Last year, nearly 750 participants signed up for a unique online learning experience. “Understanding Lincoln” was the first open, online graduate course offered in partnership between the House Divided Project at Dickinson College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Taught by historian Matthew Pinsker, the course focused on classic Lincoln texts –not just his great speeches, but also his most important personal and political letters. The participants studied and debated these documents through a series of live, interactive online sessions and helped create a brand-new website: Lincoln’s Writings: The Multi-Media Edition. Now, as we are getting ready to launch the 2.0 version of this exciting course (REGISTRATION CLOSES ON MAY 27, 2014), we think it’s worth sharing some of the comments from those who joined us during Fall Semester 2013.
From our auditors:
“I have seen the future, and it is “Understanding Lincoln.” Thanks again, and keep going with this approach as far as it will go!”
“I originally was just going to give the general kudos already stated above on a highly educational, interesting, and enjoyable course. But having started to take [another] MOCC more recently in which I was very disappointed, I’ve decided it is important to re-enforce some of the particular techniques you used that were noticeable by their absence in the other course. [Most important], the use of live interaction in video classroom sessions including on-line participation….The [other] course restricted live videos to semi-scripted sessions with teaching assistants, while “discussion” sessions were simply non-video chatrooms, sometimes with a 2nd level teaching assistant throwing in an occasional question, sometimes totally unstaffed. In the video classrooms, Matt’s active role as discussion leader was very effective, particularly given your ability to actively monitor the chatline.”
“My goal in doing this was to add to my own knowledge, of course, and to provide some material to the greater community in the class. This whole experience has been a very positive one for me and I thank you for all of your hard and good work in putting it together.”
From our graduate participants:
“I just wanted to thank you again for the great academic experience provided through “Understanding Lincoln.” I really learned a lot from the class and enjoyed every minute of it… I only wished I’d had more time to devote to my research! I loved the amount of freedom we were given to create our own projects and having never designed a Web site before, I learned a great deal not only about historic content but also about 21st Century presentation! There’s a lot more I still have to learn, but this was a good start! In a strange way, I found all of our writing assignments to be a great release from my day-to-day school and family demands, so I really am sorry to see the class come to an end!”
“I’m so glad I took this class — living with Honest Abe these last four months has been a really moving experience in more ways than I can count and frankly, has made me realize that I need to keep pursuing history research and exploration as much as I can.”
“I just want to express my thanks in offering a challenging and yet rewarding course. My multi-media project has been shared with 100 other history teachers in my district and I have utilized it many times in my own classroom. The students are tickled at seeing their “teacher’s work” for a class on display in addition to its usefulness so I appreciate your multimedia project assignment. I look forward to learning more…isn’t that the key to a successful class?”
“I’ve taught professional development courses and taken a lot of them myself, but I honestly found this to be one of the best classes I’ve taken since I was an undergrad 11 years ago. I appreciated the expertise, depth of content and the flexibility you gave us to find our own areas of interest. I also thought the online format was just a really interesting way to take a class. Most helpful to my teaching, though, the website is already proving to be an amazing resource. It’s a great project that is really going to help a lot of teachers across the country.”
“I am really proud of what I have learned through the course of this project and I thank you for the opportunity to do this for my students. I have very much enjoyed the course!”
“I really enjoyed the format of the class and the material presented within it. It was a logical arrangement of topics and primary sources, and I hope that our work helped you get closer to reaching your goal of creating an in-depth website that looks closely at Abraham Lincoln as both a person and president.”
“I want to also thank you for the experience provided by this course. I feel like it has enhanced my confidence teaching Lincoln and made me step out of my comfort zone and embrace the technology. I learned a great deal, love the Lincoln writings site and will use your close readings in my classroom.”
“Thank you for an exciting past few months. Not only did I learn quite a bit about Lincoln, but I also learned some great technology programs to use with my students.”
“I know that I am a better teacher from the time I spent working on this course.”
Registration for the 2014 edition of the “Understanding Lincoln” course will remain open until May 27, 2014. Full graduate student tuition costs $600. Auditors pay a small fee of $25. To sign up or to find out more details, go to the course registration page (http://gilderlehrman.org/programs-exhibitions/understanding-lincoln-graduate-course) and see for yourself.