Teacher's Guide

Digital Humanities and Online Education

Graphic of a hand holding an electronic device scanning a book. 
Photo caption

Graphic of a hand holding an electronic device to scan a book. 

The National Endowment for the Humanities has compiled a collection of digital resources for K-12 and higher education instructors who teach in an online setting. The resources included in this Teacher's Guide range from videos and podcasts to digitized primary sources and interactive activities and games that have received funding from the NEH, as well as resources for online instruction.  

Guiding Questions

How do digital resources enhance education in the humanities?

To what extent can online learning spaces foster research and creativity in the humanities?

Online Teaching and Learning

Teaching in an online environment offers a range of possibilities, as well as short-term challenges. The resources collected below include advice and strategies for creating an engaging and stimulating online learning space, including how to facilitate discussions, foster collaboration, and build a sense of community.  

Humanities Commons: Each of the founding societies of the Humanities Commons network offers resources for teaching humanities subjects in an online space.   

Columbia University’s Center for Teaching and Learning: Find resources on how to teach in an online setting, how to adapt an in-person course to an online platform, and using video technology to teach synchronous and asynchronous sessions.  

Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching: A video on using webcams and video recording platforms for distance learning needs.  

The Chronicle for Higher Education: This advice guide provides tips on communicating with students, how to organize your online learning space, and strategies for providing effective feedback to students.  

UCLA’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching: Synchronous or asynchronous? Hybrid? This comprehensive guide will prove helpful for novices and experienced instructors working in an online teaching environment.  

University of Illinois Springfield's Instructional Strategies for Online Learning: A how-to guide with practical tips on facilitating discussions, group work, and project-based learning for educators working in an online classroom.  

“Ask an NEH Expert”: This video series provides advice from NEH grantees on writing thesis statements, forming an argument, evaluating sources, and primary and secondary source analysis. Questions for analysis and discussion are included to support skill development for middle school, high school, and higher education students. 

Open Access Humanities Resources

Whether you are looking for databases, recorded lectures, peer-reviewed journals, films, or other materials for your K-12 or higher education classroom, an open access resource collection means you have a world of scholarship in the humanities at your fingertips and it is all available for free. 

To assist with the exploration of online archives and the research process, EDSITEment provides a Teacher's Guide entitled "Using Primary Sources in Digital and Live Archives" that includes steps for creating a museum visit, activity ideas for in person and online visits, and resources on how to use archival resources with classroom projects.   

Open Access Resources:

  • National Humanities Center: These interactive webinars connect viewers with scholars and experts in humanities fields to discuss compelling topics. Past webinars are free to view and upcoming webinars are free of charge but require registration.
  • Humanities Commons: This open access network of professionals offers syllabi, readings, teaching materials, and other scholarly pursuits for those working in the humanities.
  • OER Commons: At Open Educational Resources (OER), you will find a digital library of resources, dedicated groups for discussing curricula and content, and space to curate and create materials. 
  • Humanities: An open access, international, peer-reviewed scholarly journal.
  • Fordham University Libraries: A collection of open access databases, E-journals, E-books, films, and more.
  • Fordham University's Internet History Sourcebooks Project: A collection of public domain and copy-permitted historical primary source texts. In addition to the one dozen sourcebooks, you will also find bibliographies, course websites, and other resources.  
  • Humboldt State University: This collection of digital teaching and learning resources includes access to free textbooks, courses, videos, and databases. 
  • University of California at Berkeley’s Resources for Research: A guide to free online library resources on the arts, humanities, and area studies.
  • Southern Connecticut University’s Open Access Resources Database: Find free video, audio, and image resources for history, literature, philosophy, and other subjects in the humanities.
  • Smithsonian Open Access: More than three million 2D and 3D items available for educators and the public to use for research, presentations, and other creative endeavors.  
Building Digital Projects

This resource collection provides platforms for building and publishing digital projects, including crowdsourcing platforms that host collections of documents that need to be transcribed. Instructors will also find tutorials and resources for incorporating these platforms into research and classroom projects. 

  • Zooniverse: Allows users around the world to work together to read and collect information from historical documents. Instructors can build their own projects, or work with pre-existing projects on topics ranging from World War II history to African American Studies.  

  • Papers of the War Department: This NEH-funded project provides access to documents on many subjects in the history of the Early Republic and includes a crowdsourcing transcription project. 

  • Clio: The NEH-funded website and app provides engaging, in-depth discussions of historic places, including both established monuments and locations whose history is not so visible.

  • Walden: Funding from the NEH made it possible to develop this game that provides an exploratory narrative and open world simulation of the life of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau during his experiment in self-reliant living at Walden Pond.

  • From The Page: A platform for working together to transcribe historical manuscripts. 

  • HistoryPin: A space for people to use photos and audio recordings to tell the histories of their local communities. 
  • DIY History: This crowdsourced volunteer project from the University of Iowa’s Digital Library provides opportunity for the public to contribute to the transcription of manuscripts, war diaries and letters, and other historic records. 
  • Omeka: A web publishing platform for sharing digital collections and creating media-rich online exhibits. 

  • Freedom on the Move: Help transcribe a collection of runaway newspaper ads that reveal the history of self-liberating people in the United States. 

  • The John Torrey Papers: Transcribe a collection of handwritten letters from the nineteenth century relating to the history of botany. 

  • Mapping Historic Skies: Contribute to a collection in which users are assisting with the identification of constellations from thousands of historical constellation maps.  

Digital Manuscripts and Multimedia Resources

The NEH funds projects aimed at preserving languages, digitizing manuscripts, and expanding free access to books, journals, historical records, museums, and more in the humanities. You will also find guides for teaching with unique media resources that have been funded in part by the NEH, such as podcasts, documentary films, and digital humanities projects. 

Digital Manuscripts and Documents

  • The Papers of William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill): Learn about the expansion and settlement of the American West with this NEH funded project that supported the digitization of letters, audio recordings, business records, and other documents produced by Buffalo Bill, his contemporaries, and scholars.  
  • Poetry and Prayer: Islamic Manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum: With funding from the NEH, the Walters Art Museum has digitized hundreds of its more than 900 illuminated manuscripts and made them freely available. 
  • Labor Studies and Work: Funded in part by the NEH, Temple University and the Temple University Press reissued 32 labor studies books in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats and made them freely available online.
  • Records of Early English Drama (REED): Created at the University of Toronto with funding from the NEH, this international project involved locating, transcribing, and editing historical documents containing evidence of drama, secular music, and other communal entertainment and ceremony from the Middle Ages until 1642.
  • Freedmen & Southern Society Project: With funding from the NEH, project staff from the University of Maryland transcribed, organized, and annotated more than 50,000 documents on the perspectives and experiences of African Americans from Civil War through the Reconstruction Era. 

Multimedia Resources and Tools

  • Picturing America: The NEH-funded Picturing America project includes videos about the artists and their works. We offer over 40 videos with listening guides and discussion questions for arts and humanities classrooms. 

  • AEO-Light 2.0: The University of South Carolina developed the AEO-Light optical sound extraction software, an open-source tool that enables more efficient digital preservation of optical sound motion pictures.

  • BackStory: Founded in 2008 and funded by the NEH, BackStory is a weekly podcast that explores the historical roots of current events. Hosted by a team of historians of the United States, the show features interviews with other scholars and public historians, seeking to bring U.S. history to life. Our resources provide listening guides, analysis questions, and activity prompts. 

  • People Not Property:  The interactive documentary created by Historic Hudson Valley and funded in part by the NEH documents the history of enslaved people, their enslavers, and the ways the institutions and practices of slavery shaped the colonial North.  

  • The Colored Conventions Project: Funding from the NEH supported the development of this website that documents over 120 conventions organized by African-American communities from the 1830s-1880s, including development of a reference database and fifteen interpretive exhibits.

  • Slave Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database: Contains images, 3-D animations, and essays related to the movement of enslaved people across the Atlantic.  

  • In the Field: National Digital Newspaper Program: A series of video interviews with practitioners involved in humanities initiatives related to historic and digital newspapers.

Digital Access with the NEH

You can learn more about the work of the National Endowment for the Humanities and how to apply for funding for your own humanities project or program with the resources below. 

Office of Digital Humanities: Grant programs that fund project teams experimenting with digital technologies to develop new methodologies for humanities research, teaching and learning, public engagement, and scholarly communications.

Division of Preservation and Access: A substantial portion of the nation’s cultural heritage and intellectual legacy is held in libraries, archives, and museums. These repositories are responsible for preserving and making available collections of books, serials, manuscripts, sound recordings, still and moving images, works of art, objects of material culture, and rapidly expanding digital collections. 

Division of Public Programs: The division supports a wide range of public humanities programming that reaches large and diverse public audiences and make use of a variety of formats—interpretation at historic sites, television and radio productions, museum exhibitions, podcasts, short videos, digital games, websites, mobile apps, and other digital media.

Division of Research: The Division of Research supports scholarly research that advances knowledge and understanding of the humanities. Through twelve annual funding opportunities, awards are made to scholars—individuals, collaborative teams, or institutions—working on research projects of significance to specific humanities fields and to the humanities as a whole. 

Division of Education: The Division of Education Programs supports humanities education through programs aimed primarily at program and curriculum development and through professional development opportunities for K-12 and higher education faculty.

Office of Federal/State Partnerships: The Office of Federal/State Partnership brings humanities education, lifelong learning, and public humanities programming to communities across the country by providing general operating support grants to 55 state and territorial humanities councils.

Humanities magazine: This print and online magazine is published quarterly by the National Endowment for the Humanities.