DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly
Volume 11 Number 3
2017 11.3  |  XMLPDFPrint

The MoEML Pedagogical Partnership Program

Janelle Jenstad <jenstad_at_uvic_dot_ca>, University of Victoria
Kim McLean-Fiander <krdmf_at_uvic_dot_ca>, University of Victoria


Since 2014, The Map of Early Modern London (MoEML) has partnered with professors and students around the world in a unique collaboration between a digital humanities (DH) project and humanities classrooms. The model we have developed addresses a sustainability challenge for DH projects, provides professors with a way of meeting administrative demands for engaged learning, and gives students a high-stakes research-based learning opportunity with the potential for an open-access, peer–reviewed publication. The MoEML Pedagogical Partnership Project emerged from a confluence of problems and opportunities. One longstanding problem for DH practitioners is project-based: how do we sustain the projects already begun? Another problem emerges as DH moves out of the “big tent” and sets up camp in humanities classrooms at smaller, non-R1 institutions. Also, for scholars not trained in the technologies that drive many DH projects, crossing the analog-digital divide might be daunting and discourage them from contributing to DH projects. To address these challenges, the MoEML Pedagogical Partnership takes Research-Based Learning (RBL) models and turns them into high-profile publication opportunities, mobilizing ubiquitous social networking and communication technologies to connect the project with the new demographic of student contributors. This essay will highlight how digital projects and digi-curious professors can collaborate to develop innovative pedagogical practices that provide projects with content, enliven professors’ pedagogy, and invite students to acquire scholarly research skills, gain digital literacy, and engage in an interdisciplinary and international collaboration. We argue that DH projects can be used innovatively and effectively in the classroom to promote RBL. At the same time, DH projects–open-access ones in particular–can provide a home both for humanities research and for the fruits of digital pedagogy across a wide range of institutional settings.


Since 2014, The Map of Early Modern London has partnered with professors and students around the world in a unique collaboration between a digital humanities (DH) project and humanities classrooms. The model we have developed addresses a sustainability challenge for DH projects, provides professors with a way of meeting administrative demands for engaged learning, and gives students a high-stakes research-based learning opportunity with the potential for an open-access, peer-reviewed publication. The MoEML Pedagogical Partnership Project emerged from a confluence of problems and opportunities. One longstanding problem for DH practitioners is project-based: how do we sustain the projects already begun? Another problem emerges as DH moves out of the “big tent” and sets up camp in humanities classrooms.[1] A complaint about DH is that it requires infrastructure and support and is therefore inaccessible to the “‘have-nots’ of the mainstream humanities”  [Grusin 2014]. Even if newcomers do have the resources to build something new (thereby adding to the number of projects requiring curation and care), must they do so in order to be doing DH? Another problem faces potential contributors to DH projects: crossing the analog-digital divide can be daunting for scholars not trained in the technologies that drive many DH projects. Projects and contributors share the need to disseminate and mobilize scholarship. Academic faculty are increasingly enjoined to publish in open-access fora, which increases the need for reputable digital venues. We also need to capture the original work of students, for whom the processes of scholarly publishing (regardless of medium) can be alienating.
To address these challenges, the MoEML Pedagogical Partnership takes Research-Based Learning (RBL) models and turns them into high-profile publication opportunities, mobilizing ubiquitous social networking and communication technologies to connect the project with the new demographic of student contributors. For collaborators in classrooms around the world, MoEML’s challenges become opportunities. Similarly, challenges in the humanities become opportunities for MoEML. This essay will highlight how digital projects and digi-curious professors can collaborate to develop innovative pedagogical practices that provide projects with content, enliven professors’ pedagogy, and invite students to acquire scholarly research skills, gain digital literacy, and engage in an interdisciplinary and international collaboration. We argue that DH projects can be used innovatively and effectively in the classroom to promote RBL. At the same time, DH projects–open-access ones in particular–can provide a home both for humanities research and for the fruits of digital pedagogy across a wide range of institutional settings.

The Problems

DH Project Sustainability

In the seventeen years since MoEML’s inception as an intranet pedagogical tool, the project has developed multiple resources that are far from completion: the first is a descriptive Gazetteer of over one-thousand streets, sites, administrative units, and other features; the second is a Library of texts that are crucial to our understanding of early modern literary London but are rarely anthologized or have never been edited at all. As the MoEML team turned its attention to building the best possible platform–adding a digital edition of the Agas map with built-in drawing tools, enabling GIS capabilities, linking to Google Maps, working with other projects to geolocate their data, and compiling finding aids and bibliographies–the core resources of the site remained unfinished. This problem is not unique to MoEML.[2] Jenstad’s students at the University of Windsor anticipated as long ago as 2002 that finishing MoEML would require the world to help. Two prescient students (Michael Davis and Tara Drouillard) suggested that Jenstad invite contributions from other classrooms, an idea that she found inspiring but unachievable in 2002.

Engaged Learning and the Knowledge Mobilization Challenge

DH projects not only need to determine how to sustain themselves, but are also expected (by funding bodies and university administrators) to make their work accessible to the wider public. Understandably, public funding agencies, such as SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) in Canada or the NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) in the US, want scholars to give something back to taxpayers whose money supports their projects. Digital Humanists might be more comfortable than other humanists with online, open-access publications, but simply putting research on the web is not enough. Furthermore, professors of all stripes are increasingly being asked to mobilize knowledge, make it public, and quantify its impact while also engaging students in meaningful research. In the twenty years since the Boyer Commission’s report was published, we have seen calls for research-intensive courses, capstone courses, and undergraduate research scholarships across the disciplines and in institutions of all sizes. It has been imposed by well-meaning administrators on faculty members without (in some cases) much guidance about how to invite students into the research process or how to mobilize research for the public good. We are not accustomed to expecting original research from undergraduate students, even though we can offer them access to primary texts, archival materials, and tools that were unimaginable even ten years ago. Even with these new resources, some of us find it hard to imagine innovative ways to get our undergraduates involved in an historic research model that has generally been conducted by lone scholars working in an archive and then writing up their findings.[3] An obvious solution to this challenge is to get more scholars involved in RBL and DH work. How can we reach across to our fellow teachers, especially those lacking technological skillsets, and invite them to contribute their expertise to a digital project?

The Solution

For over ten years, Jenstad incubated the idea put forward by her students in 2002. Certain material conditions had to pertain before she could develop the Pedagogical Partnership she envisioned: grant funding, a team of research assistants, and a collaborator (McLean-Fiander). But the key impetus to launch the Partnership came from faculty members outside DH who had been charged with doing undergraduate research in the classroom and mobilizing student scholarship. A 2013 exchange on Facebook and email between Peter Herman at San Diego State University (SDSU) and Jenstad at the University of Victoria (UVic) catalyzed the transformation of the 2002 Windsor students’ idea into the reality of MoEML’s current Pedagogical Partnership. Herman wrote that he was teaching a very small seminar the following semester that was supposed to focus on undergraduate research. He wanted to go beyond Early English Books Online (EEBO), which he had been using successfully in the undergraduate classroom [Herman 2015], and asked Jenstad if she had any innovative ideas about using MoEML in some way. The timing was ideal. With McLean-Fiander having recently joined the MoEML team, we had conceived the idea of “starting a pilot project whereby we team up with professors in other locations, supply teaching materials, and have the students contribute to MoEML under the close supervision of their professor on site.” Jenstad wrote to Herman that

We are keen to honour our pedagogical origins while upholding scholarly standards. We think it’s a win-win-win-win proposition. MoEML needs contributors and reviewers. Because MoEML is rapidly growing beyond my capacity to edit every entry submitted, I need to delegate some of the work. Your student gets a publication for his/her CV or graduate school application. You would be credited as “Guest Editor” and would have an innovative teaching partnership to add to your teaching dossier.  [Jenstad 2013]

Herman’s response–that the project was “exactly what the administrators around here [want]”  [Herman 2013b]–confirmed that such a partnership had the potential to meet a new demand in academia.
In its current form, the partnership is an innovative, scalable, extensible model for teachers, student researchers, and digital humanities projects. MoEML provides teaching materials for the module, research guidance, and a high-profile publication opportunity for the class. Professors work closely with students in their classes to produce a publishable encyclopedia entry, edit an early modern text, and/or learn to transcribe and encode text. MoEML gains an edited, externally-sourced contribution, and builds a base of educated users who may well contribute in the future. Calling on the crowd is one way to complete large projects. Managing the crowd and maintaining standards have always been the challenges, however [Causer and Wallace 2012]. In this partnership, the professor functions like the Guest Editor of a journal issue, responsible for vetting the content before it comes to the MoEML team; in this way, MoEML distributes the management of the crowd and delegates a certain amount of quality control.

The DH Part of the Solution

Including a MoEML module in a course does not necessarily involve teaching DH directly, but it can provide DH skills and model DH values outside a formal DH curriculum. It allows partners to teach robust research skills while using digital resources and/or writing for the digital environment. The MoEML module teaches student participants to write for a different medium (the web). Because we cite preferentially from open-access resources, students at large institutions learn to look beyond subscription resources while students from smaller institutions (without journal and database subscriptions) find that they are not disadvantaged in the research process. Thus, the partnership promotes the new models of dissemination pioneered by DH practitioners (open-access, Creative Commons licensing, new models of peer review) and brings attention to projects that may not be indexed in library catalogues. The high visibility of the module invites students to do their best work. The complexity of the projects demands collaboration, a hallmark of DH. Different people bring different skills to the table. Some students will be wizards with certain aspects of technology that may well be daunting for their professors. Thus, the module compresses and occasionally inverts hierarchies, another hallmark of both DH work and RBL.

The RBL Part of the Solution

In its 1998 white paper, “Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities,” the Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University recommended that RBL become the model of learning at R1 universities [Boyer 1998].[4] RBL entails inviting students into a community of learners where the instructor and the students are all pursuing an unanswered question together [Lambert 2009] [Smith and Rust 2011]. The professor is neither the “sage on the stage” nor the “guide on the side” but a fellow investigator who offers mentorship to an apprentice investigator. RBL offers students a high-stakes learning opportunity, gives them tools to ask and answer legitimate questions, cultivates a spirit of collaboration, and allows them to take ownership of the knowledge they produce [Brew 2006] [Brew and Jewell 2012]. Model RBL opportunities include lab work, fieldwork, internships, capstone courses, undergraduate research awards, research scholarships, and course modules [Lambert 2009]. RBL is a natural fit for the Sciences and Social Sciences: disciplines with teams working in laboratory settings or doing fieldwork regularly [Walkington et al. 2011]. In the humanities, DH projects and laboratories have the potential to offer RBL opportunities. MoEML began in 1999 as an RBL exercise, and has inspired and hosted further RBL projects since then.[5]

Reimagining RBL through DH Pedagogy

MoEML stands at the intersection of two distinct pressures: to provide RBL opportunities and to respond to the impact of the digital revolution upon humanities research questions. The pedagogical partnership reimagines the apprentice-researcher model of RBL and the project-based model of DH. For good reason, RBL tends to happen at R1 institutions and DH tends to happen at places with centres: both are research and resource intensive. A typical objection to RBL is that it is difficult to practice in small institutions that do not have extensive library, technical, or infrastructural resources. Critics have said the same of DH [Pannapacker 2013]. The two objections to RBL and DH have tended to be mutually reinforcing. In UVic’s Maker Lab in the Humanities (dir. Jentery Sayers), for example, RAs develop Kits for Culture.[6] However, such opportunities are not course-based and depend upon a funded lab for support. At MoEML, we provide comparable opportunities to students undertaking Directed Readings (for course credit) or Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards (scholarships to conduct original research with a faculty member). Again, however, these are elite opportunities predicated on competitive funding, lab/project space, and supervisorial good will.
Our own project is well supported at UVic by the Humanities Computing and Media Centre (HCMC), and we have enjoyed generous SSHRC funding (2012-2016). The pedagogical partnership permits MoEML to become a virtual lab shared by all our partners. They use our bibliography, gazetteer, praxis guidelines, encoding protocols, and mapping tools. In addition, we are available to provide guidance on research agendas. Just as RBL is usually an instance of a student picking a small aspect of the researcher’s larger research question, our pedagogical partners and their students can develop a subset of research questions within the broader framework of the research questions that MoEML addresses.
The digital revolution also makes RBL more feasible across a wider range of institutions. In the humanities, RBL might entail working with primary materials linked to professors’ research projects. Such materials lend themselves to digitization, and are, in fact, being digitized at a rapid rate because they tend to be housed in libraries, which are rightly leading the charge in digitizing the very kinds of data that humanities scholars generally analyze (books, letters, records, images, art).[7] Our fieldwork used to take place in libraries; now it takes place on the internet. MoEML itself provides many open-access resources but we also point people preferentially to other open-access resources.

MoEML and the Pedagogical Partnership


The MoEML Pedagogical Partnerships make four key assumptions:
  1. Research-based learning is now possible at any institution, not just the former R1 institutions, thanks to the burgeoning of digital resources, in particular open-access ones.
  2. Providing students with high-stakes publishing opportunities will motivate them to produce their best work.
  3. Their best work is often an original contribution to scholarship.[8]
  4. The imperatives of knowledge mobilization and publicly funded education demand that we capture students’ original research and share it within and beyond the scholarly community.
Broadly speaking, the MoEML module has two phases. The first phase–teaching, assigning, and assessing–occurs during the term at our partner institutions. As noted by the “Student Collaborators’ Bill of Rights,” a professor who assigns a MoEML module “must primarily consider the student’s own intellectual growth”  [Di Pressi et al. n.d.] rather than the needs of the project. MoEML is not involved in the grading, which has to conform to the partner institution’s assessment standards. Once the Partnership is established and before the course begins, the project and the professor discuss the nature of the contribution. The contribution needs to help students achieve the learning outcomes for the course. In keeping with RBL practices, the contribution must be relevant to the professor’s own research questions and expertise. It must also fit the project’s needs; for MoEML, the pressing needs are encyclopedia articles for the Placeography, essays on topics of general interest to MoEML users, and editions of texts for the Library. The project supplies some teaching materials. During the term, the students research the assigned topic and write an encyclopedia article or create an edition under the close supervision of the professor who acts as an on-site MoEML Guest Editor.
For our 2014 pilot of the Pedagogical Partnership, we teamed up with Herman at SDSU and Kathryn R. McPherson at Utah Valley University. Both professors chose to have the entire class work together to complete a single MoEML Encyclopedia article that needed content: Herman was assigned the Blackfriars Theatre and McPherson’s the Curtain Theatre. MoEML provided a blurb about the Partnership for their syllabi; suggested forms of assessment that had worked for Jenstad in the past; provided a comprehensive online guide for student researchers; visited their classes in person and/or by Skype; regularly checked in with them via email; sent sources; and helped with refining topics, developing models for group work, and reviewing an early draft (in Herman’s case).
The second phase–preparing the submission for MoEML publication–occurs after the course is over and grades are submitted. Not all students want to continue working on a project after the course is finished (although many have done so), which means that they will not experience the full cycle of academic feedback, revision, and publication. Nevertheless, their work is still subject to the peer review process through the mediation of the professor (credited as “Guest Editor”), who has to revise the students’ work after the students have moved on. Depending on the extent of the revisions required, the Guest Editor may effectively co-author the contribution. Most academic writing is better because of the suggestions and interventions of peer reviewers, editors, and copyeditors–people who are often uncredited. MoEML consults the Guest Editor about how credit should be apportioned and described in contribution metadata. MoEML then reviews, encodes, and publishes the article.

The Results: A Winning Model?

We hoped that this model would benefit all the participants: the Guest Editors/professors, the students, and the project. Professors would get an innovative teaching experience to include on their professional dossiers. They would be able to engage their students in meaningful research. Perhaps more importantly, professors who had been tasked with incorporating digital tools and methods in the classroom would now have a methodology. They would still be rooted in their own scholarly domain and subject area as they taught scholarly research skills to their students, but they would also get to offer their students pathways into digital scholarship via the MoEML module. In effect, the Partnership would offer them one of the “easy ways to dip [their] toe[s] into the field [of digital scholarship]”  [Koh 2014]. Furthermore, they would now be free to experiment with classroom power dynamics, allowing students who might be particularly technologically savvy to take leadership roles. Indeed, MoEML would provide a solution to some of the problems that digital pedagogues have historically faced.[9] We hoped that MoEML could model “the kind of non-hierarchical collaborative work that bridges the erroneous distinctions drawn between pedagogy and research”  [Konkol 2015]. The Student Collaborators’ Bill of Rights notes that “At their best, these partnerships are a way for students to learn new skills and benefit from mentorship, while more seasoned scholars can learn from junior scholars’ ideas, skills, subject knowledge, and perspectives”  [Di Pressi et al. n.d.].
Ideally, students would learn that they are not only consumers of knowledge but can also be producers or creators of knowledge [Konkol 2015].  They would feel part of something that is bigger than themselves. While mastering scholarly research methods, such as using online databases, academic journals, and checking and citing sources properly, they would come to feel like scholars, and the experience would push them to take their research skills to the next level. Having a venue like MoEML would provide them with an audience to write for and show them that there can be real purpose to scholarly writing since their work would have a genuine utility for other scholars. Their work researching for MoEML would be formative, especially for those who planned to go on to graduate school with the intention of entering the profession. They would not only learn more about the early modern world, but also become better researchers and collaborators.
Finally, the hope was that the project would acquire vetted scholarly content that would help to sustain a pedagogical resource used by thousands around the world. While expanding our content, we could achieve greater quality assurance by having Guest Editors vet contributions. This method would also take some of the strain off our in-house editors.

Refinements, Lessons Learned, Improvements

MoEML and partners have tested this model in a variety of ways: public feedback, extension of the model, and role-switching. During the pilot term (Spring 2014), we sought feedback from scholars and potential contributors via demonstrations (most notably at the Shakespeare Association of America [SAA] Digital Salon), social media (Facebook, Twitter, and our own on-site News feed), and on-site visits. McLean-Fiander did a “MoEML Road Show” in southern California, visiting Herman’s class in person while there. We have since given conference papers, presented in panel sessions, organized a Modern Language Association (MLA) panel, and run a workshop at the SAA.

Feedback from Professors[10]

Informal feedback from Pedagogical Partners has been highly or wholly positive. Amy Tigner at the University of Texas Arlington reported the following after her graduate students completed the MoEML module: “We have learned so much doing this project and the students remain excited and engaged. The collaborative aspect has meant that they have really helped one another, and the overall documents are better.” Meg Roland of Marylhurst University, whose undergraduate study abroad students wrote about the London Wall, said that her students had “become passionate researchers.” Upon starting the MoEML module, Shannon Kelley of Fairfield University, also a contributor to this issue of DHQ, wrote, “I am really excited to dig into this project with my new Shakespeare course, and the administrators at my university are thrilled too”; after completing the module, she wrote, “I have only positive things to say.” A happy by-product of the MoEML Partnerships is that we are starting to see interconnections form between the Pedagogical Partners, who cross-review each other’s work and who are developing their own collaborations, including plans to participate on roundtables and panels at future conferences.

Case Studies: Utah Valley University and Washington College

McPherson and another early partner, Kathryn Moncrief at Washington College (a small private liberal arts college), have reflected at length on their experiences in public fora, which has helped MoEML identify and implement improvements. Like most new ventures, the Partnership has room to grow beyond its strong start.

Utah Valley University

McPherson’s experience was key to understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the pilot Partnership. McPherson’s class at UVU was an ideal venue for testing the hypothesis that a partnership between a major DH project and a non-R1 institution could create a research-based learning opportunity. UVU is a large (30K student), open-enrollment university that doubles as a community college. Its focus on “Engaged Learning” was recognized in 2008 with the official Carnegie designation of “Elective Community Engagement,” which recognizes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. McPherson teaches in a large English Department with a moderate number of majors (40 faculty and approximately 500 majors, divided between Literary Studies, Creative Writing, Writing Studies, and English Education). The Shakespeare course (ENGL 463R) in which McPherson deployed the MoEML module is required for all Literary Studies and Creative Writing students, recommended for English Education students, and typically taken late in junior or during senior year. Class size varies between 15 and 25 students.
Playing to her own research strengths, as RBL requires, McPherson designed the course to interrogate “Original Practices.” The concept of performing Shakespeare according to original performance practices or under original performance conditions was variously familiar to UVU students due to the Grassroots Shakespeare Center, begun in 2009 by two of McPherson’s former students. The troupe visited McPherson’s class and performed scenes from The Taming of the Shrew near the end of the term. McPherson had students undertake in-class performance exercises using materials prepared by Ralph Cohen and the American Shakespeare Center, and made frequent use of comparison clips of modern films and Shakespeare’s Globe performances. For the Engaged Learning component of the course, McPherson had her students research and write an article about the Curtain Theatre for MoEML. She considered this exercise her first DH project. The module allowed the students to mobilize new findings from the discovery and excavation of the Curtain Theatre site in Shoreditch in summer 2012, which was serendipitous since archeological evidence has been crucial to Original Practices research. Working in groups, McPherson’s students addressed five topics: Early Modern Neighborhood and Site; Theatre Architecture; Playing Companies and People; Repertory and Writers; and Modern Site and Archaeology. The resulting essay is now published on the MoEML site.[11]
McPherson’s MLA and SAA reports about the MoEML Partnership made specific recommendations. Her comments targeted the acquisition of research skills, the transition to collaborative work, and the challenges of writing for a new medium. MoEML’s actions or comments are included parenthetically.
  1. Students at non-elite schools need more support for using databases such as EEBO. (MoEML has since published a series of “How-to” guides written by undergraduate students working with Kristen Abbott Bennett at Stonehill College, another non-R1 school grappling with digital research tools.[12])
  2. Students need more than models provided by their reading for understanding the conventions of scholarly writing. (In response, MoEML wrote a “Writing for the Web” guide.)
  3. Students need to be drilled regarding the thorough use of documentation and citation, precisely because the stakes are high in this kind of public scholarship. (MoEML’s citation guide is currently appended to the end of its style guide; the project make its innovative citation practices more visible.)
  4. Precise orientation to citing early modern texts via signature and gathering needs to be stressed. (MoEML can take a leading role here by providing links to videos at the British Library, Folger Shakespeare Library, and elsewhere.)
  5. A “mid-term draft” should be required to ensure that students are not procrastinating. (For Herman, the MoEML team performed a mid-term external review to introduce students to the concept of peer review, although an external review can complicate the internal assessment process.)
  6. Conferences outside of class with each team of students would help to foster collaboration and smooth out any interpersonal issues. (As we learn to work collaboratively in our discipline generally, we can all learn from DH.)

Washington College

Moncrief became interested in the way the MoEML module fosters metaliteracy. Moncrief’s Renaissance Drama class of twenty junior- and senior-level students worked collaboratively to write an article on the Rose Theatre for MoEML; the class was divided into the same sort of topic groupings as McPherson’s class. Moncrief teamed up with scholar-librarian Michele Santamaria to write an article about the metacognitive effects of the MoEML module. They detailed “how metaliteracy was intrinsic to the experience of undergraduate Renaissance Drama students embarking upon collaborative research, nested within various cooperative ventures”  [Santamaria and Moncrief 2015].[13] They viewed the MoEML Partnership as creating “an ideal opportunity” for the students to improve both digital and social media skills while also allowing them to develop their independence as scholars, a key to enhancing their metaliteracy. While only two of the four research teams appeared to “flourish” in the team setting, the students generally reported a high level of pride in contributing to MoEML and expressed a strong belief in the capacity for undergraduates to engage in meaningful research. Santamaria and Moncrief reported that the students “came to see themselves as authors of information,” and they concluded that “learners benefit tremendously from collaborative, research-based learning that depends on them working across several domains of metaliteracy”  [Santamaria and Moncrief 2015].

Student feedback

We sought student feedback via an end-of-term anonymous assessment, modelled on the UVic Course Experience Survey and an instrument designed by the UVic Learning and Teaching Centre.[14] We used a Likert Scale to invite students to strongly disagree, disagree, remain neutral, agree, or strongly agree with various statements.[15] The results bear out many of our expectations. Among 51 respondents from four different undergraduate classes comprised primarily of third and fourth-year English majors, students by and large thought that the process made them a “better researcher”” (4.31/5). Students also deeply believed that “all undergraduates should have the opportunity to engage in similar, high-stakes research” (4.33/5). They sometimes struggled to choose among and deploy sources, even though a comprehensive research guide for students is provided on the MoEML site. Students reported that using the “MoEML Guide for Student Researchers”[16] both challenged them and enriched their experience, rating its helpfulness at 3.65 out of 5.
All in all, students reported a high level of pride: 4.63 out of 5 said they were “proud to contribute to a widely used online scholarly resource.” One student reported that “My favorite thing about the MoEML module was how it […] engaged our class in legitimate literary research while making use of cutting edge technology! Old books and new computers: it’s the future.” Another said the best part of the module was “the satisfaction of accomplishing this daunting project.  I can accomplish much more than I thought I could.” They reported that the MoEML module encouraged them to think about “proper research terms, primary sources, and research engines,” “which sources are more valuable,” “the importance of historicising,” and “how to bring these important aspects of culture and academia into modern conversation and consumption [via] the internet!” They learned to consider the “validity of information, how to pare down the abundance of it, and how to cross check sources.”
When asked in what “specific ways did you grow and develop as a researcher?” students revealed the following:
  • “I learned to be more organized and work with a group of people that have different strengths and weaknesses. I learned how to find information that is useful.”;
  • “I got into the habit of keeping research notes [which] helped with my thesis work”;
  • “I learned […] how to do real research [and how to] examin[e] the text in deep, meaningful ways using historical context and intensive reasoning and logic.  These important lessons have carried into aspects of my life I have never considered!”
When asked to reflect on how the MoEML module might be useful for them when applying for a job or graduate school, one respondent said, “I have experience in participating in a ‘Digital Humanities project’ which was successful and allowed people to work and interact w[ith] one another digitally.” Another student who worked as a research assistant with MoEML during the Partnership reported that “There is something completely inspiring and motivating in knowing that my work is being accessed, assessed, and cited by students and researchers worldwide.”

What the project learned

Due to the rapid uptake of the Partnership, MoEML found itself with more contributions in the workflow than the team could process quickly. At the time of writing (January 2016), MoEML has had sixteen Pedagogical Partners from four countries and a variety of institutions.[17] The project has published thirteen articles, with five more in draft at the encoding stage, and a further 28 assigned or in revisions. Research assistants in Victoria invested time checking facts, tagging people, places, dates, and sources, finding images, and sometimes performing further research. As MoEML moves forward with future Partnerships, the project team must use its limited resources wisely. To this end, MoEML has already implemented and continues to work on a series of “fixes.” The new Teaching splash page[18] on the site provides partners with a clear overview of their role, the module, MoEML’s submission criteria, and the resources available to Guest Editors and students on and off site. MoEML now insists that contributions from Partnerships include project-specific identifiers for people, places, and dates.[19] Making such identifications are part of the critical work to be done by the researcher; in many cases, MoEML RAs would have to replicate the research to make the identification. Pedagogical Partnerships have helpfully shown where our contributor guidelines needed expansion and clearer organization; it remains to be seen if students would benefit from customized guidelines pitched at their level. MoEML needs to fine-tune the peer-review process so that the work is spread out across a wider range of reviewers. When its current grant funding comes to an end in April 2016, MoEML will need to assess the viability of the Partnerships. Without funding, the project can still support a few experienced partners. Even with renewed grant funding, MoEML will move to a competitive application model. Word-of-mouth alone has brought more partners than MoEML can accommodate, although advertising via a CFP site and various discipline-specific listservs and websites would be an obvious course of action when the process becomes competitive.

What We All Learned/Ethical Matters

Partnerships do not always result in publishable content for the project. Some submissions did not meet the standard for publication, a decision usually taken by the Guest Editor but sometimes deferred to the project team. Not all students want to contribute. Janni Aragon, Director of Technology Integrated Learning at UVic, attended one of MoEML’s workshops and pointed out that students need an “out.” As teachers, we cannot require students to share their work in public fora. They may have personal or professional reasons for wanting their work in the course to be a terminal exercise seen only by the professor. Partners need be aware of ethical implications and legal regulations at their home institutions. They may need to have students sign waivers. They may need to have alternative assignments ready for students who do not wish to participate. Whether or not the work results in a publishable contribution, the partnership is a pedagogical success because the students have developed highly mobile skills in research, writing, and sometimes encoding.
We all became acutely aware of the mismatch between the speedy passage of students through courses and the significantly less speedy pace of scholarly publication. Professors had to remain in contact with students for months after the end of the course; students were understandably impatient with the process or simply not available to participate in post-course revisions. Scholars are used to the longer timelines of published research. For the professors, this work is part of their research and/or teaching portfolios; they are willing to put in time to bring the project to completion. For students who are not going on to graduate studies or becoming academics, there is little incentive to continue working on the MoEML contribution. However, students who stay in the academy or who go on to higher level training see their work for the MoEML partnership as a launchpad to a next-level independent study.
The working conditions of contingent academics affected the partnership. A number of our partners have been limited-term or adjunct instructors (Frost, Bennett). Contingent faculty are often less able to propose DH or RBL courses, may have limited access to institutional resources, and are unlikely to have a lab space or dedicated technical support. Opening up our project to contingent faculty means we open up their opportunities to participate in DH research. Given the challenges they face in career continuity, we can provide a permanent and visible home for their work. Such partners seem to be gaining recognition for their participation in our partnership. Because they are actively on the job market most of the time, it becomes incumbent on us to fast-track the work they and their students do.

Expanding and Extending the Model

The model is extensible to various pedagogical settings and other types of assignments. Some partners have had their students collectively write a single article on a place of major significance. Until the playhouses have all been written up, those locations will be popular choices for teachers of Renaissance Drama; Herman chose the Blackfriars, McPherson the Curtain, Moncrief the Rose, Bishop the Theatre, Donna Woodford-Gormley the Globe, Kirilka Stavreva Middle Temple Hall, and so on. Woodford-Gormley and Stavreva spread the work across two classes in subsequent terms, thus making two groups of students de facto collaborators across time and courses. Other partners, especially those with graduate students, have assigned smaller topics to individual students; Briony Frost’s MA students at the University of Exeter each tackled one location along a processional route, and Tigner’s graduate students contributed multiple individual essays on waterside locations for a course on “Shakespeare and Early Modern Urban/Rural Nature.” Ian MacInnes at Albion College placed two summer research scholarship students with MoEML in Summer 2015; one student, Kate Casebeer, elected to encode her own contribution using the MoEML Praxis guidelines normally used only by our internal team members. Roland at Marylhurst University worked a module on London Wall into a Study Abroad course, where her students traced the route of the Roman-era wall during their trip.[20] Encyclopedia articles are not the only types of assignments MoEML can accommodate. One of Tracey Hill’s students at Bath Spa University transcribed a pageant book for the anthology of mayoral shows. For Jennifer Drouin’s graduate-level Digital Humanities course at the University of Alabama, MoEML designed an Encoding Partnership whereby students encoded proclamations for the Library as part of their introduction to the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). Jenstad is currently experimenting with partnering up two classes in different locations to try double-keying diplomatic transcriptions, in an effort to teach descriptive bibliography, transcription, and encoding via an international partnership.[21] MoEML has a prospective Partnership in 3D modelling for which the project will supply ground surveys and architectural information, and the Pedagogical Partner will teach students to interpret the surveys and use Blender and/or Google Sketch-Up to create models of some buildings in London; MoEML will then embed the models in Encyclopedia pages.[22]
Participants in our workshops have given valuable feedback wondering aloud or in writing how to implement such a partnership for their own projects, embed such a module in a course, or seek out other projects with whom to partner. We would like to see further expansion of this model not necessarily by growth at MoEML but via uptake by other projects. A key limitation on MoEML’s expansion of the Pedagogical Partnership is the availability of grant-funding, since project team members check, encode, and upload content in-house, essentially functioning as a publisher without the infrastructure of a university press. Other digital projects with different types of content, different content management models, and registration tools (e.g., the capacity to capture data via web interfaces, or to register contributors as Wiki users) may be able to accommodate more contributors. Jenstad tested the extensibility of the Encoding Partnership by having her graduate course on “Textual Studies and Methods of Research” partner with the Database of Victorian Periodical Poetry, run by UVic professor Alison Chapman.[23] Students transcribed poems from digital surrogates, followed the project’s guidelines, and downloaded an encoding package prepared by the project’s programmer. Many projects need help with transcriptions, markup, updating bibliographies, reviewing, collecting and entering data, writing encyclopedia entries, surfacing and describing materials, and creating finding aids. Data created by one project might be available for visualization or analysis by another project or using another tool, with the results potentially augmenting what is already available on the project’s site. Projects in need of such help might consider pedagogical partnerships like ours.
Professors looking for real opportunities for their students might consider asking projects if contributions would be welcome. We suggest that such professors look for projects with a “Contribute” link and/or Contributor Guidelines, an irregular publication cycle (i.e., one not locked into “Issues” or “Releases”), a variety of roles that students can perform, evidence of past student contributions (although this evidence is not essential, since a project may never have thought of mobilizing student scholarship), and, of course, a digital presence. It helps to know a colleague on the project (as Herman knew Jenstad). One possible pitch is to say “Would you be willing to consider contributions from students if I were to vet them first?” Above all, it is important that the project provide an opportunity for students to exercise skills that they would need to learn in the course anyway. If students need to learn palaeography, then a manuscript transcription project or letters project (such as Early Modern Manuscripts Online or Early Modern Letters Online) could be an appropriate project partner. Inspired by their experience as Partners with MoEML, McPherson and Moncrief have implemented a Pedagogical Partnership in their new edition of Shakespeare’s Life and Times (SLT 2.0) for the Internet Shakespeare Editions–an ideal scenario that has mainly Junior students writing for Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors.
To make such partnerships work, everyone has to benefit. We suggest that a Project needs the following:
  1. a clearly identified contribution (as opposed to an offer to help);
  2. reassurance that the partnership will not result in additional work for the project, or a sense that the project’s investment will pay off in terms of a wider user base, stakeholders who care about its content, and a future highly qualified contributor; and
  3. a mechanism for ensuring quality. The last of these is no trifling matter. Ideally, quality control would come in the shape of a digital curator or gatekeeper.
Potential Pedagogical Partners (i.e., the professors who function as Guest Editors) need some or all of the following:
  1. suggestions for possible contributions that will serve the learning objectives of the course and fill current gaps in the project’s structure;
  2. a module with clear boundaries that will fit inside the context of a course structure;
  3. teaching and management tips;
  4. guidelines for the students to follow when writing and submitting their contributions;
  5. research guidelines;
  6. assessment rubrics;
  7. full credit for their work on the site;
  8. an institutional letter of support; and
  9. a reminder to check their university’s regulations about ethics and disclaimers.
Students need:
  1. credit in the form of their name appearing on the page or linked from it;
  2. ample guidance from the professor;
  3. the feeling that they are making a valuable contribution;
  4. thorough explanations of how to do new things;
  5. opportunities to share their expertise; and
  6. an “out” should they wish not to publish their work.[24]
While the MoEML Pedagogical Partnership model has room for improvement, it has been successful thus far because all parties have benefitted from the experience.

Public Humanities

MoEML’s Pedagogical Partnership also reaches beyond the classroom and builds an expansive scholarly community created by what Lanclos and White call “Resident practices”:

Networked practices [...] provide an opportunity for individuals to make their identity broadly visible without the mediation of traditional publishers or their institution. These modes of online engagement have been described as Resident in that they involve the individual being present, or residing, to a certain extent online. This is in contrast to Visitor modes of engagement where the individual leaves no online social trace. These new, Resident, forms of agency and online participation are repositioning institutions within a larger, more open, knowledge production landscape. Individuals are increasingly aware, via the opportunities provided by Resident practices on the web, that they do not have to sacrifice as much personal agency to the institution to gain professional credibility as they might have done in a pre-Web era.  [Lanclos and White 2015]

MoEML engages in this kind of Resident practice by opening up research communities and allowing students to reside in and contribute to a scholarly, digital space where their research can be and has been accessed by scholars and the interested public alike. Because the Partnership acknowledges the capacity of students, with proper guidance, to perform rigorous and original research, and because it publishes this work on an accessible, public platform, it captures research that might not otherwise see the light of day simply because it was conducted by an undergraduate student.
Another pedagogical resource that often remains hidden is the course syllabus. The MoEML teaching resource page shares a number of course syllabi from our Partners so that other instructors might benefit from those who have gone before them. The teaching page includes a series of “How-to Guides,” including the “Student Research Guide,” “How to Write for the Web,” and guides for using various digital resources (the latter writing by Bennett’s students at Stonehill College). Upon learning of the MoEML Pedagogical Partnership, Josh Magsam of The Shakespeare Standard reported:  “It’s wonderful to see a strong commitment to sharing teaching resources and partnering with other instructors to enhance awareness of the project. I think joint projects and crowd-sourced projects such as this–hybrid pedagogy, if you will–represent some of the most vital and critical teaching work being done in the field”  [Magsam 2014].
MoEML fosters a scholarly community beyond the individual classroom, too. Our Partner, Roland, recently wrote to tell us that she took her students to a seniors’ center (at the Provost’s request) so that they could talk about their work on the MoEML project. One of the senior citizens was a retired Blue Badge Guide from London. She asked to read the class’s article on London Wall and ended up catching a few errors and making a number of helpful suggestions to improve the content. As Roland put it, “what a great surprise that was to have her be an additional reader; [... it] just shows the value of getting this kind of work out into the community”  [Roland 2016].


The editors of this issue of DHQ generously invoked the MoEML Pedagogical Partnership in their call for papers. Having been held up as a model of critical skills development, we would like to conclude by reflecting on the extent to which our Partnerships engage in what DHQ issue editors Murphy and Smith characterized as “a multidimensional reimagining of where undergrads sit in the field” and how we “conceive of their [students’] role in the shifting knowledge economies produced by digital scholarship.” In producing digital content, our partnering students develop the usual critical skills of English majors but also begin thinking about other things, such as platforms, infrastructures, and how knowledge is made. The Partnership teaches students to be highly aware users of (i.e., Visitors to) digital resources (both subscription and open-access). At the same time, it lowers the technological barriers that often stand between humanities scholars in general (students and faculty alike) and the digital projects created largely by so-called digital humanists. The Partnership enables students to see themselves as producers of digital resources and to become Residents of the digital terrain.  We democratize DH when we open up this subject position to students. The digital space can welcome student contributors simply because it casts a bigger net around original research; opening up MoEML pages to students does not mean taking away publishing opportunities from others. The biggest impediment to publishing student work is time–time spent on peer review, copyediting, and the additional demands of encoding. The MoEML team and the Guest Editors can invest this time in student learning because the benefits are mutual.
The Partnership expands the range of possibilities for doing DH.  We can invite students into a project like MoEML without hiring them as Research Assistants. They do not have to apprentice as RAs, nor do they have to acquire encoding or programming skills. In fact, working digitally does not mean only (or even necessarily) digitizing, encoding, or programming. It includes thinking critically about the impact of medium upon readership, the ways we convey information, the types of sources we use, and how we connect to the larger web of knowledge (by citation and/or links). Putting XML:ids into submissions demands that students think about concepts that have been driven by and are required by new forms of digital scholarship. Quoting a toponym from a source is not enough; students have to think about what that toponym represents and point to a stable, shared reference point. They become implicitly aware of the need for authority names, linked open data, and identifiers (DOIs, XML:ids, and URIs). They start to think about humanities research findings as data and information as a network.  At the same time, the Partnership does not preclude opportunities to acquire skills in digital mapping and text encoding if students wish. Professors and students who are technologically savvy or willing to learn can adjust the module to teach various combinations of DH skills and research skills.
A lot of what we do in the academy is scaffolded learning that builds towards the masterpiece–the complete work that demands mastery of all the skills required of a particular scholarly output. The capstone project, the MA thesis, and the PhD dissertation are the traditional forms of the masterpiece. Like RBL, MoEML’s Partnership asks the undergraduate to produce a masterpiece earlier in the game. The student works with others to take a research problem to its logical conclusion, which is published in an environment where the answer reaches a readership beyond the instructor in the course. The sheer scope of the user-base of an open-access digital project is highly motivating to the student. The scholarly injunctions become immediate and pressing: to be exhaustive, to acknowledge prior and current voices in the scholarly conversation, to consult all available sources of information, to use many types of sources outside their home libraries and home disciplines, and to master the form and richness required for the venue.
We began this paper talking about how the MoEML Partnership emerged from “a confluence of problems and opportunities.” While Pedagogical Partnerships are not, in the long run, an efficient way of generating content for MoEML, the project has benefitted tremendously from the influx of fresh voices, the growing community of students and professors who have a digital “Residence” in MoEML, the corrections they have made to neighbouring pages, their suggestions for new places, and their feedback on the Contributor Guidelines. The Guest Editors have welcomed the opportunity to embrace a new pedagogy that meets new institutional demands, brings high-profile attention to their institutions, and engages students in scholarly publication. Many of the Partners have been featured in their campus magazines and local media, which has, in turn, been good for the project. The full benefit to the students remains to be seen. It is certain that some of them found the prospect of producing publishable work daunting at the outset, and ultimately not all the articles were publishable (which is a reality of academic life). The model will be truly successful if it becomes a habitual way that students interact with and improve the digital resources we all use in our scholarly lives. We fully expect to see many of them stake a greater claim in the digital sphere in the years ahead.


[1]  We refer, of course, to the theme of the 2011 Digital Humanities conference at Stanford: “Big Tent Digital Humanities.”
[2]  See the position papers in “Done? Finishing Projects in the Digital Humanities,” a special cluster in Digital Humanities Quarterly, 3.2 (2009), edited by Matthew Kirschenbaum. Note that it is not a problem of “mission creep” for MoEML, which was designed from its inception to be large and was created with hundreds of empty placeholder pages.
[3]  The essays in Hackel and Moulton’s Teaching Early Modern Literature from the Archives respond to the challenge of getting students involved in archival research [Hackel and Moulton 2015].
[4]  The Boyer Commission’s Blueprint uses the designation R1, a now-deprecated category in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. There is no single equivalent term in the new ontology, which is more granular and less value-laden. We will use the still-popular R1 designation for polemical purposes. See [Garde-Hansen and Calvert 2007, 105–106] for a description of the somewhat later UK adoption of RBL practices.
[5]  See, for example, two Digital Humanities directed readings hosted by MoEML: “DHUM 491: Remediating Bills of Mortality” (http://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/DHUM491_2015.htm) and “DHUM 491: Georeferencing London Books” (http://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/DHUM491_2014.htm).
[6]  Maker Lab in the Humanities. Dir. Jentery Sayers. University of Victoria. http://maker.uvic.ca/.
[7]  See [Wosh et al 2012] for analysis of how the digital revolution enables the teaching of digital skills in an “archives and public history curriculum.” Like us, they have found that students bring different levels of technological expertise to the new array of RBL projects that are enabled by the digital revolution.
[8]  It has certainly been Jenstad’s experience that students can produce original research results, particularly if they are working with little-known texts or newly surfaced materials. Within the project environment too, as Jenstad and Takeda describe, RAs do much more than acquire the technical skills to carry out the Director’s agenda; they create new technologies in response to real humanities problems like how to deal with the profusion of conflicting calendrical systems in the early modern period [Jenstad and Takeda, forthcoming].
[9]  Konkol outlines these problems [Konkol 2015].
[10]  Other feedback on the Pedagogical Partnership is available here: http://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/feedback.htm
[12]  See “How-to Guides” here: http://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/teaching.htm
[13]  See Moncrief and Santamaria’s useful diagram reflecting the “nested levels of collaboration” between students and their peers and students and the teachers as well as between the two teachers (professor and librarian) and, finally, between these two groups (students and teachers) with an “international community of humanities scholars contributing to MoEML”  [Santamaria and Moncrief 2015].
[14]  As we are not psychometricians, we drew on the expertise of our institution’s learning and teaching centre. Our main goal was to capture any information that might help us tweak the model.
[15]  The current edition of our survey is available online at SurveyMonkey. The survey for instructors is at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RXYRYHY and the one for students is at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RPYB6WL.
[20]  See “Exploring Londinium” at Meg Roland’s blog, A Passionate Geography: Romancing King Arthur’s Roman War. Sept. 3, 2014. http://passionategeography.com/2014/09/03/exploring-londinium/.
[21]  The Pedagogical Partners are Jenstad at UVic and Kristin Abbott Bennett at Stonehill. McLean-Fiander is representing MoEML, since Jenstad cannot partner with her own project.
[22]  John Bonnett at Brock University proposed this partnership. He has long had students work with archival documents to recreate historical buildings in the Niagara region.
[23]  See Alison Chapman’s description of the project on the Victorian Poetry Network website at http://web.uvic.ca/~vicpoet/database-of-victorian-periodical-poetry/.
[24]  While we are certainly attuned to the need to pay student research assistants a fair wage for their labour, we do not view the MoEML Partnership as unfairly “incorporating student labor into the classroom” as Spencer Keralis has recently written about in “Milking the Deficit Internship” (2016). “This shift,” he argues, “makes student labor invisible to the institution in terms of counting the costs of digital projects. But more importantly, this student labor is largely uncredited and unpaid”  [Keralis 2016]. MoEML’s Partnership model insists on crediting each student by name and on acknowledging the considerable work of the Guest Editor. Furthermore, the students get academic credit within their individual courses for the MoEML module work they do. Finally, MoEML does not get free labor because the Partnership demands a significant contribution from the project too.

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