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Humanities courses go online

Concordia has joined with the Council of Independent Colleges, an organization dedicated to helping small liberal arts colleges, in offering a new program called Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction this year.

Concordia was among 100 colleges who applied to be a part of the program, and was one of 21 colleges who were accepted, according to Dr. George Connell, chair of the humanities department.

The program was mostly sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which helps promote and support the department of humanities in the United States.

Each college offers two classes to the program.

At Concordia, French Professor Dr. Rawson teaches Race, Gender and Power in the Francophone World, while German Professor Dr. Stephen Grollman teaches Topics in German: German Literature after 1945.

Grollman’s course will have both an English- and German-speaking aspect. The course will cover German literature and different influential authors and genres.

The English version of the class will discuss translated versions of the texts, while the German-speaking class will read the books in German and have discussions about the texts.

Both of these professors taught a trial version of their class this past year. Their trial class was only offered to Concordia students, and was a way for the professors to decide what worked and what did not work for themselves and for the students.

Rawson held her classes online and did not mandate coming and seeing her in person, while Grollman met with students every week outside of the online time.

The classes will be offered online in a number of different styles, depending on the teacher –— synchronous, asynchronous or a combination of the two. Synchronous classes meet online together in the online “classroom,” as they would for regular class. Asynchronous classes do not have assigned meeting times where the students and professor meet together, but rely on online forums and messaging to interact.

“The online classroom allowed us to do everything we could in a traditional classroom, even more,” Grollman said. “Students could find things online, record the classes.”

“In the larger public schools they have massive open online courses, which are mainly introductory level courses,” Connell said. “Instead of big introductory courses, we focus on smaller, upper level courses.”

With the 21 colleges and 42 classes offered, students have a lot of different classes to which they would not otherwise have access at Concordia. They offer classes in a number of subjects, including ones not offered at Concordia, such as Japanese and Medieval Studies, as well as having more specific offerings in subjects that Concordia does offer.

Concordia joined the online community in order to expand choices for students, according to Connell.

“We [Concordia] can’t offer as many specialized courses, but when combined, if we pool our resources…we can enrich offerings,” Connell said.

The Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction program offers classes such as Medieval Literature and Its Manuscripts; Dragons, Monks, and Maidens; African American Spirituals and Gospel Song; Magic and Witchcraft in British Literature and Pilgrimage: Searching for God in a (Post)modern World.

“In upper level German, sometimes it is hard to justify offering the class,” Grollmann said in regard to lowered attendance at Concordia and subsequent classroom attendance decline.

“Humanities is a smaller department, so this gives students a lot more choices,” Rawson said.

Jillian Veil-Ehnert, director of foundation relations and research grants, and Connell started this project last year by writing a grant and receiving acceptance from the program. Veil-Ehnert and Connell expanded their knowledge on online education by attending national and regional meetings.

“We did a lot of research,” Rawson said. “If teaching online is effective, how is it effective and so on.”

The courses will be offered in the spring and there will be a meeting for people who are interested in the program on Nov. 3.

“It’s an experiment,” Connell said. “For most universities, we are just trying out online classes, figuring out ‘What do students want — online or face to face?’”

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