Digital Public History: Project Evaluation Criteria

For those of you who have been following my posts on Twitter recently, you’ll know that I’m teaching a course in Digital Public History this semester at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. It’s a small seminar class with a mix of graduate students and advanced undergraduates. The syllabus is available here, and you can track my students’ blogs, twitter feeds, and eventually their final projects here.

During our Week 3 meeting, I asked students to devise a list of evaluation criteria to use on their final projects (these projects will be open access digital public history sites featuring primary source research they will do at the Special Collections and other archives here on campus).

This way, they were able to take the week’s readings and decide what was important for their projects this semester, reflecting their larger goals for the semester and especially for those interested in pursuing careers in Public History after they graduate.

It was, in some ways, a difficult exercise. While we have the benefit of a supportive department and enthusiastic students, we obviously don’t have the resources that other larger institutions might have, especially since these students are working on individual projects. They are still working through the challenges of evaluating digital public history work, and how these criteria might vary or change depending on what kind of work they are doing, who their intended audiences are, and what the ultimate goals of their project might be, within the classroom or beyond it.

Here are some of the criteria and values they agreed upon in class that will inform their final projects:

  1. Accessibility: to the community, and in the long term. Accessibility should be worked into their plan. Students are deciding individually about the long term stability of their projects.
  2. Public Impact: Rather than consulting “experts,” the students decided that they would rather measure the larger impact of their sites, especially as these are works of Public History. This will include, but is not limited to, tracking site visits (unique clicks, duration of visits), keeping a guestbook, providing voluntary surveys (using scales and open feedback).
  3. Peer Review: Students will also be conducting peer review with each others’ projects. During the last week of the semester, students will be presenting the penultimate version of their projects, which we have dubbed as “Beta Testing” week. During these presentations, students will be able to test, play with, scan through, and ask questions about their peers’ projects, providing opportunity for critique and for students to get ideas about what might improve their own projects.
  4. Marketing: The students understood that in order for their projects to reach the public, they needed to market them in an effective way to gain audiences, and retain them. Again, students will be employing a variety of strategies depending on their project’s goals. Some of these include presenting their work at conferences (NCPH, LHA, AASLH, ALA, etc.), working with Publicity and Communications offices here at ULL (with Special Collections, the History Department, the College of Liberal and Fine Arts), organizing University Forums, linking with other events on campus or in the local community, reaching out to Podcasters and the local NPR affiliate, housed here at ULL, and working with the History Harvests (local oral history projects) sponsored by the department.

 

The students will be editing and adding to this list as the semester goes on, but these are basic criteria/standards for evaluation that they agreed were crucial components of their final project.

Stay tuned for more updates!

 

Update: 10/2

In class last week, students provided more specific criteria for online archives and online museums, as those will be, for the most part, the kinds of projects they will be creating this semester.

Their online archive criteria is as follows (in no particular order):

  • Consistent metadata
  • Accessibility: categorize for ease of navigation, good search functionality, table of contents, etc.
  • Suggestions for like items
  • Collections: ability to save items in user-specific collections
  • Timeline and/or location tags/search functions
  • Transcriptions (if applicable)
  • Directions for using the archive

 

Their online museum criteria is as follows (also in no particular order):

  • Mission statement/goals evident for audience/users
  • Metadata for exhibits/items
  • Navigation Tools
  • Attribution for work, research, contributors
  • supplemental materials and bibliography

 

Students suggested, too, that there might be some crossover between the lists, including:

  • FAQs/How-to guides
  • Sourcing
  • Educational materials: lesson plans, worksheets for teachers and students
  • Proper citations

 

My students will be working on and posting their project proposals in the next week and a half, so keep an eye out for those on Twitter by following #ULLHist451!

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