Developing an Online History Class

In my department, candidates are given the opportunity to teach summer and winter session classes. I was selected to teach HIST/GWS/LAS 469 – Gender and Sexuality in Latin America during term II this summer. Teaching this class will allow me to develop and enact a syllabus for an online upperlevel history class. One of my primary concerns lies in the medium. As an undergraduate student, I took several online summer classes. In many cases, professors use their 17-week syllabus and just put it on D2L/Blackboard/ other online classroom service instead of reformatting the class for an abbreviated semester and different learning environment. This post details my course development logic and the challenges of creating an interactive, writing-based upperlevel history class in an accelerated, online medium.

Online classes are weird. Many professors try and cram a regular in-person, 17-week syllabus into a 7-week online course. This doesn’t jive with students. Based on my own experiences with online classes and discussions with students about what works and doesn’t work, I’ve noted the following:

  • Almost all students dislike discussion posts/replies
  • Students want to be engaged as if they were in a “real” classroom
  • Students don’t want to listen to an hour long PowerPoint lecture
  • Students want you to craft an online-specific course

I’m developing this course from scratch and started by identifying the specific topic/theme and readings. I decided that the class would, instead of serving as a colonial-to-present survey (as is normally done in a 17-week semester), focus on gender and sexuality under repressive Southern Cone military regimes in the Cold War era. From there, I selected the main readings that I thought students would read. Instead of assigning entire monographs, I instead chose 3 memoirs and a selection of poetry. I plan to supplement these texts with chapters from monographs and journal articles (still in the process of deciding those). The class will also view some films that represent the historical moment. I definitely know two that I want to assign (La Historia Oficial and Machuca), but am not sure which other two I would like to pick. If you have any recommendations of films with content related to the course theme (gender and sexuality), please let me know!

Main Readings:

Films:

Assignments:

  • Comparative analytical essays: Students will write two comparative, analytical essays.
    • I haven’t decided how I’m going to split the main readings (so, keep the Chile memoirs together, or split them into different papers).
  • Create a Google Map and update it as you read. Trace each person’s journey using unique markers. This is a course-long project.
  • Spirit Journal: At the end of each unit, students will submit a “spirit journal” where they include any thoughts, ideas, or questions provoked by the readings/films.

The course development is still in progress, so check back for progress updates and my final syllabus. Any recommendations or suggestions are welcome!

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