Click here for the Google Doc containing the course syllabus.

Click here for the Google Doc containing the schedule of assignments.

Divided Houses: Secession and Separation
Spring 2017
Mondays and Wednesdays, 1-2:15 p.m., EST

Instructors: Ken Owen, University of Illinois-Springfield; Mary Beth Mathews, University of Mary Washington

Office Hours and Contact Information:

Professor Owen: email, Tel (217) 206-7439

Professor Mathews: email, Tel: (540) 654-1354

Course Description: 

What makes a community break apart? At many moments in American political and religious history, secessionist and separatist movements have threatened to break away from their own communities and to go it alone. In this course, students will identify a secessionist or separatist movement in the vicinity of their home campus, and learn the digital techniques to allow them to design a website presenting and analyzing the history of that movement. Who were the members of the secessionist movements? What made them different from the community of which they were originally part? Why was secession or separation–rather than dialogue and reconciliation–seemingly the better solution for their concerns?

Students enrolled in this course will analyze what makes a community, and what happens when that community breaks down. In developing their research project, students will investigate the history of community formation, read studies of social cohesion and social disunity, and learn digital techniques to allow them to design their own website. ​

Learning Objectives: Every student will:

  • Develop a familiarity with diverse methods and processes of digital liberal arts and utilization of technological resources in research, data analysis, and presentation
  • Work together cooperatively and creatively
  • Conduct research in a variety of settings and media
  • Demonstrate application of critical analysis, written, and oral communication skills through the website and oral presentations
  • Gain an understanding of the course subject and content and to effectively communicate the content to the public using digital technology.

Students are expected to attend all class sessions or view the class sessions online and meet with professors as needed/required, read all assigned texts, and participate in class.

Students are also responsible for submitting all project drafts and the final product by the contracted due date. Assignments are considered late if turned in/posted any time after the appointed due date. Late projects will be penalized one half letter grade per day.

Discussions: Students are expected to attend all classes having read the assigned material or having completed assigned tasks. Class participation includes actively participating in daily discussions and responding to class presentations. To that end, for each class for which there are readings/videos, students should also prepare a list of comments on the material (parallels, problems, factual questions, reminders of past readings, connections to ideas from other classes or from “real life”) so that they have those points in front of them for the discussion. Although we have no current plan to collect these comments, we reserve the right to do so at any point during the semester.

Blogging: Distance learning courses present unique challenges with regard to collaboration and communication. Some of the tactics we will use to bridge the distance gap will be blogs, discussions on Google Hangout or Skype, and use of other social media. Narrating the planning, research, and implementation processes via your blogs is a central part of the class and a way for us to measure your effort, your creativity, and your progress as digital scholars.

Your blog posts will be submitted through the course website, . We will give you instructions on how to set this up prior to the semester, but if you’re still having difficulties, we will also provide guidance in the first class session.

Blog about your problems as well as your successes! One of the challenges of website building is that many choices you make remain unseen by the website’s reader. Addressing failures, and letting us know how you adapted because of them, allows us to “see” what you’ve learned that isn’t immediately visible. Be sure to comment on each others’ blogs and help each other out. We are a community, and we are all encountering similar challenges. So, tap into your colleagues’ experiences by posting your own thoughts and commenting on one another’s blog posts at least once a week. These weekly postings are minimum expectations for each class member.

Texts: There are no required texts to purchase for the course. We have selected a number of different readings that we will make available on the course website, in the password-protected ‘Readings’ tab.

Final Grades: Final grades will be determined based on class participation (including blogging, mini-assignments, submission of the project contract, and regular presentations to the class) (40%), on the quality of the final project (50%), and on the quality of the final formal presentations on the projects (10%). Unsatisfactory performance will be reported mid-semester to your instructor of record on your home campus.  The seminar instructors will transmit the final grade to your advisor, and she or he will enter the grade using an independent study option at your home campus.

The Project: As your final project for this course, you (and, where applicable, your partner) will build a website explaining the history of one particular secessionist or separatist movement. Each team will be responsible for building this website. NB: This will be a separate site from the course website. We know this is complicated, but we will explain it in class.

This website will be based on your primary and secondary research into your chosen movement. A first draft of your project contract is due by Monday, February 13th. The final contract must be agreed by Wednesday, March 1st. The first draft of your website will be due by Monday, March 27th. Your final website must be completed by Monday, April 24th.

Project Contracts: Each team of students is responsible for creating a contract with Professors Owen and Mathews about their projects. Each contract must be approved by us, and may need editing and amending before approval. Each contract must include:

  • Project description and goals (how do you expect your web site to be used?)
  • Tools you plan to use
  • Work to be completed by each member of the team
  • Schedule of milestones (when critical pieces are ready to present)

NOTE: These contracts may be revised as the semester goes on, though only with good reason and only after discussion with Professors Owen and Mathews.

Regular Presentations (or Updates):  Starting in week 8, each individual will be expected to make weekly status updates in class on Wednesdays on their progress. Although some weeks 3-5 minute updates will be sufficient, every other week individuals will need to present a more thorough update. More details on when you will be responsible for a lengthier presentation will be posted later in the semester.

End of the Semester (Public) Presentations:  At the end of the semester each individual will make an 8-10 minute presentation summarizing their project. More on this later in the semester.

Reflection Post/Defense of Contract: In the last week of the semester, each person will be expected to write a brief blog post or paper (your choice). This paper (~1-2 pages/~500 words) should reflect on the process and defend your project as contracted.

Learning the Digital Tools: Because the website project is central to this course, much of what you learn will be about using digital technology to create your website. We want to cultivate a sense of self-reliance as you work with these digital tools, therefore, when you have a question or encounter a problem, try finding the answer yourself through the WordPress Codex or other online resources. Remember that you can/should also use your fellow students as resources, as well. Then, if the solution still eludes you, reach out to Professors Mathews and Owen, or to your own university’s learning technologies office.

Assignment Deadlines: Please see separate handout.

Cheating and Other Capital Crimes: If you cheat or plagiarize in this class, you will fail, and we will report the incident to the Instructor-of-Record on your home campus.  On the other hand, having friends or family read and comment on your writing can be extremely helpful and falls within the bounds of proper academic conduct (assuming the writing itself remains yours). If you have questions about these issues, then you should talk to us sooner rather than later.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities:  We are committed to making this course and related activities accessible to persons with documented disabilities. If you receive services through your Office of Disability Resources and require accommodations for this class, please speak with us as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs. We will need a copy of your accommodation letter. We will hold any information you share with us in the strictest confidence unless you give us permission to do otherwise. If you need accommodations, please consult with your Office of Disability Resources about the appropriate documentation of a disability.

Assessment: Because this course is supported with a Mellon Foundation grant, we will ask each student to participate in one survey before the beginning of the semester, and one survey at the end of the semester. These surveys are merely for information-gathering purposes and will not be a part of the grade.

Policy on Email: Professors Owen and Mathews will do their best to respond to queries by email as soon as possible. As you can imagine, though, we teach a large number of students, on top of attending meetings and other duties, and it is not always possible to respond to email quickly. It may take two or three days to reply to an email, especially if you are asking for any action on our part – please bear this in mind when planning work ahead of deadlines. If you keep the following guidelines in mind, communication will be much smoother:

1) Check the syllabus before emailing!

2) When emailing, write “COPLACDigital: Divided Houses” in the subject line. We set filters on my inbox to separate out emails by class–this way we are able to identify your email more quickly.

3) Write your email in a professional manner. This means that you should begin your email with a formal salutation (eg, “Dear Dr Owen”), write in full sentences and paragraphs, and end with a formal sign-off (including your full name. eg, “Yours, Jane Doe”). State your question and query clearly and concisely.

4) Do not expect a reply to emails outside of office hours – that is to say, outside of 9-5, Monday to Fridays.

Course Schedule:

Week 1: Help! How do I become a digital historian?

Monday 16th January – NO CLASS: Observance of Martin Luther King Day

Wednesday 18th January – Course Introduction

Review of syllabus
Introduction to WordPress
Explanation of Web architecture of course websites
Review of digital history projects

Readings – Digital History Projects
Century America Projects
Slate Magazine’s favorite digital history projects of 2016:
(You may like to explore further by looking at Slate’s selections from 2013, 2014, and 2015, all of which are linked at the top of the first Slate link)

Week 2: Help! What on earth is secession or separatism anyway?

Monday 23rd January – What makes a community? Theories of community formation and social organization

Reading: Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, 1-47

Wednesday 25th January – Political and religious secession/separation movements

Reading: Jason Sorens, Secessionism: Identity, Interest and Strategy, Introduction (3-51)

Week 3: Help! What is an archive?

Monday 30th January – Discussion of initial project ideas

Wednesday 1st February – How to conduct research in real and virtual archives.

Preparing to visit an archive
How to talk to archivists
Online archives and repositories

Websites to review before class:
Digital Public Library of America:
Library of Congress:    
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Digital Southern Historical Collection:

(NB: There are many other excellent digital repositories. You will find these collections, however, to be a very useful starting point. They will almost certainly help you in future research projects too!)

Week 4: Help! I still don’t understand secession

Monday 6th February – Political secession movements

Terry Rugeley, “The Brief, Glorious History of the Yucatecan Republic: Secession and Violence in Southeast Mexico, 1836–1848,” in Don H Doyle (ed), Secession as an International Phenomenon: From America’s Civil War to Contemporary Separatist Movements (2010)
Kevin Barksdale, Violence, Statehood and Statecraft in the Early Republic: The Lost State of Franklin, 1784-1788
Peter Burke, ‘The Virgin of the Carmine and the Revolt of Masaniello,” Past and Present (1981)

Wednesday 8th February – Religious separatist movements

Garrison Keillor, “Protestant” (from Lake Wobegon Days)
Steven Ozment, “Turning the World Upside Down” (from Protestants: The Birth of a Revolution)

Week 5: OK, now I know WordPress. How do I add more cool stuff?

Monday 13th February – Workshop of mapping and timeline tools

How to use Timeline JS
How to use StoryMap JS

Wednesday 15th February – Digitization, copyright, and other image-related issues

Introduction to fair use
Introduction to Creative Commons
How to ask nicely for permissions
How to cite properly – especially for a website!

Columbia University Library Fair Use Checklist:
Creative Commons:

Week 6: OK, so I kind of have an idea of what secession is. But it would really help to know more!

Monday 20th February – Religious separatist movements

Spencer Klaw, Chapter 1, Without Sin: The Life and Death of the Oneida Community
Robert Wuthnow, “Introduction,”  Communities of Discourse: Ideology and Social Structure in the Reformation, Enlightenment, and European Socialism

Wednesday 22nd February – Political secession movements

Glen Duerr, Secessionism in the European Union – Introduction and one of the chapters (either Scotland, Flanders, or Catalonia)
Vladimir Kolossov, “Ethnic and Political Territorialities in the Post-Soviet Space,” GeoJournal (1999)
Yes California (California Independence) Project,
Recommended: Victoria E Bynum, The Free State of Jones (2001), Chapter 5, ‘The Inner Civil War: The Birth of the Free State of Jones’

Week 7: OK, now I have a project and a contract. What next?

Monday 27th February – Workshop of project progress

Wednesday 1st March – Identifying, targeting, and writing for an audience

Week 8: OK, I know my website. But I’d still like to know…
Monday 6th March – Audio and video editing
Introduction to Audacity
Introduction to iMovie
Discussion of history podcasting

The JuntoCast:
Stuff You Missed In History Class:
CrashCourse: (View some of the history videos)

Wednesday 8th March – Other important skills needed

Week 9: Check-in on project progress

Week 10: Check-in on project progress

Week 11: Wow, my website is created! What do I need to tweak?

Rough draft of website due by Monday 27th March.

Wednesday – Group discussion of website drafts

Week 12: Check-in on project progress

Week 13: Check-in on project progress

Week 14: Check-in on project progress

Week 15: Help! The semester wasn’t meant to end NOW…
Monday 24th April – Final Presentations

Wednesday 26th April – Final Presentations