Students as Producers: the Digital History Vault

In June, the School of Arts and Social Sciences held its first Learning and Teaching Awards. Our own Connie Tse and Dina Fainberg, lecturer in Modern History, presented the Digital Vault project, a student-produced database of historical documents, for which they won the runner-up prize.  

What is the Digital History Vault? 

The Digital Vault is essentially a Moodle database of historical documents with a record of entries related to a particular topic, but with a twist: it is all about students taking ownership of their learning. 

Indeed, Dina and Connie set up the database so that it would be populated and maintained by current students in the History in the Age of Digital Information module, and then reviewed and built upon by future cohorts. 

The format and structure of entries can be almost unlimited, including images, files, URLs, dropdowns, checkboxes, numbers and text amongst other things.  



Objectives and rationale for the Digital History Vault  

The overarching intended learning outcomes for the modules are:  

  • Explore historical repositories in depth 
  • Examine the strengths and the weaknesses of historical repositories 
  • Consider how different types of historical documents could be used in research.

The Digital History Vault (DHV) activity is based on constructivist theory whereby students actively construct knowledge together. They collaborate to identify resources related to a particular topic and edit entries in the database. Their work is displayed to other students for peer comments and review. 

By adding resources to the digital vault students are given the opportunity to develop a number of skills: 

  • Research: exploring resources for and in the database 
  • Critical thinking: examining strengths and weaknesses of resources, considering how they can be used for research, critically evaluating digital information. 
  • Soft, transferable and employability skills: team work, communication (face-to-face and online), project management (seeing a project from beginning to end) and professional, non-academic research-based writing.

The activity also supports a positive student experience by allowing them to socialise early (groups are formed in week 2), develop a sense of ownership of their learning and feel part of a learning community. 

Embedding the Digital Vault within the module 

The database is at the same time a standalone digital resource and a learning activity that forms part of the learning and assessment of students on the module. 

In week two of the module, students are assigned to teams which are responsible for profiling a set of websites.  

They receive an in-class demonstration of the interface, followed by a practical session. Tutorials effectively practice skills that students will need for populating the database 

They continue populating the database throughout the module and receive formative feedback and comments from the teacher on each entry. They also received and provide peer feedback to each other by editing the entries. There is a specifically designated session to prepare them for the assignment. 

The DHV accounts for 50% of the summative assessment and includes entries on the database and a reflective report. The database is also used in future assignments. 

Interested in embedding activities using learning technology in your teaching? Drop us a line to discuss your needs and ideas! 

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