Humanities in Class Online Courses

NHC Online Courses

The National Humanities Center collaborates with partners, scholars, and subject matter experts to provide virtual courses that allow educators to explore a relevant topic over five to six weeks. Participants actively engage with course materials and colleagues, expand their own knowledge, skills, and dispositions, and develop customized educational resources.

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Current and Upcoming Courses

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From the Sixties to Now: Using Music to Explore Issues of Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Contemporary American History

record albumsFlyer for Punk Percussion Protest (July 25, 1992)

What do Gil Scott-Heron, Bikini Kill, and Beyoncé all have in common? Their music offers a unique perspective on social movements and cultural revolutions during the second half of the twentieth century. The sounds they created—jazz, salsa, rock and roll, soul, hip hop—are a gateway into U.S. culture that represents multiple stakeholders and excites students in the process. This course will use music from the 1960s and to the near-present to explore issues of race, gender, and sexuality in twentieth-century America. “From The Sixties to Now” will feature content from the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation’s collaboration with the CNN Soundtracks series.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation.
Course Dates: September 14–October 23, 2020
Professional Development Hours: 35

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The Where of Why: GIS in the Humanities Classroom

cholera mapEarly use of spatial analysis by Dr. John Snow tracking London cholera cases in 1854.

The use of geospatial technologies allows the interactions of place, space, time, and scale to be more obvious to teachers and students. Often, when teaching about historical events, there is an over-emphasis on chronology without strong enough consideration given to geography. The use of geospatial technologies allows interactions of place, space, time, and scale to be more obvious, allowing students to develop the ability to answer not only “where?” but “why there?” “GIS in the Humanities Classroom” will introduce participants to the transformative power of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Over five weeks, the course will detail approaches to embedding geospatial technology in existing classroom instruction, as well as methods for using geography to enrich humanities narratives. By focusing on inquiry-based instruction, the course will provide insights into the ways that GIS tools contribute to a deeper understanding of humanities subjects.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the Virginia Geographic Alliance.
Course Dates: September 14–October 23, 2020
Professional Development Hours: 35

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Understanding the Modern Middle East

women protestersFemale protesters marching in Egypt during the Arab Spring.

Far too often, the Middle East appears as doubly alien: out of place and out of time. A century of popular culture caricatures, at least two centuries of Orientalist representations, and decades of American military interventions, have all fed into the notion of the Middle East as a turmoil-laden, sectarian, and tribal premodern region. In this course, we will go beyond these stereotypes to look at the historical forces that shaped the region across the twentieth century to understand the complexities of its peoples and societies.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies, Duke–UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies.
Lead Scholar: Akram Khater, North Carolina State University (Fellow, 2006–07)
Course Dates: September 14–October 23, 2020
Professional Development Hours: 35

Coming Spring 2021

Becoming Visually Literate in the Humanities Classroom

modern paintingShimomura Crossing the Delaware by Roger Shimomura (2010), National Portrait Gallery

We live in a visually saturated world in which citizens are asked to read photographs, maps, and other visual materials in order to understand the world around them. This visual literacy has a significant impact on students’ content area learning. Reading comprehension demands comprehension of the written text, but also depends heavily on the comprehension and integration of the graphical content that is almost invariably included in those texts. This course addresses a variety of U.S. history topics commonly taught in elementary, middle, and high schools as models/examples to begin each session. Participants will explore the Library of Congress collections, with particular attention to the Primary Source sets, themed resources, and the connected collections using exemplary visual materials in their teaching contexts.
Lead Scholar: Kristy Brugar, University of Oklahoma
Professional Development Hours: 35

Medieval Africa and Africans

map of Mansa MusaDetail from a modern reproduction of the map of West Africa in The Catalan Atlas (1375)

Given the wide popularity of Eurocentric medieval fantasies, it has never been more important that we teach our students about the reality of the Middle Ages rather than the fictionalized fantasies with which they are accustomed. In order to examine Medieval Studies and expand the “Global Middle Ages” beyond the traditional boundaries of Western Europe, this course will concentrate on premodern Africa. While often overlooked, the civilizations that spanned the vast African continent produced great achievements, in conditions of relative parity with their European contemporaries, before the oceanic dominance of a few Western powers. This course will contextualize Medieval Africa in terms of its contemporary relationships with the medieval globe as well as its modern impact.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the Medieval Academy of America.
Professional Development Hours: 35

Suckers & Swindlers in American History

mail fraudExample of mail fraud detected and flagged by U.S. Postal Service in 1906.

Financial scams, fraudulent activities, and Ponzi schemes have been a part of American culture since the 19th century. Using archival materials and source documents, participants will learn how economic, political, and cultural systems have evolved in response to these trends. This six-week course is framed around the recent publication Fraud: An American History From Barnum to Madoff (2017) by Edward Balleisen. Participants will develop a classroom resource to use in their individual educational environments.
Lead Scholar: Edward Balleisen, Duke University (Fellow, 2009–10)
Professional Development Hours: 35

Water Rights and Land Access: Native American History Today

Standing Rock protest People protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016.

This course will address clear curricular gaps in Native American history with a focus on foodways and the loss of access to traditional fishing, hunting, and gathering areas; the historical loss of land and water rights through treaties and conflicts; and the loss of family lands for Native populations. Digital materials from the Library of Congress online collection will be featured prominently in each module with an emphasis on material culture and visual arts.
Lead Scholar: Joshua Reid, University of Washington
Professional Development Hours: 35

The Oyster and the City: Environmental History in Turn-of-the-Century America

oyster“Young Oyster Shucker Standing on Mound of Shells in Biloxi, Mississippi,” by Lewis Hine (1911)

Food is a powerful way to explore environmental history. Food is always about stories: stories of family recipes and traditions; stories of hardship and survival; stories about blending traditions and creating new ones. And because food is produced in nature, it connects cultural stories to our dependence on the larger, nonhuman world. That is the essence of environmental history: locating humanity in the natural world. This course will use Library of Congress images as evidence, not merely as illustrations. Specifically, we will identify sources from the photographic and written record created by the National Child Labor Committee Collection. Through Lewis Hine’s photographs of child laborers at work in canneries and oyster packinghouses, and in his written notes compiled in 30 reports held by the Library of Congress, we will emphasize links between city and country, between child labor and the nation’s cheapest and most abundant protein: oysters.
Lead Scholar: Matthew Booker, North Carolina State University (Fellow, 2016–17)
Professional Development Hours: 35

Let’s Talk: Using the Humanities to Promote Civil Discourse in the Classroom

School of AthensThe School of Athens (fresco 1511) by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino

“Let’s Talk” provides disciplinary approaches to promoting civil discourse in the pre-collegiate course. Through this professional development course, teachers gain an understanding of the specific ways in which the humanities can open the conversation around civility and comity. The training draws from examples in history, philosophy, art history, literature, and politics. Teacher participants can create curricular connections and classroom activities that follow the same model.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the state of California.
Professional Development Hours: 35

Cut the Bull! How the Humanities Can Help Develop Critical Media Literacy

digital library

In this five-week online course, educators will critically examine the ever-changing role of print, broadcast and digital media through a humanities lens. Participants will investigate how the media have evolved, how their messages shape our citizenry, and how they can be brought to life in a classroom setting. By using investigation, analysis, discussion, and reflection, participants will develop a classroom resource customized to their individual educational environments. The course content was inspired by and incorporates resources from University of Washington professors Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the North Carolina Humanities Council.
Professional Development Hours: 35

About Our Instructors

Each course is developed with an established scholar in the field, who helps develop activities and provides resources for group discussions and individual research. Our goal is to facilitate a learning experience that will result in classroom-ready instructional materials. Our instructor pool is comprised of experienced, talented educators and scholars in humanities education.


For more information, email Education Programs Manager Mike Williams.