To access a printable copy of the syllabus, click here.

Voices of Migration: An Oral History Collective

Spring 2018, January 24 – April 26, 2018                                                        
Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:30-2:45, Eastern Standard Time


Michelle Bettencourt, Associate Professor of Spanish, University of North Carolina at Asheville

Olivia Donaldson, Assistant Professor of French and International & Global Studies, University of Maine at Farmington

Office Hours and Contact Information:

Prof. Bettencourt:; Office hour on Zoom 12:30-1:30pm EST Wednesdays and gladly by appointment.

Prof. Donaldson:; Office hour on Zoom 12:20-1:20pm EST Thursdays and gladly by appointment.

Course Description:  Why do people migrate? Where do they go? What risks and rewards do people face when they are on the move? What are the challenges and benefits for places of reception? How does migration transform individuals, families, and towns? What can we learn about the living history of migration by collecting oral histories? These are some of the questions we will explore in this course. Our goal is to bring together a small group of students from public liberal arts campuses across North America to form a collective—an oral history collective in which students record the migration stories of their campuses’ communities, using their voices to document experiences and impacts of migration. And, we will be sharing these narratives online so that they may be accessed beyond the borders of universities, individual towns, and even nation-states.

Learning Objectives: In this course students will:

  • Develop an appreciation of diverse methods and processes of the digital humanities.
  • Develop an ability to use technology and digital resources to conduct and disseminate research.
  • Practice delivering discipline-specific oral presentations to groups.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of migration concepts & terms.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of oral histories practices.
  • Responsibly and effectively collect and share oral histories about migration with the public using digital technology.
  • Work together cooperatively and creatively to conduct research.
  • Develop the skills of critical analysis, writing, and media editing.

Learning Outcomes: Every student will accomplish the following:

  1. Conduct oral history interviews about migration and develop oral history narratives following best practices.
  2. Create and complete a digital humanities project website based on a contract made between the individual team and the professors.
  3. Create a student blog and post weekly progress reports and critical reflections, as well as post on classmates’ blogs and moderate posts received.
  4. Actively participate in class discussions and presentations on readings, digital resources, tools and research and the process of creating digital humanities.
  5. Complete a final blog post reflecting on the project process and defending the project as contracted.
  6. Prepare and deliver a professional presentation based on the team project.

Required Text, Materials & Technology:

  • Koser, Khalid. International Migration: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd edition. Oxford, 2017. ISBN: 9780198753773 (Use ISBN to find the text from online sellers. New cost roughly $10; cheaper used and etext versions available.)
  • Readings, tutorials and other digital materials will be available online.
  • Regular access to a computer with a camera and sound, an updated browser and word processor, and a reliable Internet connection.
  • Microphone/headphone set and a quiet, distraction-free location for class sessions.
  • Audio(visual) recording device (such as a smartphone) for recording oral histories.
  • Various digital tools available for free online.

Assessments: The total possible sum of the weighted assessments listed below is 100%.

Participation (in-class engagement & blogging) 25%
Project contract (draft and final; group) 10%
Final project (group) 50%
Final project presentation (group) 10%
Final project reflection (individual) 5%

Assessment Descriptions:

Participation: Consistent, effective participation is essential to achieving course outcomes.  Participation includes the following categories (see rubric for grading criteria):

  • In-class Engagement: Participants are expected to actively and positively contribute to class sessions. This includes: arriving on time; carefully preparing assigned material and tasks; offering pertinent comments and information; demonstrating critical thinking skills; showing respect for fellow participants; working effectively with other participants; focusing on tasks at hand and completing them in a timely manner; and volunteering without dominating the class. It is not possible to make-up in-class engagement.
  • Blogging: Blogging will help us develop our learning community and digital skills. On a weekly basis, you will submit original blog posts, engage with peer blogs, and moderate comments. Deadlines: Blog posts are due by midnight EST every Sunday; Meaningful replies to peer posts are due by Tuesday, 1:30pm (just before our class); Moderation of comments received is due by Thursday, 1:30 pm. See the calendar for guidelines.

Project Websites: Student teams will conduct oral histories in their communities and share this research on a project website that they create. A draft of the project website will be due by class on Thursday, April 12, and based on the Project Contract (see below) and the professors’ comments, students will submit a final version of their project by class on Thursday, April 19.  Additional guidelines will be provided. The guidelines and grading rubric can be accessed on our course website.

Project Contracts: You will create a contract with Professors Bettencourt and Donaldson about your project. A contract draft is due by midnight EST Sunday, March 4, the revised, final copy is due by class on Tuesday, March 13. NOTE: Your contract may be revised as the semester goes on, though only with good reason and only after discussion with Professors Bettencourt and Donaldson. The contract template and grading rubric can be accessed on our course website.

Project Presentation: During the last week of class, each team will make an 8-10 minute professional presentation summarizing their project, followed by Q&A. We will invite faculty, staff and administrators from all COPLAC institutions to attend your presentations so that they can learn about the amazing work you’ve done this semester. Guidelines and a grading rubric can be accessed on the course website.

Final Project Reflection: At the end of the semester, you will write a blog post of ~500 words, in which you reflect on the project process and defend your project as contracted and/or explain any changes made to the contract. Grading for this reflection is based on the project website rubric available on our course website. The reflection is due by midnight EST Sunday, April 22.

Grading Scale: Over the course of the semester, we will provide you with feedback based on the grading scale below or, if different, students’ home institution’s policies. At the end of the semester, you will be assigned a course grade in accordance with grading policies at your home institution.

A 90-100 Distinguished: Exceeds Expectations
B 80-89 Proficient: Meets Expectations
C 70-79 Basic: Minimally Meets Expectations
D 60-69 Unsatisfactory: Doesn’t Meet Expectations
F 0-59 Failure

Grading Expectations: It is your responsibility to follow guidelines, respect deadlines, read grading rubrics, and keep track of your grades and feedback received. If you wish to discuss your grades, make an appointment for a conference call. Unsatisfactory performance will be reported mid-semester to your instructor of record on your home campus. The seminar instructors will transmit the final grade to your instructor of record, who will enter the grade using an independent study option at your home campus.


Attendance: All participants are expected to attend and contribute to all scheduled class sessions. Log in to the Zoom meeting five minutes prior to the start time to make sure your technology is working. If you encounter any difficulties, the UNC-Asheville tech team will be on hand to assist you. It is your responsibility to identify a quiet, distraction-free location with good Internet service for online class meetings. In the event that you miss a class session, it is your responsibility to submit assignments on time, collect notes from peers, watch the recorded session, and follow-up with the instructors as needed.

Spring Break: Students may take their spring break in accordance with their institution’s academic calendar. Consult your campus calendar and notify the instructors of your spring break dates by the end of week two. Be mindful that if something is due during the week which you decide to take off for Spring Break, that assignment(s) is still due.

Late Work: It is essential to respect deadlines. This course is fast-paced and community-oriented. Plan your schedule accordingly and always have a backup plan in the event of IT issues. In general, late work is not accepted. If you have extenuating circumstances and would like to request an extension, you must contact us prior to the deadline to discuss your situation. An extension is never guaranteed, and if granted will incur a late penalty. Remember that if there is a gap in your participation, the class community will develop without you. Therefore, many activities will not have the same outcomes for you or for the rest of the class if you complete them after their designated deadlines.

Make-Up Work: It is not possible to make-up in-class participation. However, should you miss a class session, you have access to the class recording, and you should watch it at your earliest convenience.

Learning the Digital Tools: Because the website project is central to this course, much of what you learn will be about using digital technology to create your website. We want to cultivate a sense of self-reliance as you work with these digital tools; therefore, when you have a question or encounter a problem, try finding the answer yourself through the WordPress Codex or other online resources. Remember that you can/should also use your fellow students as resources. Then, if the solution still eludes you, reach out to your campus instructional technologist.

Academic Conduct: If you cheat or plagiarize in this class, you will fail, and we will report the incident to the Instructor-of-Record on your home campus. Note: Having classmates, friends or family read and comment on your work can be extremely helpful and falls within the bounds of proper academic conduct (assuming the work itself remains yours). If you have questions about these issues, then you should talk to us sooner rather than later.

Informed Consent: You must ask each interviewee to complete and sign the oral history permissions form before you conduct the interview. You and your participants will need to sign TWO copies of the form, one for the participant and one for COPLAC. You must then send a copy (scanned or high quality image) of the signed form before sharing any identifiable information. For example, you cannot post a photograph, voice recording or quote unless permission has been granted by the participant. The informed consent form may be accessed on our course website. Email each signed copy to both professors, Leah Tams, and Claire Bailey ; Use your university email and put in the subject line “Voices Informed Consent: Name of Interview Subject.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: We are committed to making this course and related activities accessible to persons with documented disabilities. If you receive services through your Office of Disability Resources and require accommodations for this class, please speak with us as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs. We will need a copy of your accommodation letter. We will hold any information you share with us in the strictest confidence unless you give us permission to do otherwise. If you need accommodations, please consult with your Office of Disability Resources about the appropriate documentation of a disability. Accommodations are not retroactive so be sure to submit proper documentation as soon as possible.

Surveys: Because this course is supported with a Mellon Foundation grant, we will ask each student to participate in one survey before the beginning of the semester, and one survey at the end of the semester. These surveys are merely for information – gathering purposes and will not be a part of the grade.

Email: Professors Bettencourt and Donaldson will do their best to respond to queries by email as soon as possible. As you can imagine, though, we teach a large number of students, on top of attending meetings and other duties, and it is not always possible to respond to email quickly. It may take two or three days to reply to an email, especially if you are asking for any action on our part – please bear this in mind when planning work ahead of deadlines. If you keep the following guidelines in mind, communication will be much smoother:

  1. Check the syllabus before emailing!
  2. When emailing, write “COPLACDigital: Voices” in the subject line and copy both instructors. We set filters on the inbox to separate out emails by class–this way we are able to identify your email more quickly.
  3. Write your email in a professional manner. This means that you should begin your email with a formal salutation (eg, “Dr. Donaldson and Dr. Bettencourt”), write in full sentences and paragraphs, and end with a formal sign-off (including your full name. eg, “Regards, Jane Doe”). State your question and query clearly and concisely.
  4. Do not expect a reply to emails outside of office hours – that is to say, outside of 9am-5pm Eastern Standard Time (EST), Monday to Fridays. If you have an emergency, write “Emergency” in the subject line.

Course Netiquette: Rules of online conduct make the online classroom a civil, intellectual space conducive to effective communication and learning. Be sure to respect netiquette by doing the following:

  1. Identify yourself: Use your university account and put your full name in all posts.
  2. Follow instructions: Read and respect all guidelines.
  3. Be professional. Use appropriate language, images, links, etc. Be respectful in tone and word choice.
  4. Be direct: Sarcasm is easily lost online. Communicate only what you mean.
  5. Engage meaningfully: Avoid generalizations, repetition, opinions, tangents, and empty praise. Think critically and support all statements with evidence.
  6. Proofread: Check grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, etc. prior to posting.
  7. Give proper credit: Use MLA or APA style for all references. Pick one and be consistent.
  8. Be timely: Check and respect deadlines.
  9. Report inappropriate behavior: Notify the instructors of any offensive posts.

Sharing of Student Work: Remember that much of the work you complete in this course is shared online with the public. We might select samples of your work (in addition to the public project) to share with other students in the future since seeing and discussing fellow students’ work is an important part of the learning process. If you do not want us to share your work in the future or prefer that it be shared with/without your name on it, notify us in an email by the end of the semester; granting/rescinding permission has no impact on your grade.

Sexual Discrimination: Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender such as: sexual assault; stalking; sexual harassment; relationship abuse (dating violence and domestic violence); sexual misconduct; or any form of gender discrimination are civil rights offenses subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offenses against other protected categories such as race, national origin, etc.

Disclaimer: The syllabus may be adjusted at the discretion of the professors.