AFF611 Practicum: #dariahTeach Text Encoding and the TEI

For the practicum of my MA Digital Humanities I have the opportunity to be work on learning content developed in conjunction with with the international project #dariahTeach, more information about which can be found here: 

This organisation aims to create links and provide high quality Digital Humanities resources online with the DARIAH initiative, as part of an overall strategy to foster innovative teaching under the lead of NUI Maynooth with seven participating colleges.

The DARIAH initiative aims to support the application of digital methodologies to arts and humanities research. More information can be found here:

At the point which I have become involved, #dariahTeach is in its final year – with a release date in March for the pilot course. This has constrained some of the work that I am involved in, with high priority changes needing to be identified as actionable items to be made in time for this deadline. Part of the challenge is prioritising certain tasks and delegating appropriate time. A tasklist needs to be reviewed on a weekly basis, and meetings at intervals with my supervisor and Mentor to ensure my work is fitting in with the overall aims of the project.

Some tasks identified as part of my internship are low priority at the moment in terms of project goals. For example, In late February I began transcribing focus group materials, audio and video content but as there were constraints on time due to the early release of #dariahTeach materials online this task has been postponed until a later date. While the scope of my role is defined in my Statement of Work, this placement requires flexibility and adaptability whilst working as part of a team on a larger project.

My placement primarily involves desk research around the best practices of organising and structuring content on an online learning platform. Specifically, I am looking at literature focusing on the best practices around the presentation of content, including visual and video content as part of multimodal literacy and improving the user experience. Therefore, this is the focus of my overall role and contribution to the project.

I reviewed the course materials in beta stage development, spending approximately a month drafting an initial report and identifying what worked well and looking for information on the best practices around content structure. I reviewed a focus groups materials, which was conducted by my supervisor Shane. I had to identify the important information, and convert this into actionable changes to be made to the TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) course.I based my approach around some previous research e. g. While I was not involved in actually running the focus group, some knowledge of assumptions, methods and approaches were useful as I was working with data gathered from a similar process. This helped to identify any areas that could be improved or streamlined from actual user experience on the platform.

I made recommendations based on the above, based on my own experience and the focus group materials. These can be summed up into the following points

  • More visual content, to break up the textual information and help to demonstrate concepts
  • Improving introductory content, to “warm-up” for taking the course.
  • Early feedback, to engage end users of this material.
  • Improving quiz content, to better engage with aspects of the content being learned about it.

The challenge which my practicum addresses is how to design and implement changes in the course content according to this feedback. Narrowing down this feedback, focusing on specific areas for improvements and concisely suggesting changes were the point of focus from this point on. 

Drafting up a list of actionable items was next on the agenda, this took much longer than expected as this list needed adequate description and organisation to be agreed with my supervisor Susan. Color coding was useful for highlighting information, as there are multiple stakeholders and contributors with different roles. This list has been revised on a weekly basis, and the format changed to facilitate better communication of Information.

My main deliverables include a white paper and bibliography detailing the insights and findings of my desk research on best practices. While I have drafted some content for the approval of my mentor Susan Schreibman, it is subject to a reviewal process to ensure it fits in with the overall project aims and image. I will also be involved in the design of quizzes and assessments. Other tasks include collaborating with Justin Martin to put together a video on  Textual Scholarship for the course. 

My internship will be finishing before the project is finished, a consideration which should impact my approach – ensuring that relevant tasks will be concluded in a manner which facilitates efficient handover to relevant staff on this project. As the course material that I am working on has not yet been released, I have left out specific details of the content that I have been working on – however, I will include more detail and a link to the #dariahTeach course materials in a later blogpost.

Thanks for reading