These FAQs are intended for students and the faculty/administrators nominating students.
If you have any questions that are not answered here, please contact COPLACDigital Program Associate Leah Tams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COPLAC (the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges) is an independent consortium comprised of 30 public liberal arts colleges and universities across North America. COPLAC is headquartered at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Key traits of COPLAC schools include: student-centered teaching, small class sizes, innovative curricula, focus on undergraduate education, and student life programming.
For more information about COPLAC, please visit coplac.org.
COPLACDigital seminars are for undergraduate students enrolled at a COPLAC member institution. Ideally, the student will be a junior or senior (third year or fourth year), but strong sophomores will also be considered.
Yes! You can receive course credit (typically 3 hours, but number of hours and type of credit may vary, depending on your university/departmental policies) for an independent study in your major, or as an elective—or perhaps even a core requirement—depending on what is most appropriate for your situation. Talk to your advisor or the chair of your major department to see which of these options would be best for you.
In our experience, students who take the course without receiving course credit cannot give the research and website construction the kind of attention that is required to produce a superior resource. This is understandable—when the semester gets busy, students must prioritize their work. Therefore, we will not accept students who wish to take the course for no credit.
Although some schools have a slightly different process, typically you will work through your major advisor or department chair, who will assign a faculty member as “instructor of record.” This faculty member will help you register for an independent study course at your institution, so that you receive appropriate credit. Credit is not given as a transfer—it is awarded through your institution. (See also Will I get course credit for taking this class?)
Nomination is the first step in the process. After October 7 (the deadline for nominations), nominees will be sent an application that they must complete and return to the course co-teachers. (Deadline and process for submitting your application will be noted on the email acknowledging receipt of your nomination.) Co-teachers will then consider all applications and accept the students whom they believe will be best suited for the class. Among the criteria that they will consider:
- Are there two nominees from this institution? (We will be looking for two students per institution for each class. See Who will my classmates be?)
- Is the student far enough along in their college career to be able to manage independent research and project management? (For example, if you are a freshman, you probably don’t want to take on a course this challenging. If you are a sophomore, you might also want to wait until you have a few “traditional” upper-division courses under your belt before you take a COPLACDigital course. Remember, we will also offer COPLACDigital courses during the 2017- 2018 academic year, and beyond!)
Each participating institution will have two students per class, therefore you will have one additional classmate at your institution. Pairs of students share the research/website building workload and help one another to build their technical, research, critical thinking and collaboration skills. (Feel free to recruit a friend who might be interested in being your buddy for this project! If you have someone in mind, encourage them to talk to their advisor or major department chair). All of your other classmates will be students at COPLAC institutions across North America, creating a great opportunity for you and your classmates to share and compare your experiences. You’ll find common ground in the course subject and get to see how each of your classmates represents their unique campus and community on their website.
COPLAC schools start and end their terms at different times, so there will not be a universal start/end date for COPLACDigital seminars. The start and end dates for each seminar will be chosen by each pair of co-teachers, most likely after they know which schools their students will be from. Seminars will run 15-16 weeks.
If a COPLACDigital seminar starts and/or ends on a different date than your institution does, that’s okay! Since these seminars meet via videoconference, you don’t need to be at school to attend. You are expected to make every effort to join the class via videoconference, whether or not your semester has started/ended.
We will use interactive videoconferencing technology similar to Skype or Google Hangout to connect the co-teachers and students into a virtual classroom. You will be able to see and hear your classmates and instructors, so in many ways, this class will be just like your face-to-face classes. Of course, there are also important differences—you and your instructors will discuss the dynamics of the virtual classroom in an orientation session.
The class will begin the semester meeting twice a week, just like a traditional class might. Once you and your classmates begin your research and website construction, you will probably meet only once a week.
Archival research and experience with digital tools will be at the center of all of these classes. Therefore, you can expect to do a little reading about the theory and practice of digital scholarship across the humanities, along with an introduction to the scholarly conversation surrounding the course topic. However, most of the assignments will involve conducting traditional archival research about your own campus and surrounding community and learning to use digital tools to build a website that will make your research accessible to the public.
No experience is necessary—we are looking for students with a sense of adventure! You need to be willing to learn and experiment with digital tools and technology, and you need to be willing to collaborate with your classmates as you learn.
No experience is necessary—but, again, we are looking for students who are willing to learn how to conduct research and then to tell the stories they find in the archival materials and interactions with community members in their project websites.
COPLAC offered its first distance mentoring/digital technology course in the spring of 2014. This course, entitled Century America, was offered again in the spring of 2015. Since then, we have offered three additional distance mentoring courses, which were supported by grants from the Teagle Foundation of New York and by the COPLAC board. Although a few students have gone before you, you will still be on the cutting edge of distance learning!
We will keep in touch with all nominees. If you find that you need to take a class that conflicts with the COPLACDigital course for which you were nominated, we will need to know as soon as possible—and then we will work with you to find another COPLACDigital course that might fit into your schedule. If it doesn’t work out for spring, 2017, never fear! We will offer new COPLACDigital courses during the 2017-2018 academic year as well!
There are so many! First, you will have the opportunity to meet and get to know students from other COPLAC institutions across the continent. You will develop your ability to collaborate, not just with your student partner on your campus, but also with your colleagues from the other campuses, as you support one another in the research phase and help one another to brainstorm and troubleshoot the technology that you will use to build your websites. In addition to developing collaboration and traditional research skills, you will cultivate your own sense of digital fluency and identity as you bring aspects of your local community’s past and present to the wider public through your website.
These research, production, and communication skills are attractive to today’s employers, and they will help you land positions and advance in a wide variety of 21st-century professions.
Alumni of the COPLAC Distance Mentoring courses have gone on to graduate school, at institutions such as the University of Iowa (Ph.D. in History), the University of Alabama (Archives and Records Administration), and the London School of Economics (Ph.D. in Economics). They are working as university medical librarians, archivists, preservationists, and have moved from intern to employee with the National Park Service and the Smithsonian. And, of course, our own Program Associate, Leah Tams, was a student in the first Century America class. For more details on the ways in which students are using the skills they learned in their COPLAC Distance Mentoring courses, see the Where are they Now? page.