Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles and Politics
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14. Opening up Digital Humanities Education

Lisa Spiro


Suppose that you are an English graduate student who has become intrigued by digital humanities.1 Your university lacks members of faculty with expertise in digital humanities, and you’re too invested in your current graduate program to go somewhere else. You do your best to keep up with the developments happening in digital humanities by following blogs and Twitter streams, but you worry that you are being left behind. You would like to apply for a job with a digital humanities focus, but realize that you would need to develop the necessary scholarly and technical expertise.

Or perhaps you are a mid-career faculty member in history. In working on your current project, you think that you would be able to open up new possibilities for both analyzing data and presenting it to your readers by using GIS technologies. You have been diligently reading manuals and trying to pick up as much knowledge as you can on your own, but you suspect that you could learn much more efficiently through formal training. You might also be able to find collaborators interested in your project. However, you have existing obligations at your home institution, so you would need a flexible training program.

Or maybe you are a programmer who is working on a humanities text-mining project. You are becoming increasingly fascinated by your work but you also are aware that you could take your work further if you had a deeper knowledge of the humanities. You would like to develop a keener understanding of digital humanities methods so that you can ultimately take a leadership role on digital humanities projects.

Each of these hypothetical would-be digital humanists faces the same problem: the lack of flexible opportunities to gain the knowledge and skills required for digital humanities researchers and professionals. As Geoffrey Rockwell argues, the digital humanities risk becoming too exclusive because “there are few formal ways that people can train.”2 In the past, many have entered the digital humanities by serving as informal apprentices on projects. But this approach is not scalable or equitable, since it essentially requires one to be in the right place at the right time. Aspiring digital humanists need a flexible, inexpensive way to develop key skills, demonstrate their learning and participate in the digital humanities community.

One lightweight solution is a certificate program, which is not as intensive as a master’s or doctoral program but still prepares participants for professional work in the field. Although there are a few graduate certificate programs in the digital humanities, those that do exist face a central limitation: currently they serve only students already enrolled at the home institution. Furthermore, the instructors typically come from a local faculty. By developing an open certificate program, the digital humanities community can spark innovations in teaching and research, share educational practices and resources, open up learning opportunities, bring in new members, and cultivate a shared sense of mission.

Creating a networked, open digital humanities certificate program would engage the digital humanities community in larger efforts to build participatory, non-proprietary educational platforms and to explore the implications of digital technologies for knowledge creation:

As an initial foray into networked, open digital humanities education, a graduate certificate program makes sense. Since it is smaller in scale, it would likely require less work to develop and administer than a master’s or PhD program (although the effort would still be significant).

By developing an open certificate program, the digital humanities community would forward several goals. First, it would offer more paths of entry and foster greater inclusiveness, bringing new members—and new ideas—into the profession and allowing established practitioners to take their work in new directions. As Our Cultural Commonwealth recognizes, building the humanities cyberinfrastructure will require “more formal venues and opportunities for training and encouragement.”4 Although the report specifically recommends brief one to three week workshops aimed at younger scholars, more systematic, intensive training would enable participants to do more sophisticated work. It makes sense for the digital humanities community, which focuses on innovative uses of technology in the humanities and embraces values of networked culture such as openness and experimentation, to explore the implications of networked technologies for education. Developing an open digital humanities certificate program would likely unleash pedagogical innovation, as course leaders and students experiment with different approaches to building learning communities, designing effective assignments, and assessing and certifying learning. This program would not only teach participants how to operate as networked digital humanists, but also transmit the core values of collaboration, experimentation, and openness through its very structure.

The certificate program should display the following characteristics:

1. Open

There seems to be growing consensus that the digital humanities community should promote open source software and open access to scholarly information.5 As Gideon Burton argues, openness can enhance teaching, as it makes the research process transparent, fosters collaboration (including with students), and reveals “best practices.”6 Just as open scholarship builds our collective knowledge and provides access to information, so open education promotes opportunity, trains researchers, and builds a larger appreciation of the scholarly mission. By adopting open licenses, the community can make available curricula and educational resources that can be reused and adapted in other contexts. Moreover, open education makes learning transparent (or as Mark Sample puts it, “naked”7), increasing accountability and replicability.

2. Global

Rather than being restricted to a local institution, a digital humanities certificate program would be global, bringing together learners around the world to work towards a common goal and share their diverse knowledge.8 Taking a global approach would include more perspectives, expand access and strengthen the community. Of course, running a global program would entail challenges—including negotiating linguistic and cultural differences and dealing with differences in time zones.9

3. Modular

Although the program would require completion of a foundation course and practicum project, the curriculum would be modular, so that a participant could design a program that matches particular objectives and builds on prior knowledge. The program should experiment with different ways of organizing learning, such as courses that follow a set schedule and more focused modules that facilitate self-directed or small group learning. Serious attention would need to be paid to how best to sequence the modules, since some might build on previous knowledge.

4. Community-driven

This program would take what John Seeley Brown and Richard P. Adler call a “demand-pull” approach to education, which provides students “access to rich (sometimes virtual) learning communities built around a practice” and is driven by students’ passion to become members of that community of practice (as opposed to supply-push, where the objective is to pour knowledge into the student’s head).10 Much of the learning would take place through participation in virtual communities such as online forums and project teams, and the curriculum itself would be developed through community effort.

5. Technological

As befits its focus on the digital humanities, the certificate program would explore how technologies can be harnessed to enhance learning. For example, the program could employ social technologies to support interactive, dynamic learning communities and use gaming to motivate and structure learning. It could experiment with the approach used by the Open Learning Initiative ( and build online courses that incorporate intelligent tutoring systems, simulations, and continuous assessment and targeted feedback to make learning flexible and responsive (or make use of existing interactive open content, given the expense of developing such systems).11 Further, it could enable students to hone their skills as producers of digital resources and tools, whether by creating databases, visualizations, multimedia essays, or software applications.

6. Experimental

Rather than taking a set approach to education, the certificate program could experiment with different ways of structuring learning, building communities, creating educational content, and guiding learners, assessing and reporting back on what works and what does not. Indeed, part of the program’s mission could be to study learning in open environments. Assessment might include levels of participation by learners, performance on exams and exercises, evaluation of portfolios, and longer-term studies of the career and personal outcomes of those who complete the certificate program.

In some ways, this certificate program entails rethinking higher education so that it is comparable to a “wiki-ized university.” A “wiki-ized university” enables students and faculty to self-organize and co-design the curriculum, makes class content openly available and editable, and engages the course facilitator in setting up a learning environment that students can then navigate and modify.12 Likewise, this model extends the community-driven, participatory nature of THATCamp ( to more in-depth professional training. Like THATCamp, the digital humanities certificate program would allow participants from all levels to shape the program, focus on experimentation and conversation rather than the one-way transmission of knowledge, promote collaboration and play, be low cost, and encourage participants to make their work freely and openly available. For a comparison between traditional graduate certificate programs with the proposed open, networked program, see Table 1.


Networked, Open



Available anywhere; primarily online


Overseen by a single institution

Engages multiple institutions and organizations


Departments and schools set the curriculum

Digital humanities community defines the curriculum


Closed; content, curriculum, and student work typically behind wall

Open; content, curriculum, and student work accessible and visible


Organized around courses

Organized around competencies


Certified by a department within an accredited university

Certified by professional organization or community


Educational content developed by course faculty

Content developed by larger digital humanities community


Individual work

Collaborative work

Table 1. Comparison between the traditional graduate certificate program and the open, networked program proposed in this chapter.

In this chapter, I make the case for an open digital humanities certificate program, sketch its potential components, and imagine how it might be run. Certainly establishing an open digital humanities certificate program would be an ambitious undertaking. However, it would not face the same financial, institutional, and cultural barriers as would completely transforming a university toward an open model, since it is smaller in scale and more focused in its aspiration to prepare participants for work in the digital humanities community. Implementing a digital humanities certificate program would require engaging the community in developing a curriculum, creating course content, connecting students and mentors, honing participants’ skills through a practicum project or internship, coaching students by providing feedback on their work, and certifying knowledge. This open digital humanities certificate program could emerge iteratively, perhaps first through the creation of curriculum and course content, then through building learning communities, and finally by providing formalized means of certification.


To establish an open digital humanities certificate program, the community would need to develop an academic program that would strengthen students’ core knowledge and skills. As Melissa Terras suggests, curriculum reveals the core identity and “hidden history” of a disciplinary community—what it values and how it trains the next generation of scholars.13 Although there are an increasing number of digital humanities graduate programs, the community has not yet reached wide consensus on what the digital humanities curriculum should include, nor has much research been published on digital humanities education (although there is growing interest in DH pedagogy).14 Since I believe that the community should shape the curriculum for the digital humanities program, I will suggest a process for creating it rather than detailing its specific content. The digital humanities community could design a flexible, focused curriculum both by reviewing existing programs (including curriculum documents and syllabi) and engaging in a broader conversation about what constitutes knowledge in the digital humanities. This conversation could take place in different contexts, such as the annual Digital Humanities conference, through a survey of and interviews with digital humanities practitioners15 and via online forums. Indeed, this conversation is already underway, as the Digital Humanities 2012 conference featured a workshop that aimed to determine “common elements of digital humanities curricula.”16 Based on such analysis and discussion, the community could devise a flexible, dynamic structure for a digital humanities certificate program. This evolving curriculum could be shared through a wiki, which could also aggregate resources (syllabi, learning modules, readings, exercises, assessments) that support it.

In designing the open certificate program, we can look to existing graduate certificate programs in the digital humanities. Several US universities, including Texas A&M, UCLA, Emory, University of Nebraska, and Tulane, recently began offering digital humanities certificate programs aimed primarily at their current graduate students.17 These programs typically require fewer courses than a master’s program. Common elements of the curriculum include a foundation course, a project/internship, and two to three additional courses focused on topics such as book history, computer-human interaction, visualization, Geographic Information Systems, media studies, and research methods. Reflecting the diverse nature of knowledge in the digital humanities, these programs often involve interdisciplinary collaborations, bringing in faculty from departments such as literature, history, computer science, information studies, film and media studies, and educational technology; several involve collaborations among academic departments and libraries or archives.

Typically, digital humanities certificate programs aim to give their students an edge in an intensely competitive job market, arguing that skills in producing digital scholarship will help them distinguish themselves. A few programs require students to create electronic portfolios that can be used in assessing (and demonstrating) knowledge. Some, such as Texas A&M’s Digital Humanities Certificate and Tulane’s Certificate in Archival and Digital Humanities, strive to prepare students for careers not only in traditional academic jobs, but also in alt-academic jobs such as at libraries, archives, and museums. Although these programs offer a compelling model for training digital humanists, they follow a fairly traditional model of higher education, in that they are only open to students at the home institution, typically divide learning into semester-long courses, and are taught by local faculty. In contrast, the curriculum for an open, networked certificate program could engage people from around the world as students and mentors and offer a more flexible, modular approach to learning.

As the digital humanities community explores what students need to learn, it tends to emphasize honing skills by working on projects and understanding key concepts rather than developing fluency in particular applications. For instance, THATCamp 2010 featured a session on digital humanities teaching that suggested students should learn technical skills (coding, scripting, database development), design skills (user-centered design, game design), management skills (collaboration, project management, sustainability, assessment, marketing), and theoretical understanding (information vs. knowledge).18 According to participants in a 2009 CLIR Workshop on education in digital scholarship, programs should aim “to educate students on how to teach themselves new software and technical skills; to develop peer-to-peer support among both faculty and students; and to prepare students to work without the support of well-staffed centers.”19 Since digital humanities work often demands a range of skills and since many lack deep institutional support, digital humanists need to develop a base of knowledge upon which they can build, learn how to learn, and understand how to reach out to and work with collaborators. Further, educational programs should balance theory and practice, so that participants understand both the core research problems and the technical and methodological approaches used to approach them. Finally, the certificate program should reflect the multi-and inter-disciplinary nature of the digital humanities, integrating computer science, statistics, library and information science, design, and other disciplines as well as traditional humanities fields. The program could be flexible enough to encompass multiple perspectives, enabling the certificate candidates to pursue the paths that make sense to them.

To qualify for this certificate in digital humanities, the student might be required to complete or participate in:


In support of the curriculum, the digital humanities community could develop open educational content, such as online tutorials, readings, exercises, simulations, videos, and quizzes. As Julie Meloni proposes, the community can create bite-sized modules that teach core skills, such as basic web development, an introduction to Python, fundamentals of geospatial scholarship, and so forth. The modules could be hosted using open educational platforms such as Connexions (, which employs XML to provide the technological capacity for reuse and Creative Commons licenses to establish the legal framework for sharing. To facilitate discovering open learning materials, the OER Commons ( provides a portal to content in Connexions and other open repositories. In developing online educational content, we could build on and aggregate existing resources, such as The Programming Historian 2 (, TEI By Example (, and materials developed for THATCamp BootCamps, such as the GIS resources offered at Virginia BootCamp 2010.22

As much as possible, digital humanities educational resources should be released with Creative Commons attribution licenses so that they are credited to the original author and can easily be adapted, remixed, and re-used. Ethan Watrall makes a compelling case for open educational content: it benefits society by making knowledge widely available, the institution by enhancing its reputation and by providing resources to students that may help them succeed, and faculty by documenting their pedagogical innovations and allowing them to see how others are approaching similar courses.23 If works on the digital humanities come with open licenses, instructors can more easily put together open textbooks using tools such as the open source software Anthologize ( Certainly not every reading that will be assigned in a digital humanities class will have an open license. However, the digital humanities community should embrace open licenses whenever possible, as it is already doing with journals such as Digital Humanities Quarterly and books published by Michigan’s Digital Culture Books (which often use an Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Creative Commons License). Just as grant agencies are beginning to recommend that software developed with grant funds be made available as an open source,24 they could call for learning materials developed for institutes and other educational programs to be made freely available online under Creative Commons licenses.

To ensure both that the best resources rise to the top and that their authors get the credit, there should be peer review for educational materials. For instance, users of the materials (both course facilitators and students) could provide ratings or comments describing how the materials were used. Alternatively, the digital humanities certificate community could curate collections of materials. For example, Connexions allows communities to create a “lens” that gathers endorsed learning modules, such as the lens created by the IEEE Digital Signal Processing Society (


Beyond offering open content, proponents of open education are now promoting “open courses,” enabling people around the world to participate in networked, online classes, typically for free (unless they want academic credit).25 As Dave Cormier and George Siemens observe, “the true benefit of the academy is the interaction, the access to the debate, to the negotiation of knowledge—not to the stale cataloging of content.”26 Whereas open content provides the raw material of learning, instructors (working in collaboration with learners) set expectations, structure learning, and shape communities that interact with and produce knowledge. Learning is social—we learn with others by explaining what we know, having our gaps in understanding questioned and filled in by others, and working through problems together. Through social learning, we learn how to learn and how to be a practitioner, coming to understand the norms, vocabulary and methods of a community of practice.27 As Brown and Adler observe, we can see social learning at work in the open source development community, where newcomers initially work on smaller projects and gradually take on more responsibility as they learn the norms and demonstrate their capabilities. Not only has the Internet provided a means of freely sharing learning materials, but also a participatory platform that enables people to share ideas and work together to build knowledge.28

New models for education are emerging, driven by the ability to transcend the campus and create online courses that engage participants around the world. With the rise of Coursera, MIT-X, and Udacity in 2011 and 2012, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have gained much notice. They have also stirred up backlash from those who scorn the hype, dispute the underlying pedagogy and worry about the implications for universities and academic labor from free or low-cost, distributed online education. I share some of these concerns, but I also think MOOCs have the potential to expand access to education, foster experimentation in online pedagogy, and facilitate participatory networks focused on building and sharing knowledge. MOOC can refer to a range of approaches to learning, from watching short video lectures and taking automatically graded quizzes to contributing to online discussions and working on group or individual projects. As Audrey Watters points out, each of the key terms in “MOOC” can take on different meanings that reflect the course’s overall approach.29 What size constitutes “massive”? Does “open” imply open enrollment, open content, transparency in how the course is conducted, or something else? Does “C” stand for course, community, or certification? For the digital humanities, the emphasis would be on open, online and course/community rather than massive: OOCs, not MOOCs. Given the relatively small size of the DH community and its fairly specialized focus, it is unlikely that DH specific courses on, say, text markup or geospatial humanities would attract more than a few hundred participants. Certainly not every course in the digital humanities certificate program would include more than twenty or thirty people, but the certificate program could offer some open courses on topics of broad interest to encourage participation by the community.

Two main models of MOOCs have emerged as of summer 2012: the connectivist model, which seems to emphasize “openness” over course, and the Udacity/Coursera model (the UC MOOC?), which seems to focus on “massive” and “course” over “openness.” The earlier, connectivist model developed by George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and others is based on the theory “that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks.”30 A connectivist MOOC provides “an ecosystem from which knowledge can emerge,” in which the syllabus offers a “starting point” and the outcomes are determined by the participants as they build knowledge networks.31 Connectivist MOOCs do not aim to impart particular knowledge, but rather ask the learner to aggregate content, selecting what is compelling to them; remix that content, whether through a blog post, tweet or online discussion; repurpose that content, crafting their own understanding through creation and critique; and feed forward, sharing work with the course and in public.32

In designing open online courses for the digital humanities, we can learn about effective practices and potential pitfalls from connectivist MOOCs, where there is a greater body of publicly available research than for the newer Udacity/Coursera MOOCs. In a study of Siemens, Downes, Cormier and Kop’s Personal Learning Environments Networks and Knowledge course (PLENK2010, and Downes and Siemens’ Connectivism and Connective Knowledge course (CCK11,, Kop, Fournier and Mak argue (perhaps not surprisingly) that students learned more by producing content and interacting with others rather than by passively absorbing content, although most registrants did not participate actively. MOOC students faced some significant barriers that impeded their participation, including “time zone differences, language differences, difficulties in connecting with others in different spaces, lack of skills in the use of tools, difficulties in making connections with facilitators and/or learners, and power relations.”34 Another study of participants’ views of an earlier iteration of Connectivism and Connective Knowledge, CCK08, found: “The more autonomous, diverse and open the course, and the more connected the learners, the more the potential for their learning to be limited by the lack of structure, support and moderation normally associated with an online course, and the more they seek to engage in traditional groups as opposed to an open network.”35 While some appreciated having the autonomy to focus on what mattered to them and determine their own level of commitment, others felt disoriented by the multiple venues for connection and interaction, particularly novices and non-English speakers. Some participants in course forums used inflammatory discourse (“trolling”), diminishing trust and participation. Perhaps such problems could be avoided if the course were smaller (as would be likely with DH OOCs), course facilitators more actively set norms and moderated discussions, and participants received more consistent feedback and direction, while still having room to explore their interests.

In contrast, the Coursera/Udacity approach currently seems to focus more on bringing elements of the traditional university classroom to the digital environment.36 In many such MOOCs, students follow a set schedule laid out in the syllabus, watch brief video lectures, test their comprehension through automatically graded quizzes, and complete exercises and exams. However, some UC MOOCS do engage students in more active, project-based learning. For example, Coursera’s Human Computer Interaction MOOC takes students through a series of design-based assignments, and Stanford’s Technology Entrepreneurship (Venture Lab) class employs team projects that teach the principles of entrepreneurship and challenge collaborators to create a start-up.37

The rise of MOOCs has sparked some significant concerns about their implications for learning and for the future of higher education. As Clark Quinn points out, while the Coursera model of MOOCs err in depending too much on the facilitator guiding learning rather than in fostering social learning, the connectivist MOOCs may err in providing not enough facilitator support, requiring a high level of “self-learning” skills.38 Further, we simply don’t know enough about the effectiveness of MOOCs, particularly in the case of the MITx/Udacity/Coursera model. Completion rates for MOOCs tend to be low; for example, around 35,000 out of 160,000 registrants completed Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig’s Artificial Intelligence Course, 7,157 out of 154,763 registrants passed MITx’s “Circuits and Electronics” course, and 3,500 out of 50,000 registrants finished Dave Patterson’s Coursera course on software engineering.39 While Rebecca Rosen views the dropout rate as an encouraging sign that people are willing to try out this new approach to learning, Audrey Watters worries that it indicates problems with the pedagogy or the platform.40 With such a massive scale, it is much more difficult to form human connections between teacher and student and with fellow students, which may weaken the students’ motivation to learn and the instructor’s ability to mentor students and understand their needs (although this weakness can also characterize large lecture courses at traditional universities). In addition to challenging the pedagogy of Udacity and Coursera MOOCs, critics point out that they are not truly open. Indeed, both companies claim copyright over all course content and provide access only to enrolled students.41 In contrast, MIT asserts its plans to make MITx content and software available through open content licenses, although it also states that course materials “are for your personal use in connection with those courses only.”42 If a MOOC is not truly open, then it cannot involve the broader community in explorations of key ideas covered in the course, nor does it allow content to be used and remixed by anyone. Terran Lane articulates broader concerns in worrying that MOOCs will lead to a decline in the academic labor force (in which just a few professors teach the masses), the dominance of just a few leading institutions, and the destruction of the human bond among teachers and students.43

Yet open online courses can offer an interactive educational experience to learners around the world at a relatively low cost and with significant flexibility. Open courses in DH would not set out to disrupt traditional education. Rather, they would expand post-graduate learning opportunities for (alt-) academics, professionals and enthusiasts who otherwise lack the time, money, or opportunity to participate in more traditional educational options. They would also share educational resources that could be used and adapted by instructors and students regardless of their enrollment status. As the DH community seeks to internationalize, MOOCs can connect students across the world, enabling them to collaborate on projects, exchange ideas, and together build a learning community.

In designing and implementing open online DH modules (shorter, more focused learning experiences) and courses, developers should consciously reflect on how to confront the challenges that arise when you extend the scale of a class so that it engages a couple hundred rather than a couple dozen students and is distributed across the network rather than consolidated in a single location.44 How do you (as a facilitator) foster a sprit of community when people don’t meet face to face? How can you reduce the dropout rates known to plague MOOCs? How can you assess the work of such a large group of students? How can you offer guidance and mentoring? Below I sketch out possible approaches to these questions, but deeper insights will come through experimentation. The design principles I’ve already articulated should inform the development of DH open online courses, no matter what the size: openness, a global orientation, modularity, a community-driven, experimental approach, and the use of technologies to support learning.

Although there are already compelling models for networked education, the certificate program would need to figure out how best to build and maintain a community that only rarely, if ever, meets face to face. As Clifford Lynch observes, the internet enables groups of people with similar interests to collaborate, but much work needs to be done to figure out the most suitable way to organize and run cohort groups, including determining the ideal size, duration, and timing (when a class begins, and whether people can join in process) and fostering diversity (linguistic, skill level, geographic, etc).45 Perhaps the best way to address these questions is to experiment with different approaches and adapt existing models.

The certificate program can foster active learning communities through online forums (perhaps using web-based video conferencing to facilitate face-to-face connection), cohort groups, group projects, and peer commentary and assessment. DH has already succeeded to some extent in creating networked communities through Twitter, blogs, and other means, although more needs to be done to cultivate a welcoming climate. Diverse cohort groups could be organized so that participants can navigate a course or the entire certificate program with a small group of people, turning to them for help, conversation and support. Whereas classes of students (sophomores, seniors, etc) typically go through an educational experience together, at the Open University cohort groups form around individual modules, which provides more flexibility and thus fosters broader participation.46

Group projects can introduce students to different perspectives, enable them to pursue more ambitious projects, build relationships, and help them to learn how to collaborate more effectively. However, virtual group projects can face the same challenges that can confront traditional classes, potentially magnified because students cannot meet face-to-face and may not be fully committed to the course: poor group dynamics, the failure of some members to contribute, the loss of motivation, and lack of consensus. Thus care would need to be taken in setting expectations, providing mechanisms for communication among the group and with the course facilitator or project mentor, and addressing low levels of participation. Although most of the certificate program would take place online, it should offer occasional opportunities for participants to come together face-to-face so that they can build relationships and put together plans that can then be implemented as they work separately.

The certificate program could also build community by:

By providing greater support, community, feedback, and structure, open online courses may cut dropout rates. Given the DH program’s smaller size, specific focus on a more specialized area of knowledge and community, and pathway to certification, I would expect that there would be a more committed group of students who would be more likely to engage. At the same time, the program could be flexible enough to recognize that learners have different goals, so there should be an option for declaring from the start one’s intent to audit a course. (I say this as someone who has signed up for several MOOCs, more out of curiosity and a desire to graze than a commitment to complete them or a need for certification.)

Although MOOCs raise issues such as protecting privacy, negotiating intellectual property, sustaining participation, preventing spamming and bad behavior, and managing (and evaluating) information coming from so many people, they also offer a networked (and in some cases decentralized) model of education that can place greater responsibility on learners, foster collaboration, expand access to learning, and enable knowledge to be shared more widely.48 By exploring open courses, the DH community can help to shape this emerging educational paradigm in a way consistent with its practices and values, emphasizing participation, sharing, inquiry, learning by doing, play and collaboration.


Education is not so much about absorbing knowledge as producing it, whether through essays, projects, or other demonstrations of mastery. The digital humanities certificate program should require participants to complete either a capstone project or a substantial internship contributing to a significant digital humanities project. These projects should be openly available and reveal the student’s mastery of key digital humanities skills. Further, reflective essays that describe the process of building the project, the pitfalls encountered, and the scholarly value of the work should accompany them. Students should also review projects produced by fellow members of the certificate program, learning from the experiences of others and offering more in-depth information about these projects to the larger community.49 As students work on projects, they develop key knowledge about how to do research, plan a project, manage it, and assess its impact. Not only would students gain the authentic, embedded knowledge that comes with grappling with the problems that inevitably come up with project work, but they could also make substantial contributions to the digital humanities community.

To help students find internship opportunities, the certificate program, working with the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH) or a similar organization, could create a database or even a “matchmaking” service. Perhaps the DHCommons platform (, which matches projects and collaborators, could be adapted for this purpose.50 Further, the digital humanities certificate program could pursue formal partnerships with organizations—such as libraries and archives, digital humanities centres, and community organizations—that want to produce or support digital scholarship.51 Some of these internships could be primarily virtual, supplemented with occasional face-to-face meetings with clients and project teams. Alternatively, students could work on independent projects, although the certificate program may need to broker access to hardware, software, programming support and/or a small budget.

Students could also contribute to crowd-sourced and participatory digital humanities projects. For instance, they could learn transcription and editing skills by contributing to projects like Transcribe Bentham (, and hone their skills in evaluating and responding to arguments by participating in peer-to-peer review projects such as those sponsored by MediaCommons ( Further, they would learn how these communities operate, gaining tacit knowledge of the field and of online communities. We might think of such an approach to volunteer work as “(near-) expert crowd-sourcing.” Citing Wikipedia, Christopher Blackwell and Gregory Crane argue that students can cumulatively make significant contributions to community-based projects, providing training data, producing tree-banks and diplomatic editions, and finding patterns in large amounts of data.52 In addition to working on projects, participants in the digital humanities certificate programs could also contribute modules to the digital humanities learning commons, “paying it forward” and demonstrating their own learning.


As participants make their way through the certificate program, they would need more senior members of the community to guide them on particular modules or projects and on broader career-related and intellectual questions. Inevitably, learners make mistakes or get confused, but mentors can help them become aware of these errors, correct them, and clarify their knowledge. Mentors could be facilitators of courses as well as members of a larger network of digital humanities professionals willing to participate in occasional conversations with program participants. One of the key benefits offered by formal degree programs is becoming part of an alumni network; the certificate program could expand that network beyond a single institution.

In developing a mentor program, we can look to existing models both within and outside of the community. Currently the ACH offers a mentoring program where veteran digital humanities professionals provide guidance to newcomers. Perhaps this program could be expanded and formalized so that mentors work with their advisees throughout the year on specific learning goals, connecting via Skype, chat and other tools. Digital Humanities Questions & Answers (, a collaborative project of the ACH and the Chronicle of Higher Education’s ProfHacker blog, provides a channel for informal mentoring and advice, as people offer guidance on topics ranging from the best way to teach oneself XML to what should be included on a digital history curriculum to “reading recommendations for a GIS newbie.”

Beyond the digital humanities community, Wikipedia supplies a model for mentoring, both informally through its talk pages, chat sessions, and review processes,53 and formally through its Ambassador program. To support lecturers who want to incorporate Wikipedia assignments into the curriculum and students who are working on editing assignments, Wikipedia provides both Campus Ambassadors (who provide in-person training) and Online Ambassadors (who serve as virtual mentors) to help newcomers understand Wikipedia’s culture and editing processes.54 Likewise, the Free and Open Software (FOSS) community mentors students through programs such as the Google Summer of Code (, which partners students with FOSS projects. Mentors play a vital role in this program as they help students set priorities, get to know others in the community and learn the culture as well as evaluate their work. Mentors have also supported open education classes. For instance, when Alec Couros called for network mentors for his open graduate course Social Media and Open Education, over 120 people responded, offering to follow students’ blog and Twitter posts, provide guidance and support via Skype and other media and help students work through their assessments.55 All of these programs suggest that people need not be physically co-located to build mentoring relationships. In some MOOCs, students themselves provides peer mentoring by answering questions on online forums and developing structures for support, such as spin-off groups focused on particular languages.

Whereas in most universities faculty members do the bulk of the teaching (at least for graduate students), the certificate program could also draw on the expertise of the broader alternative academic career (alt-ac) community of librarians, information technologists, museum professionals, and others. Perhaps collaborative teams of scholars and technical experts could lead some modules. Indeed, the certificate program could help to address the frustration of those who pursue alt-ac careers (I include myself in this crowd): the lack of opportunities to teach. Further, when people complete the certificate program they could become mentors; their recent experiences as students may make them more aware of difficulties newcomers may encounter.

Assessment and Certification

For some in the digital humanities community, the knowledge, community engagement, and experience gained through the certificate program will be rewarding in itself, but others will need formal certification to get a job or a promotion. One of the biggest challenges facing open education programs is determining how to recognize, assess, and accredit learning, but the open education community is actively working to address it.56 Several models for certifying open education are emerging, including awarding “badges” that symbolize skills or knowledge; requiring students to create online portfolios documenting their accomplishments; providing feedback from the community through ratings, comments, and other measures of reputation; and working through accredited institutions to offer course credits for open learning.57 The Mozilla Foundation has developed the Open Badge Infrastructure ( to enable organizations to issue badges and learners to manage them. Badges can mark the “learning path” that a learner has pursued, signify learning achievements at a granular level, motivate learners to pursue particular milestones, and build learning communities by making explicit one’s identity as a learner.58 However, the idea of badges has stirred up significant controversy, as critics contend that badges could cheapen and commodify learning (making it a quest for trinkets), are too easily gamed, and may be difficult to contextualize and evaluate.59 As Alex Halavais cautions, badges carry with them multiple significances (sometimes complementary, sometimes clashing) that derive from the ways that they have been used historically, often connoting both achievement and trust (reflecting a commercial ethos) and rank and authority (reflecting a “guardian” ethos identified with the military and government officials).60 Badges can thus be used to exclude others and reinforce privilege. Yet badges can also provide a mechanism for those outside the traditional educational system to validate their learning and signify that they have acquired some level of expertise valued by a professional or intellectual community. The DH community could develop meaningful, authentic ways of certifying the knowledge represented by a badge. Halavais recommends that the developers of badge systems make clear the badges’ functions (whether to signify authority or identity), use “stable and recognizable” visual symbolism so that they carry meaning in the community, openly define the process of evaluating and awarding badges, and “point” to more detailed documentation. Badges and portfolios can be used together to provide different views of a learner’s accomplishments, so that badges offer a quick visual representation of learning and community validation, whereas portfolios document the learning behind the badges.61

Not only can assessment be important in certifying students’ learning, but also in enabling them to check their understanding, evaluate their progress (often in collaboration with an instructor), and push their ideas to the next level. Traditionally, assessment is bundled into the course, but perhaps it would be even more effective to disaggregate instruction from assessment, so that peers could help to evaluate student work.62 “Peer” could imply fellow participants in the certificate program or the larger digital humanities community. Perhaps a review committee could evaluate capstone projects using standard rubrics for digital scholarship, such as those developed by NINES ( Alternatively, the program could foster peer-to-peer review of work. For example, Cathy Davidson assigns student teams to lead different course modules and gives them the responsibility of evaluating fellow students’ blog posts. As Davidson comments, “Digital thinking is a mode of thinking together, online, through a process of peer evaluation and peer contribution, using a form of ‘participatory learning’ that blurs the lines between work and play, intellectual and social life.”63 Peer-to-peer review of work makes everyone responsible for learning, prepares participants for their professional duties of reviewing their colleagues’ work and helps students develop first-hand knowledge of how to distinguish good work from bad. Peer evaluation typically works better if the instructor provides a clear rubric so that the evaluators know what to focus on and how to weight the evaluation.64 As a participant in a Coursera sociology course reported, peer evaluation encourages the evaluators to pay closer attention to core concepts and exposes them to different perspectives.65 Yet a student in Coursera’s Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) course noted that anonymous peer grading seems to face some obstacles, including student resistance and worries that evaluators might breach students’ privacy. 66 Perhaps an open approach to peer review would give students access to models, foster more conversations about their work, and provide concrete evidence of a student’s learning and participation in a community.

In addition to external assessment, the digital humanities certificate program should cultivate self-assessment, or reflection on learning goals to assess how successful one has been in meeting them. To document their work and knowledge, participants could create online portfolios along with reflective essays. Portfolios are required by some digital humanities certificate programs, such as Tulane’s. For models of portfolios, we can look to those created by digital humanities graduate students, such as Jentery Sayers (, now an assistant professor) and Jason Heppler ( Prospective employers could use these portfolios to evaluate job candidates, while tenure committees could use them in making advancement decisions.67 Making transparent one’s work also provides models for other aspiring digital humanists.

Traditionally, people receive certification by satisfactorily completing a sequence of classes (as in graduate certificates) or by passing a comprehensive exam (as in professional certificates). In establishing the digital humanities curriculum, an advisory committee could come to a consensus about what it would take be to “certified” in different areas, specifying skills, knowledge and content that should be mastered and rubrics that can be used to assess that mastery. Ideally, the certificate would receive official sanction from an accredited institution. Alternatively, perhaps a professional organization could provide validation for the certificate, like the Professional Archivist exam certified by the Academy of Certified Archivists. In some cases, exams might be an appropriate way to test knowledge of particular modules, but the certificate program should offer a more holistic approach, looking also at specific projects and at students’ ability to articulate what they have learned. Whichever method is chosen as the basis to certify knowledge, the evaluation approaches should be trustworthy, relevant, scalable and transparent.68

How Could a Digital Humanities Certificate Program Be Implemented?

Implementing this admittedly ambitious program would require confronting several challenges, including providing administrative oversight, developing a viable funding model, and fostering participation. Some may worry that a certificate program might replace a “Do It Yourself” ethic with systematization, standardization, and bureaucracy. But it is hoped that the “hacker ethos”69 of digital humanities could infuse the certificate program. Throughout this essay, I have referred to the power of the “digital humanities community” to build an open certificate program, reflecting my own optimism about its creativity, collaborative disposition, and commitment to openness and peer support. Successful digital humanities initiatives such as THATCamp, ProfHacker, and Digital Humanities Questions & Answers were launched when a group of motivated people had a good idea, got organized, and built an appropriate platform for community participation.

Although a certificate program may be larger in scope, launching it would likewise require a group to provide the organizational spark and structure for participation, and then invite the community to supply the energy and effort to make the project succeed. Given that this approach is new, it is likely that not everything will work, but failure comes with experimentation and can lead to new wisdom. The program could be approached, as many digital humanities projects are, iteratively. Even if it is not possible at this time to run a complete certificate program, many of these components—such as creating open content, collaborative curriculum, and learning communities—could be implemented without much funding. Other components could be added as the program grows.


Who would manage a digital humanities certificate program? While the program would be decentralized, it would need a group to coordinate it, develop curriculum and course materials, recruit course facilitators and mentors, set up project and internship opportunities, manage admissions, oversee assessment and certification and communicate with the community. The certificate program would likely be managed through strategic partnerships among key stakeholders, including professional organizations, digital humanities centers, and educational programs, and/or open education providers. Perhaps a consortium of digital humanities educational programs and centres could oversee the program. Different digital humanities centres could offer training in their unique areas of specialization, such as Virginia on geospatial scholarship and methodological training (as offered by the Praxis program), Stanford on text mining, and King’s College on visualization and modeling.

Furthermore, the community could partner with library schools that offer online education programs and have strengths in the digital humanities to provide core informatics training and perhaps oversee the program. Although an open certificate program might seem to compete with existing graduate programs, it could help these programs identify and recruit students with potential to do further work in a more traditional master’s or PhD program. The program could also increase the visibility and reputation of participating organizations. When Open University launched its Open Learn program ( to give free access to learning materials, learning clubs and learning tools, it gained key strategic benefits, including enhancing its reputation, reaching new users, recruiting students, widening participation, fostering collaboration and catalyzing experimentation.70 Perhaps, most importantly, the program would support the community’s overarching aim to train the next generation of digital humanities leaders.

Alternatively, the digital humanities program could be overseen by organizations like the ACH or the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO), which have a vested interest in providing professional development opportunities. In order to take on this responsibility, professional organizations would need additional resources as well as a mechanism for providing certification. Finally, an existing open education provider such as Peer 2 Peer University ( or University of the People ( could administer the certificate program. By doing so, the program could take advantage of their established technical and administrative infrastructure. No matter what approach is taken, the digital humanities certification program would need to develop an appropriate governance structure, perhaps modeled on open source software projects. The community would elect a board to oversee the certificate program as a whole; additional boards might focus on particular aspects of the program, such as curriculum, certification and community development.


Running an open certificate program requires money. Presumably the costs of an open source certificate program would be lower than traditional education, since students would not be in residence and would not demand the same degree of user services such as library, IT and the like (although how to provide such services might be another challenge). While some of this work—such as sharing syllabi, creating open textbooks, and taking part in a virtual symposium—could be done through a largely volunteer effort, it would take some funding to pay a small staff to coordinate the program, reward honoraria to module facilitators, cover travel, and provide the technical infrastructure. To meet its core goal of increasing access to training in the digital humanities, the certificate program should be low cost. However, those pursuing a certificate degree should have to pay a small fee if they are able, not only to provide financial support to the program but also to signify and solidify their commitment. As the developers of many training programs have learned, if people have a financial stake in training, they are often more likely to remain committed to the program. Like the University of the People, which charges modest application fees and a $100 exam processing fee (per exam), perhaps the program could make the education freely available, but charge application and exam fees.71 While the courses themselves should remain free, students could be given opportunities to contribute what they can, in the same way that free museums encourage visitors to donate.

In charging addition to tuition and fees, the program could raise start-up funds from foundations and grant agencies. Historically, foundations such as the Hewlett Foundation and Mellon Foundation have provided much of the support for open education and open source software development in higher education—although governmental agencies such as the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the UK and, more recently, the US government, have also provided support. The digital humanities community could seek support from such organizations to launch an open certificate program. Foundations and grant agencies would benefit in several ways from investing in open education. First, they would help to train new digital humanists who could play leadership roles in academic departments, libraries, museums and other cultural heritage organizations. Second, they would support a focused experiment in developing networked, open ways to provide professional education. This experiment would likely produce important insights into open education and networked pedagogy.

Since continuing education is important to the development of the digital humanities, the broader DH community could provide some support. For instance, libraries, digital humanities centers, and other organizations already pay for their employees to attend workshops such as the Digital Humanities Summer Institute. Could they not also offer funding or in-kind support to help sustain open online educational programs? Likewise, the broader community can be encouraged to provide financial backing through crowdfunding mechanisms such as Kickstarter campaigns. Granted, crowdsourcing funding may entail instability and uncertainty, since there is no guarantee that a campaign will be funded and the community’s willingness to contribute likely has limits. However, it may work on a per course level or for specific programs. For example, Jim Groom successfully raised funds for his DS 106 Digital Storytelling MOOC through a Kickstarter campaign, exceeding his $4200 goal by $8,443, with 164 backers chipping in over the course of the two-week campaign.72 Other educational projects that have successfully raised $10,000 or more through Kickstarter include SmartHistory, Punk Mathematics, and Open Educational Resources for Typography.73


One of the major challenges facing a digital humanities open education initiative would be persuading members of the digital humanities community to contribute content and exercises, as well as to serve as mentors. While there would likely be good will toward an open certificate program, many in the digital humanities community are already overextended. However, making it easy to participate, enabling a diversity of people to contribute, offering incentives, and creating a culture of participation could overcome this challenge. Instructors who are already teaching digital humanities classes could, without too much additional effort, contribute their syllabi, exercises, assignments, and other instructional content to the community, whether by using a simple upload form at a centralized repository or by making their content available to be harvested. As Christopher Mackie suggests, students could develop content—including advanced students who are helping to train less experienced students and beginning students who are cementing their own learning.74

Further, digital humanities organizations could recognize and reward contribution to open educational initiatives, such as through a prize for best module, exercise, mentor and so forth. Most importantly, the certificate program could cultivate a culture of participation. Through participatory projects such as Wikipedia, people seek credit, acknowledgement of one’s contributions, or more clout and a position of greater trust in the community.75 The digital humanities certificate program could create a structure whereby contributors build their reputations and take on positions of increasing responsibility.


By connecting learners to educational content and learning communities, the Internet has unlocked new possibilities for learning. As John Seely Brown observes,

The networked age might be the “silver bullet” that will provide a way to both improve education and to set the stage for a necessary culture of learning. In the digital age, communities self-organize around the Internet, which has created a global “platform” that has vastly expanded access to all sorts of resources including formal and informal educational materials.76

Launching an open digital humanities certificate program would offer several benefits. Aspiring digital humanists would gain more flexible yet rigorous opportunities to develop key skills and knowledge in the field. Given digital humanities’ focus on digital knowledge production, engaging in an open, mostly online program would enable participants to develop an embedded knowledge of digital pedagogy and best practices in open education. By building open resources, the digital humanities community would create materials of benefit to all institutions with digital humanities programs, open or not. The community would likely develop a stronger sense of identity and purpose as it comes together to formulate an open certificate program, and it would meet the core goal of training the next generation of digital humanists. As the digital humanities certificate program experiments with different approaches, it could produce both a community of trained digital humanists and broader knowledge about open education.


   I would like to thank the anonymous peer reviewer for offering insightful questions and suggestions, as well as my colleagues Rebecca Davis and Bryan Alexander for exploring open education and MOOCs with me in ongoing conversations.

1 This scenario-based introduction was inspired by Peer 2 Peer University and The Mozilla Foundation’s An Open Badge System Framework,

2 Geoffrey Rockwell, “Inclusion in the Digital Humanities,”, June 28, 2010,

3 Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg, The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009), 30.

4 American Council of Learned Societies, Our Cultural Commonwealth: The Report of the American Council of Learned Societies Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences (New York: American Council of Learned Societies, 2006), 34.

5 Dan Cohen, “Open Access Publishing and Scholarly Values,” Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities Blog, May 27, 2010,; Stephen Ramsay, “Open Access Publishing and Scholarly Values (Part Two),” Stephen Ramsay, March 28, 2010,; and Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “Open Access Publishing and Scholarly Values (Part Three),” Planned Obsolescence, May 28, 2010,

6 Gideon Burton, “The Open Scholar,” Academic Evolution, August 11, 2009,

7 Mark Sample, “The Open Source Professor: Teaching, Research, and Transparency” (paper presented at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities [MITH], College Park, Maryland, October 27, 2009),

8 Connie Moon Sehat and Erika Farr likewise recommend “cross-campus cooperation” in developing digital humanities education, imagining courses taught by faculty at different universities; see The Future of Digital Scholarship: Preparation, Training, Curricula. Report of a Colloquium on Education in Digital Scholarship, April 17–18, 2009 (Washington: Council on Library and Information Resources, 2009),

9 Matthew K. Gold’s chapter in this collection, “Looking for Whitman: A Multi-Campus Experiment in Digital Humanities Pedagogy,” offers a detailed discussion of these issues.

10 John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler, “Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail and Learning 2.0,” EDUCAUSE Review 43, no. 1 (2008): 16–32.

11 A study of an online statistics course offered by the Open Learning Initiative found that “the learning gains of students were at least as good as in a traditional, instructor-led course” and that students in a hybrid course combining online learning with face-to-face tutorials learned the material better and more quickly than they would in a traditional course. Marsha Lovett, Oded Meyer, and Candace Thille, “The Open Learning Initiative: Measuring the Effectiveness of the OLI Statistics Course in Accelerating Student Learning,” Journal of Interactive Media in Education 14 (2008),

12 David J. Staley, “Managing the Platform: Higher Education and the Logic of Wikinomics,” EDUCAUSE Review 44, no. 1 (2009): 36–47. See also Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, “Innovating the 21st-Century University: It’s Time!” EDUCAUSE Review 45, no. 1 (2010): 16–29, and Davidson and Goldberg, The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age.

13 Melissa Terras, “Disciplined: Using Educational Studies to Analyse ‘Humanities Computing,’” Literary and Linguistic Computing 21, no. 2 (2006): 229–46.

14 Brett D. Hirsch and Meagan Timney, “The Importance of Pedagogy: Towards a Companion to Teaching Digital Humanities” (paper presented at Digital Humanities 2010, King’s College London, London, July 7–10, 2010).

15 I have launched a Zotero group ( to collect syllabi and other information relevant to digital humanities education. At the 2011 Digital Humanities conference, I presented an initial study of these syllabi; see Lisa Spiro, “Knowing and Doing: Understanding the Digital Humanities Curriculum” (paper presented at Digital Humanities 2011, Stanford University, Stanford, California, July 19–22, 2011).

16 Manfred Thaller, “Towards a Reference Curriculum for the Digital Humanities” (paper presented at Digital Humanities 2012, Hamburg, 2012),

17 Others have likewise recognized the need for a digital humanities certificate program. For instance, Margie McLellan envisions a certificate program for graduate and undergraduate students at Wayne State that would train students in digital literacy and include a number of online classes. Pointing to MIT’s Open Courseware model, McLellan suggests making course content available online; see Marjorie McLellan, “Digital Humanities Certificate,” Digital Humanities Forum, July 11, 2010,

18 The notes from the “THATCamp 2010 Session on DH teaching/curriculum” were made available on GoogleDocs following the session in May 2010,

19 Sehat and Farr, The Future of Digital Scholarship, 4.

20 See, for instance, the University of Virginia’s plan for its first year master’s course in digital humanities, which though somewhat outdated nevertheless breaks down core knowledge in compelling ways. Johanna Drucker, John Unsworth, and Andrea Laue, “Final Report for Digital Humanities Curriculum Seminar,” University of Virginia, August 10, 2002,

21 Martyn Jessop describes the benefits of capstone digital humanities projects for undergraduates, including the ability to learn independently, develop multidisciplinary approaches and contribute knowledge to the growing field of digital humanities; see Martyn Jessop, “Teaching, Learning and Research in Final Year Humanities Computing Student Projects,” Literary and Linguistic Computing 20, no. 3 (2005): 295–311.

22 Chris Gist and Kelly Johnston, “Virginia BootCamp 2010: GIS Short Courses,” Scholars’ Lab, University of Virginia Library, December 17, 2010,

23 Ethan Watrall, “Developing a Personal Open Courseware Strategy,” ProfHacker, The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 11, 2010,

24 For example, the NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant application “strongly encourages” projects “to employ open-source and fully accessible software;” see “Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants,” National Endowment for the Humanities, August 6, 2010,

25 Marc Parry, “Online, Bigger Classes May Be Better Classes,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 29, 2010,

26 Dave Cormier and George Siemens, “Through the Open Door: Open Courses as Research, Learning and Engagement,” EDUCAUSE Review 45, no. 4 (2010): 30–39.

27 Brown and Adler, “Minds on Fire.”

28 Ibid.

29 Audrey Watters, “The Language of MOOCs,” Inside Higher Ed, 7 June 2012,

30 Stephen Downes, “What Connectivism Is,” Half an Hour, February 3, 2007,

31 Dave Cormier and Neal Gillis, “Knowledge in a MOOC,” YouTube, December 1, 2010,

32 Stephen Downes and George Siemens, “How This Course Works,” Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 1,1 (2011),

33 I signed up for PLENK 2010, but was not an active participant due to lack of time.

34 Rita Kop, Hélène Fournier, and Sui Fai John Mak, “A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support on Massive Open Online Courses,” The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12 (2011): 86.

35 Jenny Mackness, Sui Fai John Mak, and Roy Williams, “The Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC,” in 7th International Conference on Networked Learning 2010 (Lancaster: University of Lancaster, 2010), 266.

36 Doug Holton, “What’s the ‘Problem’ with MOOCs?” EdTechDev, May 4, 2012,

37 I was a student in both courses (although I did not complete them due to a lack of time).

38 Clark Quinn, “MOOC Reflections,” Learnlets, February 29, 2012,

39 Rebecca J. Rosen, “Overblown-Claims-of-Failure Watch: How Not to Gauge the Success of Online Courses,” The Atlantic, July 22, 2012,

40 Audrey Watters, “Dropping Out of MOOCs: Is It Really Okay?” Inside Higher Ed, July 23, 2012,

41 Josh Baron, “Are Coursera Courses Really MOOCs?” Educause CIO Constituent Group Listserv, July 20, 2012,; “Terms of Service”, Udacity, March 31, 2012,

42 “MITx Terms of Service,” MITx, February 20, 2012,

43 Terran Lane, “On Leaving Academia,” Ars Experientia, July 23, 2012,

44 Terje Väljataga, Hans Põldoja, and Mart Laanpere, “Open Online Courses: Responding to Design Challenges,” in Proceedings of the 4th International Network-Based Education 2011 Conference: The Social Media in the Middle of Nowhere (Rovaniemi: University of Lapland, 2011), 68.

45 Clifford Lynch, “Digital Libraries, Learning Communities, and Open Education,” in Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge, ed. Toru Iiyoshi and M. S. Vijay Kumar (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008), 105–18.

46 Andy Lane, “Widening Participation in Education through Open Educational Resources,” in Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge, ed. Toru Iiyoshi and M. S. Vijay Kumar (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008), 149–64.

47 For example, establishing a local Decoding Digital Humanities ( chapter to host informal monthly meetings. Founded at University College London, chapters have now been launched in Bloomington (US), Lisbon (Portugal), and Melbourne (Australia).

48 Cormier and Siemens, “Through the Open Door.”

49 I take this idea in part from a May 2010 THATCamp session on digital humanities education, where participants proposed “partnerships where students are looking at each other’s work across institutions” (“THATCamp 2010 Session on DH teaching/curriculum”).

50 Disclosure: I am on the DH Commons Board and ACH Executive Council.

51 Several existing digital humanities certificate programs partner with libraries and archives to give students the opportunity to contribute to projects, so the networked certificate program would extend that idea. See, for example, the discussion of such partnerships at work in New York University’s archives and public history curriculum in Peter J. Wosh, Cathy Moran Hajo, and Esther Katz’s chapter, “Teaching Digital Skills in an Archives and Public History Curriculum.”

52 Christopher Blackwell and Gregory Crane, “Conclusion: Cyberinfrastructure, the Scaife Digital Library and Classics in a Digital Age,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3, no. 1 (2009),

53 Susan L. Bryant, Andrea Forte, and Amy Bruckman, “Becoming Wikipedian: Transformation of Participation in a Collaborative Online Encyclopedia,” in Proceedings of the 2005 International ACM SIGGROUP Conference on Supporting Group Work, ed. Kjeld Schmidt, Mark Pendergast, Mark Ackerman, and Gloria Mark (New York: ACM, 2005), 1–10.

54 Wikimedia Foundation, “Wikipedia Ambassador Program,” Wikimedia Outreach, May 14, 2011, Disclosure: I served as a Wikipedia Campus Ambassador.

55 Alec Couros, “Call for Network Mentors—Follow-Up,” Open Thinking, September 27, 2010,

56 “Recognizes” suggests applauding the achievements of a learner, “assess” means measuring what he or she has learned and “accredited” means “formal certification by a third party or intermediary;” see Jan Philipp Schmidt, Christine Geith, Stian Håklev, and Joel Thierstein, “Peer-To-Peer Recognition of Learning in Open Education,” The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 10, no. 5 (2009),

57 Schmidt et al., “Peer-To-Peer Recognition of Learning in Open Education.”

58 Peer 2 Peer University and The Mozilla Foundation, “An Open Badge System Framework” (Badge Paper 4.0), working paper, Google Docs, 2011,

59 Jeffrey R. Young, “‘Badges’ Earned Online Pose Challenge to Traditional College Diplomas,” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 8, 2012,

60 Alexander M. C. Halavais, “A Genealogy of Badges: Inherited Meaning and Monstrous Moral Hybrids,” Information, Communication, and Society, 15 (2012), 354–73. Thanks to the anonymous peer reviewer for this reference.

61 Peer 2 Peer University and The Mozilla Foundation, “An Open Badge System Framework.”

62 Patrick McAndrew, Eileen Scanlon, and Doug Clow, “An Open Future for Higher Education,” EDUCAUSE Quarterly 33, no. 1 (2010),

63 Cathy N. Davidson, “Crowdsourcing Grading: Follow-Up,” HASTAC, August 9, 2009,

64 Debbie Morrison, “Peer Grading in Online Classes: Does It Work?” Online Learning Insights, July 6, 2012,

65 Morrison, “Peer Grading.”

66 Katy Jordan, “HCI—Interesting Issues with Peer Grading,” MoocMoocher, July 12, 2012,

67 By way of further example, professor Kathleen Fitzpatrick compiled an electronic dossier in preparation for her promotion review at Pomona College. Although prepared in 2009, it remains publically accessible on her website (

68 Schmidt et al., “Peer-To-Peer Recognition of Learning in Open Education.”

69 Melissa Terras, “Hacking the Career: Digital Humanities as Academic Hackerdom,” Melissa Terras’ Blog, May 24, 2010,

70 McAndrew, Scanlon, and Clow, “An Open Future for Higher Education.”

71 Tamar Lewin, “On the Internet, a University Without a Campus,” New York Times, February 5, 2009,

72 Jim Groom, “DS106: The Open Online Community of Digital Storytellers,” Kickstarter, March 29, 2012,

73 Jeffrey R. Young, “Professor Hopes to Support Free Course With Kickstarter, the ‘Crowd Funding’ Site,” The Wired Campus, March 29, 2012,

74 Christopher Mackie, “Open Source in Open Education: Promises and Challenges,” in Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge, ed. Toru Iiyoshi and M. S. Vijay Kumar (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008), 119-32.

75 Andrea Forte and Amy Bruckman, “Why Do People Write for Wikipedia? Incentives to Contribute to Open-Content Publishing” (paper presented at Sustaining Community: The Role and Design of Incentive Mechanisms in Online Systems, GROUP 2005 International Conference on Supporting Group Work, Sanibel Island, Florida, November 6, 2005),

76 John Seely Brown, “Foreword: Creating a Culture of Learning,” in Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge, ed. Toru Iiyoshi and M. S. Vijay Kumar (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008), xi-xiii, xii.