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   About Transcriptions Instructional Improvement Proposal, 2004


  1. Abstract
  2. History & Context
  3. Proposal:
      Undergraduate Pedagogy Initiative
  4. Requested Support & Work Plan
  5. Project Supervision
  6. Budget
  7. Appendices
    1. Web Site URL's
    2. Letters of Support

Note about URL's for readers of print version of this application: This proposal is online at the URL visible at the bottom of this page. URL's to which the proposal links are listed in full form at the end.
  • Date: February 17, 2004

  • To: Ronald W. Tobin, Assoc. Vice Chancellor Academic Programs

  • From: Profs. Alan Liu and Rita Raley, Co-Directors of English Department Literature & Culture of Information Specialization (Transcriptions Project)

  • Re: Proposal for Instructional Improvement Grant

Transcriptions Funding Proposals

1. Abstract

The Transcriptions Project and its associated Literature and Culture of Information (LCI) undergraduate specialization are seeking an Instructional Improvement grant for a multifaceted undergraduate pedagogy development initiative that will build on the instructional technology and resources it has created for the English Department. While continuing to improve courses in the LCI specialization itself, this initiative is primarily designed to extend the benefit of instructional technology more widely to other undergraduate courses in the department:

Undergraduate Pedagogy Initiative

The Undergraduate Pedagogy Initiative would be staffed by graduate student assistants supervised by Profs. Alan Liu and Rita Raley through the framework of the English Department's new Technology Colloquium (English 593). The Colloquium, which began in 2002-2003, is a combined technology and skills-development workshop in which Transcriptions faculty supervise student assistants working on the department's various digital projects.

2. History & Context

Beginning in 1998 when it received a three-year grant for its Transcriptions Project from the National Endowment for the Humanities (supplemented by College of Letters & Science and Instructional Improvement funding), the UCSB English Department has emphasized the development of information technology and its integration in research and teaching. The characteristic pattern of such development work has been for the several new technology-intensive "centers" within the department (the Transcriptions Project, the Early Modern Center, and the American Cultures and Global Contexts Center) to create resources for their courses and then to pass along the technology to the department at large. As a result, the department is now known as one of the nation's leaders in humanities computing, to which it has made a demonstrable long-term commitment. Major projects accomplished since 1998 include the following:

  • Transcriptions Project ("Transcriptions: Literary History and the Culture of Information"): a research and curricular initiative in which multiple faculty and graduate students designed courses, research materials, colloquia, lab facilities, and online resources devoted to the thoughtful implementation of digital technology in the humanities. Transcriptions has served as the model for two new centers in the English Department that make use of digital technology: the Early Modern Center (EMC) and American Cultures and Global Contexts Center (ACGC). [Note: the EMC and ACGC are applying separately for Instructional Improvement funding to complete, extend, and widen the use of information technology.]

  • Literature and Culture of Information (LCI) Undergraduate Specialization: a curricular specialization within the English major in which students take at least four LCI courses from an average of 6-8 offered each year. LCI courses also enroll other English majors as well as a wide spectrum of students from other disciplines. In addition, the LCI provides extracurricular learning opportunities—e.g., field trips to technology companies and classroom visits by extramural speakers.

  • Early Modern Center Image Gallery: a database-driven gallery of online study images of art, architecture, and manuscript facsimiles from roughly 1580 to 1800 (restricted by password to instructional use). The Image Gallery allows instructors to use Web forms to build sequential or parallel "slide shows." It is also searchable and browseable in multiple ways, and includes textual annotation.

  • English Department Web Site and Database: one of the nation's most content-rich and technically advanced humanities department Web sites. The site is driven by a database-to-Web system (using SQL Server as the backend) that allows instructors and staff to update content dynamically through Web forms. Content is deep on the site and includes resources designed to make the primary research and instructional activities of the department visible.

  • English Department Coursebuilder Initiative: Recently, Transcriptions completed for the English Department a Coursebuilder Web-site creation system, which is now being used in a number of courses. Last year's Coursebuilder Adoption Initiative widened the use of the system in the department through instructor workshops, research-assistant support, and the completion of documentation for the system. This was a crucial step in the department's pedagogy because an increasing number of English courses are using online materials in their reading assignments, student authoring assignments, and in-class presentations.

  • Related Digital Initiatives: The English Department is the home of Voice of the Shuttle, one of the oldest and best-known humanities portals (recently converted into a database-driven site) and also of the University of California Digital Cultures Project (a UC system-wide research group headquartered at UCSB).

As a result of the above projects, the English Department has created a lively and expanding community of faculty and graduate students working in humanities computing.

3. Proposal

Transcriptions is asking for an Instructional Improvement grant to help extend the English Department's innovations in humanities computing in a direction that benefits not only its own LCI courses but other courses in the department. Transcriptions proposes the following development initiative:

Undergraduate Pedagogy Initiative

A. Development of Shared Online Teaching Resources in the English Department Knowledge Base (EDKB):

  • In Summer 2003, the Department expanded the variety and amount of its online instructional materials and organized its shared online instructional resources into a database system: the English Department Knowledge Base. (See sample screens below.) Creating this database involved the digitizing of print-based teaching materials for commonly taught courses (including syllabi, teaching notes, glossaries, historical guides, writing guides, and other resources). In particular, Transcriptions developed for the department a common, searchable interface for teaching materials that is accessible at all levels of the department's Web (main Web site, center and project sites, individual course sites) and that is driven by a common underlying database-to-Web system. The goal was to make resources created for one class instantly available for use in other classes. Thus for example, a repository of annotated links or a bibliography of criticism designed for English 146EN (Contemporary Experimental Narratives) is now available to English 21 (Introduction to Narrative), and vice versa. So, too (to take another example), all instructors in the department now have access to a developing archive of primary materials organized by author and topic (examples include "Caribbean Poetry," "T.S. Eliot," and "William Gibson"). These primary materials have been added to the department's Voice of the Shuttle humanities portal site (see EDKB: Course Materials) and courses are able to draw on the vast repository of annotated humanities links in the database.
            We propose during the next year to extend and integrate this work by digitizing significantly more print materials as well as putting online new visual, video, and audio materials requested by instructors. One especially substantial body of materials that we plan to add to the EDKB is the rich study repository—including primary texts (many not readily available elsewhere), bibliographies, biographies, timelines, study questions, and commentaries on works—that have been created over the years by our department's graduate students while studying for the M.A. exam. (Graduate students traditionally form reading groups around the eleven elective "fields" of the English Department's exam—e.g., "Renaissance Literature," "Twentieth-Century Anglophone Literature," "Theories of Genders and Sexualities," or "Literature and Theory of Technology." These groups create deep print archives of materials that extend the process of exam preparation into the kind of institutional knowledge production seen in guides and surveys of new fields issued by such presses as MIT, Routledge, Cambridge, and Johns Hopkins). Digitizing these graduate-student materials and adding them to the EDKB would allow them to be used as readings or supplements to reading in all the department's courses, including undergraduate courses (where bibliographies, timelines, and study questions would be especially useful). An equally important purpose is to allow graduate-student instructors and other instructors new to a particular topic area to consult the department's accumulated past resources in the design of new courses.
            We also propose to work with the English Department's English Club (a student organization of very motivated English majors) to study and survey student usage of the EDKB and to suggest further areas for development. Additionally, we plan to hold workshops and create publicity materials to widen the student use of the EDKB and other resources on the English Department's web site.
             The long-term goal is to create the critical mass of shared instructional materials needed to foster not just increased collaboration between instructors but new kinds of collaboration. The proposal to continue developing the EDKB is motivated by the interdisciplinary trend in literary studies that places a premium on using multimedia and online materials in classes.

Sample Screenshots from Current English Dept. Knowledge Base
(click on images for larger versions)

EDKB Home Page

EDKB Home page

For live version of EDKB, go to:

EDKB Graduate Student Teaching Resources

For live version of EDKB, go to:

EDKB Graduate Student Teaching Resources

EDKB Teaching Assistant Handbook

For live version of EDKB, go to:

EDKB Teaching Assistant Handbook

EDKB Guide to Campus Teaching Resources

For live version of EDKB, go to:

EDKB Guide to Campus Teaching Resources

B. Development of Open-source Threaded Web Forum for Classroom Use

  • In recent years, English Department faculty and graduate students have been increasingly making use of Web-based, threaded discussion forums for class discussion, announcements, and assignments. The particular program that the English Department has run on its server for this purpose is the Ultimate Bulletin Board (UBB), a proprietary application. Currently, for example, Alan Liu's GE course, English 25: The Culture of Information is using the UBB (see example of TA section materials posted to UBB). Since the license for UBB is expiring, the English Department is in the position of either upgrading or moving to a different system. We propose to research, acquire, implement, and test an open-source replacement for UBB that is not dependent on proprietary platforms and that manages course content in standards-compliant code (an important consideration for the archiving and future migration of materials). This is a high-priority goal that has the potential to affect many courses and sections.

C. Development of English 194 Online Course Materials

  • In 2004-2005, the English Department will begin offering a new, unique undergraduate research course.
            Open both to students in the department's Literature and Culture of Information (LCI) specialization and others (hopefully, including both English majors and students from across the disciplines, including the social sciences, sciences, and engineering), English 194 will convert into the format of a course a highly successful set of research assistantships that the LCI made available to undergraduates in 2001-2002 with funding from the Division of Humanities & Fine Arts. In that year, the LCI created two small, paid undergraduate research teams (one in winter, another in spring) that gave students exposure to research work. Students on the teams worked under the close supervision of a teaching assistant and the Transcriptions faculty. After orientation sessions, the students conducted research on topics they chose that were related to information culture. Particular topics at that time included: the governance of online communities, experimental and digital music, and gaming subculture (the alternative cultural communities that have formed around the hacking, modifying, or emulation of digital games). The students used research methods that incorporated online and library research as well as interviews with experts or spokespersons. (For the purpose of the latter interviews and other field research, students took the orientation training provided by our campus for research involving human subjects.) During each quarter, student research teams reported at intervals to the whole group of Transcriptions faculty and graduate-student assistants. Then at the end of the quarter each team wrote, designed, and put on the Web an issue of the new, student-managed Literature & Culture of Information Magazine, which holds the results of research: interviews, essays, feature articles, overviews of research, bibliographies, etc. (See the first issues of the LCI Magazine produced by the 2002-2003 research teams:
            English 194, a course that the English Department proposed and received permission to initiate last year, will convert the LCI student research teams into a curricular activity. To be taught for the first time in 2004-2005 by Prof. Alan Liu, English 194 is in the format of an undergraduate independent- (or, more accurately, team-) research seminar. Assisted by the Transcriptions TA's for that quarter, the instructor will orient the students, organize five or more research teams in each class, oversee the initial discussion and selection of topics, supervise weekly discussions of progress, lead workshops on research methods and technical skills, and grade the writing and design work for each student's contribution to the LCI Magazine. There will be a final presentation by research teams at the end of the quarter in front of the Transcriptions group of faculty and assistants as well as other students in the LCI specialization.
            Because of the innovative nature of the course and its dependence on online media for instruction, research, and publication of results, substantial development assistance is needed. In particular, we propose the development of an online "developer's community" network for the course (allowing students to use a database to post resources, share materials, and collaborate) and a pre-designed set of Web page templates for the publication of student research. Assistance will also be needed to develop in conjunction with the Office of Research a set of informational guidelines on human-subjects research adapted for LCI students--especially in regard to issues currently not well accounted for in campus human-subjects policy, including the use of
    new media/communications technologies and the conduct of humanities research methodologies such as individual and one-time-only (rather than survey-style or statistical) interviewing and journalism. (The apparent incommensurability of human subjects policies oriented primarily toward the sciences and social sciences proved to be a problem for the earlier, experimental LCI research teams. This problem will need to be solved before English 194 begins.)
D. Development of "Future Pedagogy" Site
  • The English Department is very keen to develop an innovative online resource called the "Future Pedagogy" site. As part of its training of graduate students, the department encourages ABD students who are preparing for the job market to create syllabi for courses "they would like to teach," including both service courses and "dream" courses. There is now a flourishing underground economy of such "wish" courses in the department, which have the immediate practical goal of arming students for job interviews (we counsel them to offer to leave example syllabi after an interview), but which also have the effect of catalyzing new undergraduate course ideas by graduate-student instructors at UCSB. These course ideas are occasionally realized during the summer terms, when graduate students are given the opportunity to teach both lower- and upper-division courses, with complete control over syllabus design and course content.
            We propose to create an online repository of such "future pedagogy" courses. Not only would such a repository support our graduate students on the job market (they could point evaluation committees to their online syllabi), but it would be a powerful incentive for instructional improvement in the department at large. Graduate students would be able to learn from each other their best ideas for designing and implementing courses in particular fields, and faculty would also be able to see how their own courses have influenced students to design variant courses. Such a Future Pedagogy site in the department has the potential to be an engine of pedagogical change.

4. Requested Support and Work Plan (Budget below)

Transcriptions is requesting support for graduate-student research assistance during Summer 2004, Fall 2004, and Winter 2005. Assistants would work on the following tasks required for the Undergraduate Pedagogy Intiative described above:

  • Locate and digitize print-based materials
  • Integrate the materials in the English Department's database
  • Assemble online bibliographies and reading lists for department-wide use (e.g., "Studies of Narrative")
  • Add multimedia resources requested by instructors (e.g., audio and video)

  • Continue to develop the interface for the repository that makes materials easily accessible

  • Work on the database tables and "middleware" code that allow resources to be plugged dynamically into any of the department's course pages. (The implementation of this feature will follow the model of the department's existing "Verso" backend system, which allows Web page authors to drag-and-drop object-like code modules onto a site from a common library of such modules. These modules create the connection strings and SQL queries that enable the dynamic flow of information between the department database and the Web)

  • Administer a questionnaire that surveys the way instructors and students use shared online teaching materials. This questionnaire will serve both to evaluate existing resources and to diagnose areas where additional development is needed.

Support is requested for Summer through Winter quarters (instead of Fall through Spring) because much of the work of building course sites is done in the quarter before a teaching quarter.

5. Project Supervision

The Undergraduate Pedagogy Initiative will be supervised by Profs. Alan Liu and Rita Raley of the Transcriptions Project through the framework of the English Department's new Technology Colloquium (English 593): a combined technology and skills development workshop in which faculty supervise student assistants working on the department's various digital projects. The Colloquium meets throughout the year to review ongoing work, plan future work, and share skills (through skills workshops devoted to such topics as "Implementing Department Database Services on Course and Project Web Sites"). The course enrolls the research and teaching assistants involved in the department's technology initiatives and centers. This supervisory framework has been very successful in managing past Instructional Improvement grants.

Note on the Important Role Played by Graduate Student Assistants in the Transcriptions Project: Graduate student assistants in Transcriptions have in the past acted as full partners in the project. They sit on the project's planning and design meetings, research content for the project's Web site, collect background and critical resources on the use of IT in teaching, design Web pages, and help develop the project's software and networking environments. Students who work on the project develop expertise that complements their research and teaching. (An increasing number of English Department graduate students now work in areas where their primary dissertation field includes issues of information culture or technology.) Because of the combination of technical and intellectual necessary, recruiting excellent assistants for Transcriptions is a high priority (see explanation of budget below).

6. Budget


Undergraduate Pedagogy Initiative
  • Graduate Student Assistants for 440 hours in Summer 2004 at $14.01/hr (two students each averaging 20 hrs/wk) = $6,164

  • Benefits for Summer Student Assistants at 4.9% = $302

  • Graduate Student Assistants for 894 hours in Fall 2004 and Winter 2005 at $21.43/hr (two students each averaging 20 hrs/wk.) = $19,158

  • Benefits for Fall and Winter Student Assistants at 4.9% = $938

Budget Total: $26,562

Explanation of Pay Rate and Pay Structure for Graduate Student Assistants (SA's):

The hourly pay rate for academic-year student assistance (as opposed to summer assistance) itemized above is premised on the fact that Transcriptions/LCI needs to recruit from the select group of graduate students who have the right combination of literary background and information-technology skills. In the context of the English Department, this means that there is no chance of recruiting capable student assistants during F and W quarters unless Transcriptions can compensate them at a level comparable to what they would otherwise be earning as teaching assistants in the English Department (All graduate students in the English Department are guaranteed 4-5 years of support at the level of a TAship. Students who turn down a position with Transcriptions/LCI would be guaranteed a regular TAship.) In previous years when Transcriptions has received an Instructional Improvement grant for SA's, therefore, the pay scale during the academic year has matched that of the English Department's TA's.

In addition to the base hourly rate, however, there is also the issue of the benefits that TA's receive but that SA's normally do not. Based on a successful paradigm it has previously applied to Transcriptions grants received from Instructional Improvement (with the approval of Instructional Improvement), the English Department will close this gap by matching SAships with a special portion of its general TA funding. That portion will cover the supplementary compensation needed to bring the total package offered to a Transcriptions/LCI Student Assistant up to a competitive level (including tuition remission and health insurance).

In summary, the basic request is for Instructional Development to provide a base salary rate that allows Transcriptions/LCI to get into the ball park in attracting high-skilled assistants. The English Department will then match with supplementary funds to bring the total compensation up to the necessary level. This financial model was highly successful during the initial phase of Transcriptions, and Transcriptions/LCI would like to build upon it in its present funding request.

Support to Continue Benefits of Project Beyond Initial Development

The English Department plans to follow its past, successful model of supporting Transcriptions information-technology projects funded by Instructional Improvement grants by providing supplemental and follow-up funding for TA's. As explained above, the Department has historically provided supplemental funding by allocating block grants to off-set the fees and tuition of graduate assistants working on Instructional Improvement-funded tasks. Additionally, the Department normally provides 2.0 FTE to Transciptions for .25% - 50% TAships (which cover partial fee and tuition off-sets). (The Department is hoping to offer this same package to Transcriptions if its Temporary Sub 0 is not cut too much for the academic year 2004-2005.) TAs hired on these TAships revise the Web sites and database architecture that Instructional Improvement grants contribute to developing, add new or updated content, and work with instructors and students in learning to use the new resources.

7. Appendices


A. URL's for Web Sites & Projects Cited in Proposal

English Department (Main Web Site)

English Department Knowledge Base (Home Page)

English Department Ultimate Bulletin Board Resources (Threaded Web Forum for Instruction)

Transcriptions Project

Voice of the Shuttle: Web Site for Humanities Research

UC Digital Cultures Project


Example Course Sites Created with Coursebuilder:

General Department Courses:

Transcriptions / LCI Courses:

Early Modern Center Courses:

American Cultures Center Courses:


B. Letter of Support
(delivered by email)

A letter of support from the following has been sent by email to the Office of Academic Program, Instructional Improvement:

  • Carl Gutiérrez-Jones, English Department Chair

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