In 2016, COPLAC called for professors interested in developing and teaching digital liberal arts at a distance courses as part of a Melon-funded initiative. Dr. Howard-Bostic and I met through that experience and developed the initial plan for a course combining the ideals of social justice, experiential learning and digital liberal arts. We prepared to teach the course in the spring of 2017, but in December 2016, I had a massive stroke. While I was in hospital and rehabilitation, the decision was made to postpone our course.
I returned to full-time work in fall 2017, which was probably too quick, but it felt important to work as I struggled to regain my identity and self-determination. In spring 2018, Dr. Howard-Bostic and I decided to offer the course in fall 2018. In the interval between our first and second attempts, some things had changed and been refined through other digital liberal arts courses. We spent much of 2018, re-planning with greater attention to the historic archival purpose. There was concern throughout development because the nature of our course differed from others in the initiative. Rather than a strict adherence to a historical research purpose, we wanted to include the social experiences of our students. The process was occasionally messy, but throughout, all parties involved in the planning maintained a focus on the educational experience and grant purposes so issues resolved quickly.
We anticipated a special course environment and were pleased when we finally began, to meet and exceed that expectation. Our students and faculty almost immediately settled into a family-atmosphere within the distance setting. This became a process of searching and sharing that is different from any other in my career as an educator. We decided to document our course as a unique COPLAC environment similarly to the way our students are documenting their engagement sites. We will blog and share audio-visual materials in an effort to allow outsiders a taste of our environment and experience.