teaching of analytical skills the central goal of the exercise.
Beyond these general goals, the modules were designed to facilitate the following objectives:
- Engage students in the analysis of primary historical documents.
- Assist students in developing the analytical skills necessary to interpret and understand historical documents.
- Introduce students to a wide variety of historical materials.
- Allow students to explore important historical topics in greater depth.
- Teach students how to understand and evaluate any bias present in historical documents.
- Assist students in evaluating the presentation of historical materials on the World Wide Web.
- Expose students to documents in the fields of political, economic, social, and intellectual history.
- Teach students to read visual documents.
- Teach students to analyze non-traditional historical documents.
To accomplish these goals and create a student-centered learning environment, students in the class were divided in to groups of three. Each Web Module Analysis Group was responsible for developing a final report on the materials included in the Web Module. The projects were carried out over a two-week period. The modules were posted on the course web site and paper copies were distributed in class. A part of the initial class period was devoted to displaying the materials and discussing the project. At the end of the first week each group submitted a rough draft of their report that was returned with comments and suggestions by the next class period. The second class period was devoted to a general discussion of the material included in the module. The final report was due on the last class of the two week cycle. During the time students were working on their projects, they were encouraged to work with the instructor either in person or via email. They were also encouraged to go beyond the questions listed in the module. The modules also were designed to gradually allow students more freedom in selecting and analyzing historical documents.