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In this issue: 
      • Professor Profile: Professor Shawn Graham offers an inside look at Carleton’s innovative new course Crafting Digital History
      • Tech Corner: Not just a shopping list!  How Wunderlist can help you track deadlines, work on group projects and organize all aspects of your life
      • Tales from the Field: Why Video On Demand classes were the perfect fit for Krysta McIsaac’s learning style and lifestyle
      • Interested in taking part in a focus group on online learning in Ontario? Be part of eCampus Ontario’s strategic planning process!
      • CUOL Midterm Schedules

Professor Profile: Professor Shawn Graham offers an inside look at Carleton’s innovative new course, Crafting Digital History

Shawn Graham

By: Maha Ansari

Colourful images flash across the screen. Upbeat music plays in the background. Towards the end of the clip, the words “Crafting Digital History: Exploring the Future of the Past” appear on the screen, before the music fades and the screen cuts to black.

In less than 30 seconds, the introductory video for professor Shawn Graham’s new course, Crafting Digital History, perfectly captures the essence of the class: Futuristic, unique and a refreshing departure from “traditional textbook learning.”

Graham, a professor at Carleton University, says the course is a means of “training undergraduate historians in digital methods and in the critical theoretical perspectives that this … intersects with.” At its core, the course is about writing history in digital media. Graham gives students the tools and knowledge they need to gain control over their “digital identities” as historians. In explaining the purpose of the course, Graham recalls the words of digital history pundit Adam Crymble:

“With millions of dollars spent on digitizing historical resources, as Adam Crymble points out, shouldn’t we figure out what to do with them?”

Crafting Digital History is running throughout the winter 2016 term, under the course code HIST3907o. Graham says the idea to redesign this course first arose when he was teaching a second year history course that explored the many ways historians worked with and wrote digital history.

“I saw a need for a deeper engagement with digital methods,” says Graham.

Graham began working on a face-to-face version of Crafting Digital History with eight undergraduates. The course is now available online  (craftingdigitalhistory.ca), where students can easily navigate between course elements, such as the syllabus and Graham’s workbook.

Graham already teaches a course on the representation of history through digital media (HIST3812), so when designing Crafting Digital History, he sought a different approach.

“This course is on the doing of history,” Graham explains. “The caveats, the gotchas, guarding against the ways in which digital tools can be used to fudge things, online scholarly identity, open access publishing, radical transparency.”

One of the challenges of the course is the fact that “nothing ever sits still,” Graham says.

“This is a hard one for students – folks often want a kind of recipe, ‘Click here, then click this.’ ”

In a course that intersects with the ever-evolving digital world, Graham highlights the need for students to learn to grasp principles, rather than follow simple tutorials.

Students enrolled in Crafting Digital History have the opportunity to design their own digital spaces. Graham says this is one of the major expenses of the course; providing each student hosting control over their own webspace, which becomes their “digital history laboratory.” However, he says that a web space students can design and customize is an important aspect of the course, which follows what he describes as the “indie (ed-_) web ethos,” which seeks to place the individual in control of his or her content. Graham will be teaching Crafting Digital History once a year for the next four years, under a new course code – HIST3814.

He expresses his excitement at the prospect of continuing to teach the course.

“As always, it’ll be an adventure,” Graham says. “It’d be disappointing if I didn’t learn something from all these students!”

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Tech Corner: Not just a shopping list!  How Wunderlist can help you track deadlines, work on group projects and organize all aspects of your life.

By: Bianca Chan

As an online student, it only makes sense to have your to-do lists on your computer. With Wunderlist, your to-do lists can be adaptable, easy to use and you can share them between users. And it’s free! By creating lists and grouping them into folders, keeping track of assignments, tests, readings, lectures, and even to-do’s in your personal life is made very simple.

Once you’ve created a free account, you can get right into the basics of Wunderlist by creating a new list or a new folder. Wunderlist suggests some lists when you begin such as Work, Groceries, Private and Family. However, you can also name your own lists and organize them by class or by textbook.

After creating your lists, you can add tasks and assign them due dates . One great feature of Wunderlist is its ability to interpret what is called ‘natural language,’ which means that you can put in “next week” or “tomorrow” and the app will adjust a deadline for a new task accordingly.

     screen shot of wunderlist

Notifications can be displayed on your computer’s desktop, through the app, by email, as well as on most mobile phones, ensuring that you’ll get reminders to get your school work done amidst other distracting apps and websites.

In addition to being extremely straightforward and easy to use, Wunderlist can also be personalized. You can change the background as well as change certain filters that allow you to see to-do’s that are due today, this week, or starred items.

This app also allows its users to collaborate and share lists and tasks with one another. Whether you’re involved in a group project, a group essay, or even want to use this feature to assign household chores, you can use Wunderlist’s collaborative feature between a maximum of 25 different users with the free version.

Wunderlist’s most attractive attribute is that the free version is simple and gets the job done without a lot of confusing features and add-ons. It’s also available on every major platform including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Window’s Phone, and Chromebook, which also makes collaborating with other users a breeze.

One Wunderlist downfall is its inability to have location-based tasks, which means that you can’t accompany a task with a location or map that shows where any to-do may be. However, there is a “Notes” section where users can jot down the location of a task if there is one.

For those who want access to all the Wunderlist features, there is a paid version of the app, as well as a pro version. But for students who are interested in using the app for school projects, the free version should be more than sufficient.

Tales from the Field: how Video-on-demand classes were the perfect fit for Krysta McIsaac’s learning style and lifestyle

By: Maha Ansari

For Krysta McIsaac, CUOL has been “essential.” The service has helped her work three out of five weekdays and simultaneously work towards completing her degree, all while following a schedule that suits her best.

She first began using the service in her second year of university, and quickly grew to enjoy the convenience of watching her lectures online.

“Throughout the years, I continued to take CUOL classes because they were much more convenient for me as it took me an hour to bus to campus,” she says.

McIsaac is now ready to graduate in June. She says the courses she has taken and continues to take through CUOL have made it possible for her to work towards her graduation without sacrificing her busy lifestyle. She recommends the Video on Demand (VOD) service for students who need flexibility and are able to commit themselves to “virtually attending” their lectures on a regular basis.

“For those that are determined and motivated to keep up with each lecture, those that are distanced from campus and those that have other priorities – jobs, families, medical reasons – this is a great way to gain a degree without being obliged to physically attend class,” says McIsaac.

She recalls her experience taking CUOL courses in the fall 2015 semester, during which the VOD service proved particularly useful. McIsaac was enrolled in a course in which the professor released chapter questions for each lecture. McIsaac says that while these questions helped her and her classmates understand important course concepts, the answers were not always available in her lecture notes. In these instances, McIsaac would turn toward videos of the lectures – all of which she could easily access online.

“I was able to open the appropriate video, watch some parts to hear [the professor] discuss the topic again, fast forward and pause,” she says. “This was really useful.”

This semester, McIsaac is enrolled in three VOD classes: Mysteries of the Mind, Death and Afterlife, and Crime, Law, Process & Politics. Apart from enabling her to easily work and study at the same time, she also praises the VOD service for allowing her to watch lectures from the comfort of her home.

“I personally do not like commuting to campus … and enjoy the fact that I can choose when I watch the videos – when I have the time, [and] am not stressed out with other things,” says McIsaac. “Also, the great thing about VOD classes is that you can pause it at any point, grab some food, get back at it or even watch the second portion another time.”

While McIsaac praises CUOL for its convenience, she warns against procrastinating, which leads some students to perform poorly in courses that are available through the Video on Demand service.

““I have friends who take CUOL classes and find themselves binge-watching their lectures a couple days before the exams,” she says.

McIsaac offers several tips on how to avoid binge-watching lectures. She highlights the importance of setting aside a specific block of time each week to watch the lectures.

“Remember: if you were not taking this online, you would be attending a scheduled lecture, thus this is reasonable,” she says.

McIsaac also recommends eliminating all possible distractions before viewing a lecture.

“Get in the routine of eating and doing things that could distract you before you sit down and tackle the videos,” she advises. “This will prevent you from pausing so often [that] a three-hour lecture becomes a four-hour.”

Ultimately, McIsaac says that for students who stay committed to watching lectures and reviewing course material, CUOL is a highly useful service that combines learning with comfort and flexibility.
 

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