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Project Goals

The project is to found a bilingual, digital humanities degree granting institute, provisionally referred to as the Humanities Digital Degrees Project (HDDP), in response to the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Acts call for private initiatives that will respond to the changing needs of students while maintaining Ontario’s tradition of post-secondary academic excellence. The institute’s three- and four-year degree programs in Literature, Philosophy and History will be offered in both French and English.

The HDD initiative is designed to seize the possibilities offered by new digital technologies – possibilities uniquely adapted to the text-based nature of study in the humanities – in order to meet the demands of students whose skills and inclinations suit them to study in the humanities but to whom Ontario's public universities offer fewer traditional humanities options every year. Implementation of this proposal will make a top-quality humanities education economically accessible to all students, whether Francophone or Anglophone, regardless of their geographical location.

Tradition and Innovation

The HDDP will create a dynamic relation between tradition and innovation in order to bring students the best of both worlds: new technologies will be informed with the meaning and purpose of the humanities, while the texts of the modern humanist tradition will be vivified by transforming the way they are taught and assimilated. 

By fully considering the implications of the digital revolution for postsecondary education and by understanding what dematerialization and detemporalization mean for teaching and learning, the HDDP has prepared and positioned itself to meet the needs of students in the new millennium. Our approach places innovation in the service of tradition, enabling us to offer programs of the highest quality based on new approaches to delivering all that is most vital in the academic traditions of the humanities.

A Revolutionary Delivery Model: Purely Textual, Purely Digital

The HDDP’s delivery model is designed to take full advantage of the innate potentialities of digital technology without using it to mime physical interaction or recreate virtual versions of physical campuses. The Project’s delivery model is specifically designed to complement the text-based nature of study in the humanities. There will be no video lectures in HDDP courses. Instead, the textual materials which would form the lecture portion of a regular university course will be divided up and spliced into the primary materials where they are most useful; instead of students listening to a lecture first and then trying to remember what was said so as to apply it to their readings, lecture points will be available when and where they are most opportune. Similarly with tutorials: students will have extensive opportunities to discuss the works they are studying with classmates from around the world. By contrast, the more strictly didactic component of the tutorial such as the professor’s explanations and recommendations for secondary reading will likewise be segmented and inserted directly into the text at junctures which experience has shown tend to pose difficulties for students. Discussion among classmates will thus be freed from the time and space constraints of a physical campus, while help will be available permanently at precisely the most problematic passages of their readings. Bibliographical references will also be directly linked, encouraging students to explore the critical tradition in parallel with their study of the primary text.

Compared to what can be done on a physical campus, the HDDP’s digitally based teaching model is revolutionary in that the basic, constitutive components of a humanities course (primary readings, lectures, tutorials and secondary readings) are fused. Readings, lectures and study are no longer successive and potentially disconnected stages, but are aspects of one integrated and integral learning process.

Reading, Writing and Speaking

HDDP degree programs will cater to highly literate students. This distinguishing feature will provide graduates with a significant advantage in the job market. Employment prospects will not, however, drive the HDDP’s curricular agenda; rather, programs will follow from the traditional humanities goal of enabling students to achieve intellectual autonomy. As a function of their purely educational objectives, HDDP programs will focus on the development of exceptional reading and writing skills. Every course will involve extensive readings of challenging texts and the writing of a major term paper. These requirements will build from year to year so that students develop their intellectual potential to the greatest possible extent, becoming quick and incisive readers of complex texts and fluid writers of closely reasoned papers. These skills are the building blocks of intellectual growth, but they are also the very skills employers are demanding more insistently even as their supply is decreasing.

Alongside the Project’s textual emphasis, programs will focus on developing students into masterful speakers, an important skill for students wishing to pursue careers in liberal professions such as academia or law as well as in other fields such as business or politics. Each course will include a research presentation that students will live stream to their classmates, and these presentations will be graded in the same manner as term papers, with students receiving progressive feedback on how to speak clearly and compellingly. 

Integrity and Transparency

The authenticity of all student submissions is an important consideration for all undergraduate institutions, and particularly for a purely digital one. The HDDP’s academic portal will use advanced and easy-to-use identification systems similar to those used by government services that handle sensitive data. As all submissions will be electronic, the Project will build an ongoing database which will provide superior assurance of authenticity compared to existing PSE institutions.

Since all course offerings within the Project’s curricula will follow a set and uniform progression (see the “Academics” page), the exact content of each student’s studies will be immediately apparent to anyone evaluating a transcript from an employment or a graduate admissions standpoint.

In today’s PSE marketplace, this degree of simplicity, rigour and transparency will set the Project’s programs apart, building tremendous value for graduates in terms of the prestige conferred by an HDDP diploma.

Community and Mobility

For students born in the third millennium, digital interaction is a primary vector of social interaction. Institutions that build and nurture virtual social groups can offer today’s students better options than the sometimes alienating experience of physical campuses. The nature of HDDP programs and the built-in structure of digital class connections will ensure that a strong sense of community develops among students based on shared educational experiences. Integrated into the delivery model, social media will allow for different and overlapping forms of association, both within the institution and spreading out into the wider world. The connections fostered in the course of students’ undergraduate work will continue among alumni, forming a network of lifelong bonds.

At the same time as the Project’s delivery model will provide a strong sense of belonging, the HDDP community will transcend geographic constraints. Students will be able to associate as easily with classmates from other continents as with classmates from the same city. Moreover, students will themselves be free to study from anywhere in the world, since the delivery model will supply all needed resources directly through the Project’s portal, and low fees will leave students with more resources for travel and social activities.