Step 1: Choose a DHSS assignment

You’ve decided to bring DHSS into your classroom, where do you begin?

We’ve created this Instructor’s Guide with the assumption that you’ll bring DHSS into your courses, at least initially, as an assignment or class activity. Although we have framed this Guide to focus on assignments, each assignment can be modified to be an in-class activity as well.

The first step in bringing DHSS into your classroom is to identify which DHSS assignment would work best for you. Or, more accurately, which assignment on your current syllabus you could replace or augment with DHSS.

As stated in the introduction, a DHSS assignment involves:

  • Creating, manipulating, and/or analyzing digital materials
  • Communicating and presenting materials and analysis using digital tools
  • Collaborating and receiving feedback on process and product
  • Reflecting on and solving problems that arose during students’ learning

Each assignment would then also involve:

  1. Choosing materials
  2. Choosing appropriate tools
  3. Exploring other projects
  4. Creating a plan for completion
  5. Space/time for practice
  6. Space/time for collaboration and feedback
  7. Reflecting and solving problems
  8. Presenting completed projects

We have provided nine Assignment Guides in this Instructor’s Guide that may work in a Humanities or Social Science course, all of which can be modified to be a Small (10-20% of a student’s mark), Medium (20-55%), or Large assignment (55%-100%). In a Small or Medium assignment, you would need to provide greater scaffolds for student completion, but in a Large assignment, students would complete many elements on their own.

For example, let’s say that you wanted your students to complete a Public Education-Style Image Analysis as a way to support digital literacy and reflection of course content. A “Large” version of this assignment could involve students finding and digitizing a photograph and identifying an appropriate web venue for presenting their analysis. A “Medium” version of this assignment would involve you providing them with an already digitized image and having them upload their work to a blog post or a WordPress site. However, if this was a “Small” assignment, you would provide students with a digitized image and have them create a reflection using technology they are familiar with, such as PowerPoint or an Instagram story. Each version of this assignment, be it Large, Medium, or Small, would have the same goals – completing a Public Education Style Image Analysis – but the work involved would expanded or contract depending on how much weight the assignment was given in the course.

Small Medium Large
One assignment Half or full course Full course or Capstone
Similar to… A small review essay or critical analysis As main pieces of work to organize course and course collaboration Capstone
Course weight 10-25% 25-60% 65-100%
Will need One or two documents per student Approx. two to six documents per student per project Unlimited

Selection done through project

Assignment Guides provided

We’ve organized the assignments in our Assignment Guides to replace traditional writing assignments such as essays. While a DHSS assignment may not seem to do the same work as an essay, Digital Humanitist Mark Sample cautions that “the student essay has come to stand in for all the research, dialogue, revision, and work that professional scholars engage in,” and that this does not encapsulate the full breadth and depth of the work that academics do.

Sample reminds us that “the word text, derives from the Latin textus, meaning that which is woven, strands of different material intertwined together.” In his teaching practice, he states that he is “moving away from asking students to write toward asking them to weave. To build, to fabricate, to design” (Sample, 2009, paras. 6 & 7). This vision for a complex and integrated piece of work is similar to what Ng (2015) has called a “reflexive remix” (p. 221) or what Dr. Amanda Starling Gould called a “(re)mediated element” in a “transmedia essay”.

DHSS assignments are thus not like essays. They do more. A DHSS assignment can develop a range of innovations and explorations with course content that a linear essay cannot achieve. Digital tools and technologies invite a woven remix of students’ ideas with digital material in ways that can demonstrate critical and creative learning with the content you teach.

Remember that this work will be new to students. Anne Burdick and colleagues (2012) identify that the project is the basic unit of DHSS scholarship (p. 214). Thus framing your students’ assignments as “projects” may better help them tap into the new ways of engagement that you are asking from them and help them develop the project management skills that can assist their experiential learning (Kim, Warga, & Moen, 2013).

Also, as much as we like to believe that young people are digital natives, they are not, so you have to be clear about your expectations of the process and product of their assignment so they explicitly learn how to use digital technologies to develop and enhance their understanding of the content. It is this explicit use of digital technologies for creating and presenting an assignment that turns a traditional assignment into a DHSS assignment that expands meaning through digital technologies.