About the Course

HIST305  Mondays and Thursdays 11:00 am to 12:40pm (B228)

Spring 2017

Students will get a hands-on introduction to creating digital history sites, using tools to create digital exhibits, chronologies, online maps, and more.

The course is partnering with the Mahwah Museum to build digital projects that document the history of the region and integrate that history into the larger history of the state and country.


Advances in computer technology have changed the way society interacts and how we interact with the past. While at its most basic, digital history involves using computer technology to study and present the past, it has far greater potential to change the way we study, the questions we ask, and the ways that we present our results to the public. This course provides an introduction to the field of digital history, and hands-on experience using digital tools to create public history projects accessible on the web. Students will explore primary sources materials, determine the best way to present them online, and create interpretive public-facing history sites using digital tools. Students will use course readings and discussions to learn about topics such as digital access, copyright, intellectual property, metadata, information abundance, and how the Web changes the relationship between historians and their audience.

  • This course includes practical labs and homework will require the use of computers with access to the internet.
  • Some research off-campus may be required for class assignments.

Course Goals

This course is founded on the premise that we learn best by doing. Students will work collaboratively to create digital history sites that highlight and interpret primary source materials. Students will determine the best digital tools and approaches to present materials online, using web-based platforms for research, analysis, and presentation. A significant part of the course will rely on working to define, develop, complete, and present a research project. This course seeks to enhance the understanding of public history, the interpretation of primary sources, and the use of digital technology. It will build research skills, the critical reading of primary sources, and interpretive writing.

Measurable Learning Objectives

  • Develop a fuller understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the field of digital history (readings and discussions).
  • Develop skills in historical interpretation for a web-based public audience and integrate various perspectives in telling a historical story. (lab assignments, research projects).
  • Develop skill in using digitized maps, databases, and timelines, read and interpret primary source materials, and learn to use digital tools for historical research and presentation (lab assignments, research project).
  • Enhance research skills. (lab assignments, research project)
  • Learn to manage research projects using digital tools. (research plan, research project,  presentations).
  • Gain skill and experience in oral and written presentations (class discussions, presentations).

Grading Policy

  • Assignments are due on the date specified on the syllabus. Assignments turned in late will suffer a 5 pt. penalty for every day that they are late, unless you contact me before the assignment is due and receive permission to hand in the work after the due date. This will only be granted in documented cases of medical or other emergency.
  • In most cases, group assignments—will be graded as a unit, with all group members receiving the same grade. If a group believes that some members are not completing the tasks they were assigned and wish to be graded individually, they can meet with me to discuss it and attempt to resolve the problems. If the problems are not resolved, group members can ask me to grade them individually. I will use the Basecamp site to evaluate individual contributions to the project for each member.
  • Grades will range from A to D, on the following scale: A:   93-100; A-: 90-92; B+: 87-89; B: 83-86; B-: 80-82; C+: 77-79; C: 73-76; C-: 70-72; D+:67-69; D: 65-66; F: below 65.
  • Rubrics will be provided with the instructions for assignments.
  • With permission, students may complete additional assignments for extra credit.

Attendance Policy

Class attendance is required at both lectures and labs. Roll will be taken. Depending on the circumstances, your final grade for the course may be reduced by one full letter grade for each class you miss after three absences. If you are more than 15 minutes late to class two times, that will count as one absence. You cannot pass the class if you have more than six absences. If you have a documented medical or other emergency, contact me as soon as possible to determine the best course of action. College policy states that you must notify me within the first three weeks of the semester if you anticipate missing any classes due to religious observance.

College Policies

Electronic Forms of Communication: In accordance with College policy, I will use Ramapo College email addresses (@ramapo.edu) for all email communication pertaining to course-related matters. Course materials will be mounted on Moodle.

Policy on Academic Integrity: You are expected to read and understand Ramapo College’s Academic Integrity Policy, which can be found online in the College Catalog (http://www.ramapo.edu/catalog-2014-2015/academic-policies/). All members of the Ramapo College community are expected to be honest and forthright in their academic endeavors. If you are suspected of violating this policy, we will meet to discuss the problem. If you are found to be responsible for a breach of academic integrity, the incident will be reported to the Office of the Provost.

Students with Disabilities: If you need course adaptation or accommodations because of a disability that has been documented with the Office of Specialized Services, please make an appointment with me.

Important Dates: Deadline to add or drop with 100% refund: January 23, 2017, Deadline to add or drop with 50% refund: January 31, 2017, Deadline to withdraw with a “W”: April 7, 2017, Deadline to request an Incomplete: May 8, 2017.


Photography courtesy of the Mahwah Museum.