In 2013, the Department of History piloted the Digital Teaching Fellows (DiTF) program, as a means to support faculty and graduate students in the use of digital methods in our courses. The success of the pilot allowed the department to win a $200,000 grant from the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT) and expand the program to other departments in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS).
The program works by training graduate students and then pairing them with a faculty member in the teaching of a course. DiTFs help develop and support digital active learning projects appropriate to the course to which they are assigned, providing not only technical expertise, but also contributing to the instructional aspects of the course, thus ensuring that the technology not only functions, but also supports key learning objectives.
The impact of the DiTF program on faculty, graduate students, and on the courses themselves has been tangible and overwhelmingly positive. Beyond the training in digital teaching methods, the exposure to digital scholarship that graduate students gain through their participation often leads to the exploration and adoption of digital methods in their research, which has been a positive outcome in terms of career development. This spillover effect applies to faculty as well, who after being exposed to digital approaches often continue to explore ways to incorporate them into their research and teaching.
More importantly, the program helps to build capacity across the Humanities and Social Sciences by creating a community of practice, with great expertise and resources, which forms a solid basis for the further development of digital scholarship at Harvard. Although harder to measure, the program has also had a positive impact in the teaching of college students by sparking and supporting the development of approaches that improve courses and learning outcomes. It exposes undergraduates to digital tools, creating a foundation upon which more ambitious initiatives can be built.
The Department of History continued to run the program on behalf of the FAS until 2018, when the Digital Scholarship Support Group took over direct management. During this period the program supported 57 different courses, including 38 faculty, and 50 graduate students in 13 different departments