Religion in the Digital Age: Course Objectives

Participating in the UMW Domain of One’s Faculty Initiative really helped me think about how to use digital learning in my classroom. That wasn’t an easy task, as I’m of a generation that came of age before all of this newfangled technology and someone who enjoys the thrill of the microfilm chase. But with a little coaxing, I can shed my Luddite proclivities and jump into the digital humanities with the zeal of the newly converted.

So I’ll be blogging about a course I’d like to offer sometime next year—Religion in the Digital Age. The basic idea of this course was to encourage students to investigate how individuals engage with notions of religion and the sacred in a digital way, as well as to examine how religious groups (denominations, etc.) contend with the challenges of getting their message across in a variety of electronic media. I really don’t know if anyone else has started a course like this; I’m just winging it here.

So, without further ado, here are the first draft course objectives for Religion in the Digital Age (RELG 331+prefix to be assigned later):

• Familiarize students with sociological concepts of religion (for example, why do people join religious groups; how do religious groups define their boundaries; why do people leave religious groups; how do notions of race, ethnicity, class, and gender influence these decisions)
• Explore how digital venues alter, reflect, or continue trends in religious affiliation, practice, and belief
• Encourage a web presence by the students in the course (either by blogging, setting up an interactive website, or using Tumblr)
• Promote an understanding of the methodologies involved in studying religion in an academic setting

(I’ll likely edit and add to these.)

Next up will be a draft syllabus, arranged by week and subject. Then I’d like to add some assignment/assessment ideas. Comments and suggestions are always welcome! Since I didn’t get the curricular development grant I applied for, I’m designing this in my “free” time and can use all the help I can get. Come join the fun!

Control-Alt-Delete (rebooting after the semester)

Spring 2015 is in the books. The grades are done, the graduates are off to new adventures, and the campus is quiet (except for the incessant construction noise). This semester was particularly hard on the students, faculty, and staff at UMW, what with (in chronological order) the arrests of student protesters, the murder of a beloved student apparently at the hands of another student, and the culmination of a particularly acrimonious faculty governance debate.

In light of these events, it’s been even harder to find my voice and write, now that I have the time to do so. I have traditionally found the first few weeks after the end of the spring semester to be the most challenging weeks for writing. Teaching a 4/4 load requires a certain amount of recharging when the grades are finalized, and it’s not easy to shift gears into researching and writing mode. So I lose a precious week or two to the simple need to relax and refocus. Yet I have to write now, because the same 4/4 load (plus service commitments) makes it exceedingly difficult to accomplish my professional and scholarly tasks during the academic year. It’s write now or write never.

I’m also in a holding pattern in terms of my book manuscript. One reader report is in; the other is not. I haven’t seen the first–nor should I without the second–and so I can only speculate about whether I’ll be asked to make minor or major revisions.

But I’m not completely without a writing voice. I’ve submitted a piece to Then and Now, and I’m making glacial progress in editing a piece I’ve written for the Journal of Southern Religion. Waiting for me to return to it is another article, only in draft form, about the black/white interactions at a black Baptist seminary.

Perhaps this blog post can help me make the transition. Maybe it won’t. We’ll find out soon.