Given such a complicated project involving seventeen different teams and their own institutional contexts, eleven mentors, numerous scholars, and undertaken on a national scope over a two-year time period, it is hardly surprising that there emerged a diversity of outcomes. (See Appendix A for specific team results.) These outcomes can be examined on a variety of levels, e.g., from the viewpoints of the project staff, mentors, participants and students, or from a variety of distinct aspects, e.g., impact of the conference, mentoring, dissemination or follow-up activities. Most important, one might identify key common features of individual project successes and then assess what lessons can be learned from the application of technology to the humanities in these seventeen projects. In other words, I have chosen to examine the work of the individual teams in terms of "Determinants of Success," even though because of their inter-related nature, it is difficult to isolate completely individual components of success. Determinants of success:

Institutional support
Quite frankly, a technology project does not have much chance of success if the project team does not enjoy access to continuous technical support at its college. On the one hand, some of that support should take a fairly basic form: faculty and student email, faculty access to office computers and a network, web access (both on- and off-site), appropriate software packages, ftp and access to web space (from both on- and off-site), support staff to help design and maintain web pages. Without these minimal technical provisions, any faculty team attempting to carry out a college-wide technology project will face certain frustration. Lack of basic, instructional technology (IT) support hampered many of the teams in this project; a problem further exacerbated by the attitude of many technology staffs that faculty know little about technology or what can be done with technology and thus can be safely ignored. As a practical matter, technical support should also include access to a knowledgeable technical support staff with sufficient time to actually help project members learn the use of software packages and to introduce faculty to the basic principles of instructional technology design. Successful projects, such as those of North Shore Community College and Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, enjoyed a supportive college technology environment.

What does not help a project is an IT staff that is most interested in pursuing its own, or institutionally-defined, agendas that do not match the project team's goals and objectives. For example, a commonplace practice among IT staffs is to push faculty to develop curricular material in the context of commercially-available, course-authoring packages, instead of the more time-consuming practice of properly matching project goals with appropriate software. It also does not bode well for a project's success if "all the eggs," so to speak, are put in the basket of one technology person, who might later leave the school or be reassigned to another project.

In addition to the question of technology support, many of the projects had to confront issues of internal, institutional politics and/or allocation of resources; thus, the amount of administrative support available varied among the project teams. Firm administrative support is often necessary to counter entrenched, institutional, anti-change environments, and effecting change, charting a new course, outlining new directions in a curriculum are always endeavors fraught with many detours. In one of the more successful projects, i.e., North Shore CC, it was clear that administrative support was there from the beginning. "It seemed that other people at [our] school were eager to hear of [our] successes and to encourage [us] in completing their project." Likewise at Cabrillo College, where

we realized the importance of departmental support for our work. This included not only encouragement, but a theoretical understanding of the issues of standards, outcomes and assessment. Since our work will become a formal component of the French curriculum in the fall, it is crucial that all instructors be able to assimilate these concepts into their thinking about and practice of language teaching.

Use of available resources
In addition to institutional resources, the project teams had access to other external resources in implementing their projects. In general, successful team outcomes exhibited frequent contact with the mentors, project staff, presenting scholars and, sometimes, students.

In all cases of success, there is repeated testimony to the aid and support of the project's assigned mentor, such as Dr. Aggie Taormina's work with Central Oregon Community College or Dan Rivas with Cabrillo College. In another example, the El Camino College team wrote that

We were supported in our endeavors by a wonderful faculty mentor from Northern Virginia Community College, Dr. Diane Thompson. Our frequent conference calls with Dr. Thompson became sources of continued solace and inspiration. When we had designed the structure of the website, Dr. Thompson's insights were crucial in planning how best to use that structure to teach our courses. The [fall] visit Dr. Thompson made to our campus was, as well, beneficial in several ways. First, Dr. Thompson was able to point out various sources of technological support on our own campus that we had not even considered; second, her presence on campus (and the large turnout at her subsequent luncheon presentation) provided the foundation for our newly formed faculty peer review group.

Other teams, such as the Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College team, stayed in close contact with myself, project director, as they worked through their project. Some of the other teams brought in outside scholars for consultation, as did the team at William Rainey Harper College. The Delgado Community College team was able to work with Tulane University's NEH Regional Humanities Planning Center and the Tulane Special Collections Archivist in their work on a New Orleans Online Archive.

Another important avenue for resources and support was the use of this national grant as a stepping stone to obtain additional grant funding. For example, the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) approached the Rhode Island Board of Governors during the summer of 2000 and received $32,000 to establish a faculty fellowship program. North Shore successfully received generous funding from NEH to continue and expand the Hawthorne project.

Finally, one of the most underused resources, by many schools, was the student. North Shore, on the other hand, made capable use of student interns:

Because we were new at the technology, our first efforts at producing panoramic images were not as successful as we had hoped, and our web administrator, who was the only one familiar with QuickTime for panoramas, was unavailable for assistance for these. Ultimately, we turned again to one of the student programmers who learned how to create the panoramas. We knew from the outset that we would need a database, but we could not find one which would work for us and with which our personnel were familiar or could easily become familiar. We spent considerable time examining commercial products and thinking about ways in which we could adapt them to our needs, but ultimately we used a database developed specifically for our needs by one of our student.

Technology background
Technology support can only contribute so much toward the success of the project. Other factors leading to success were the technology background of the team members and the selection of reasonable project goals and objectives in accord with that background. In other words, it was absolutely crucial that team members be realistic in their expectations of their technology mastery and not spend weeks trying to "get up to speed" or "learning as they went along." This process of "just-in-time" technology learning often consumed weeks of project time and frustrated both the faculty and their college's technical staffs. For example, the El Camino team noted that

Most of our time initially was spent learning the web creation software Dreamweaver. We spent more time than we had expected on the creation of the website, in part because we had a very difficult time finding the technical help we needed to learn to use the necessary software....[then] we discovered that these support personnel were overwhelmed with their own tasks, and had little time to spend helping faculty in the creation of a learning website.

A related problem is the tendency of a technology project to outgrow the skills of the team, hence the need for continual learning on the part of the participants. This was the case with the North Shore project in which "the team members were constantly having to educate themselves in order to make decisions about the site. No one person could have been completely prepared for the variety of issues, both academic and technical, that an endeavor such as this would raise."

It is also important that faculty stay relatively in step with the abilities of their institution to support their work. For example, at one college the insistence of the project team on the use of Mac computers and Adobe GoLive software was out-of-step with an IT staff that had dictated the use of FrontPage software at the college.

Finally, over-dependence on IT staff for technical assistance with creating and maintaining web sites sometimes results in long delays or miscommunication over tasks that needed completion. In addition that over-dependence often essentially took the project out of the control of the faculty team.

Team chemistry
Projects were successful when the team members cooperated and met regularly with each other. Teams that were cohesive, that exhibited trust in the individual members to do their part on the project and that communicated frequently produced successful projects. For example, as Dom Franco wrote about North Shore Community College:

The most important lesson learned is that a dedicated, energetic and very capable team can do wonders. This team has produced a model project in that it involves a small institution with limited resources but an enthusiastic and energetic staff taking advantage of local resources that have an international appeal and finding a way through technology to provide access those local resources in a professional and academically sound way.

The mentors of the Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College project also noted the success of that team because:

The team was extremely cohesive. It is not always the amount of technological material on a campus that will ensure a successful project. Orangeburg-Calhoun clearly lacks the technological niceties that other colleges have, however, a deeply committed team, nurtured by institutional support had astounding results. Also in support of this, an enthusiastic and cohesive team contributes to the success. Institutional support and flexibility is imperative for the team's success.

Where team chemistry was lacking, project outcomes suffered. On some teams the members essentially worked on separate, and distinct, tracks, or rarely saw each other for extended periods of time. It was also clear that some teams just "put something" together to "get a grant" and then were stuck having to do it with little clear conception of the amount of team cooperation necessary to carry-out the project proposal.

Another factor of success was the degree to which each project team recognized, and manipulated, the interdisciplinary nature of web resources. Unlike, the work of the Central Oregon Community College project, which is a nice model of an interdisciplinary learning experience, many faculty, and consequently their technology projects, continued to be framed largely in terms of disciplinary courses, such as history, literature or philosophy, even though there were often claims made that the links between the course essentially made them cooperative or collaborative. With other successful projects, such as those in the case studies below, the essential content, developed by the project team, provided many avenues of possible real interdisciplinary usage.

Content and focus
The point about interdiscilinarity leads to the issue of project content and focus. Many of the project teams, despite repeated critique, thought simply in terms of putting a syllabus on the web, maybe with some technology bells and whistles. Instead of beginning with the content and then designing possible curricular usage, or learning activities, faculty continued to think in terms of courses, which is not surprising given the community college environment. But a web project must start with a content base, then add the technology and determine pedagogical uses. (These are not necessarily distinct steps.) The most successful projects all had a clear, and innovative, content focus: (Marseilles in the Cabrillo College project, Alice in Wonderland for El Camino College, Mona Lisa for Community College of Rhode Island, Hawthorne by North Shore, the city of Dayton for Sinclair Community College, Beowulf by William Rainey Harper CC and family history for Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College).

In terms of project focus, it is important to keep a handle on the project size and the scope of the identified content.

The Cabrillo team came to the realization that its initial concept was much too ambitious, both in terms of the depth of the project and its breadth. While Dr. Siskin had gathered an enormous amount of material, no electronic "vehicle" had yet been found to give shape to these resources. The team came to the realization that its initial concept was much too ambitious, both in terms of the depth of the project and its breadth.

Indeed the process of refocusing project goals was a painful process that enveloped most of the teams but that did serve to produce better end results. El Camino:

saw [its] team as offering a model for interdisciplinary collaboration, and expressed a long-term goal of adapting "project results to interdisciplinary courses"....Because of this broad range of goals, their action plan also was quite ambitious, including choosing joint texts, creating the web site, linking to resources, presenting at conferences and creating student assignments and assessment tools. In the final analysis, it was too ambitious, but Gates and Shadish have responded to these difficulties by changing their project focus into developing a faculty training and mentoring program, using Alice as a model for colleagues, rather than as a tool for their students.

In addition, it is essential that faculty realize in focusing on a technology project that technology should not create the goals or objectives for a humanities course. The design of [the resulting] humanities courses should be based on the knowledge and skills students should learn in order to function as effectively as possible in society. Technology should be used wherever it might help students gain that knowledge and those skills. Professors should not neglect course goals in order to encourage the use of technology. In other words, if the course competencies and course outline are not clear before faculty attempt to use technology to enhance learning, technology will likely be used for the purpose of using technology.

Dissemination and feedback
Another key component of project success was periodic review of project goals and objectives (and refocus if necessary) and the dissemination of results, with the opportunity for external feedback. The Central Oregon Community College team reported their work-in-progress outcomes at a number of conferences, which constantly provided the team with external suggestions. The El Camino team held monthly faculty discussion meetings to get feedback:

  • February: Organization of peer group; what makes a great teaching website?
  • March: How can technologies be used for hybrid courses?
  • April: Resources and materials: An off-campus "expert" guest speaker will discuss emphasizing content over technological sophistication.
  • May: What teaching strategies or student strategies employing technology are successful?
Most of the projects did not include a formal external assessment of their projects, and in most cases the assigned mentor, or myself as national project director, provided feedback on the project.

Web design
A successful project clearly displays mastery of the principles of sound web design. The web sites developed by both the North Shore and Harper teams, are simple, navigationally sound, aesthetically pleasing and content focused. This was not, however, the case, with even some of the most successful projects. In many cases, faculty reliance on IT staff did not produce good web sites, as in many cases IT staff was "populated by very young people who are technically proficient but not design savvy [or] by more senior folks who talk a good game but really do not get it." The problem is that most faculty have been trained and have worked in a text-based environment, and to develop the necessary visual design skills to author adequate web-based material is no simple chore. It is also difficult for faculty to adjust to the open, critique-filled space of the web, in comparison to the closed walls of the college classroom. Yet if a site is poorly-designed, and visually-unappealing, it will have limited use in the classroom and it will not improve student learning.

Given variables such as project content focus, design, support, the CCHA grant was intended, above all, to encourage and support innovative applications of technology to the study and teaching of the humanities. The project intended to promote the creative and academically sound uses of technology and the web. The project was not intended to simply create online courses, put a primary text or document online, or showcase the amount of online links/resources "out there" in cyberspace. The most successful projects began with a content focus and then proceeded to develop an innovative means of studying/learning that content for both students and other faculty.

For example, who would have ever considered teaching Beowulf (or the Middle Ages) as a priority, or making Beowulf an avenue to the study of the Middle Ages, in college survey courses in the major way that the Harper team envisioned, and then proceeded to implement, by using web-based resources? The same could be said about North Shore's Hawthorne project. There already exist Hawthorne texts and sites on the web, but the North Shore project connected both the life of Hawthorne and one of his "texts" to the present-day and surviving structures from Hawthorne's day in the town of Salem. North Shore used some very nice, and not overly-complex, technology to create a truly exciting learning experience for students (and students themselves participated in the creation of the project itself). In the cases of North Shore, Orangeburg-Calhoun and Sinclair CC, the projects involved the use of local resources that will enable students to better place themselves in their community's culture. These are certainly exciting, and innovative projects, that would not be possible without use of the appropriate web technology.

Student impact
All of the original seventeen teams assumed, to a greater or lesser degree, that their projects would have an eventual student outcome. The most successful projects continually refocused their work to ensure that the technology would present content to students in an innovative way to improve student learning.

The Harper team phrased their project objectives particularly well:

For Harper students, the proposed project presents opportunities for enriching their educational experience on several levels. On one level, the outcome of this project would be a more fulfilling and more personal experience with the scholarship of Beowulf and the Middle Ages. On another level, the project would help students contextualize the Middle Ages as a period of interwoven experiences and accomplishments. On yet a third level, the project begins to contextualize technology as more than just a database of extant materials. Instead, the project seeks to use technology to enable students to fashion individual ways of studying medieval literature and thought, and encourages them to experiment by combining areas of interest.

The Orangeburg-Calhoun team, in their final report, also affirmed the student focus:

Cognitive psychologists maintain that we learn best when we connect new information with prior experience. By having students complete a family culture project, we were able to draw from the experiences of the class members to illustrate course concepts and make connections. Furthermore, by having students produce this project in a web-based format, instructors may capitalize on the interests of technologically oriented students, as well as take advantage of the research and presentation capacities of technology. [Further] The retention rate in these classes has improved. In the sections using the project, there was a retention rate of 80%. In the past, my retention rate in the HSS 101 classes that I taught was around 60%. This has been the case with everyone else. Also, the overall grades improved. What I found is that the students actually like coming to the class, and their interest in their projects carried over to the class at large. While the aspect was not "quantifiable," it was definitely the most significant to me. There has been a great deal of increase in student interest. I actually had them to stick around after class to ask questions rather than make a mad dash for the door. They called me at home to ask about things as they were preparing for tests. These things were unheard of before working this project into the course.

Also at Delgado Community College,

Student response has been tremendous. After years of struggling to convey to incoming students what archival research entails and the great variety of individual topics that they may pursue during their research, the site now makes it easier for my entry-level students as well as students enrolled in other instructors' classes to become engaged in the assignment. For example, before the website existed, students would read through a limited number of photocopies of previous student transcripts. I had to select a few and then bring photocopies to class for everyone to share. With web access, students can carefully read assigned transcripts and skim through the others. The presentation of student work, and just as likely stories from students' family history, on the Internet provides an immediate sense of purpose for students whose introduction to the project comes via the website. Also, the archive of previous student interviews provides students and others with direct access to primary materials on local history that are still too rare for students bound to the computer classroom.

The final ingredient to success in all of these projects is "time" (and one might add, "persistence") in the face of numerous hurdles. In almost every final report, the project team mentioned the considerable time, and lengthy discussions, involved in developing a technology project. For example, at Kapi'olani Community College, the faculty devoted an entire semester to just discussion of curriculum and proposed linkages among three different courses. Furthermore, every project evolves over time, as goals and objectives are modified, and this adds further to the time factor. See how North Shore CC, one of the case studies below, wrote about the "time" issue in their final report:

First, although we had the enthusiastic support of our administration at all levels as well as the assistance (for a while) of our Web administrator and two willing student interns, the time they had available to devote to the project was inadequate. The requirements for developing and maintaining a database, preparing and editing images, programming, photography, scanning, creating and editing audio and video were simply too demanding. The college Web administrator was essential in coordinating the Website posting, and when he was taken off the project because of the pressing demands of his job developing the college Website, we struggled. In addition, we were asking the student interns to do far more than could be reasonably expected of them. Fortunately, they were dedicated to the project, but our recommendation is that money be available in any future grants to pay programmers and others with the technological expertise necessary for sophisticated Website development. To create a rich, attractive, well-designed site required extensive time and expertise.

It is true that much time is required, and it is also true that faculty must convince administrators to provide compensation in terms of release time and funding that is commensurate with the scope of such projects. But it is also true that faculty must realize the nature of these projects ahead of time and be prepared to use their own, personal time. One course release time from an administration, e.g., 45 hours, is hardly enough time to do justice to any project. A close examination of the case studies below will show that the faculty involved devoted an enormous amount of time to their projects to ensure success.

Charles Evans,
Northern Virginia Community College

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