was first developed in 1999 as an attempt to provide an alternative final
project option for students in eighteenth-century literature courses at
the University of Michigan . The site
combines an ever-expanding showcase of collaborative student research
projects with an extensive set of resources and guidelines designed to
help students develop new material for the site. To date, 143 students
have been involved in the creation of 58 projects for the ECE site. The
project assignment, briefly, asks students to create a multi-media learning
resource on some aspect of eighteenth-century cultural history connected
with the assigned readings for their class. Students work on the projects
in groups of two, three, or four over the second half of a fourteen-week
term. No web design instruction is provided in class, but a series of
technical workshops and the assistance of a graduate student web-design
consultant are made available to interested students outside of class.
While those who elect to undertake the project typically find that it
requires more work than they initially expected, they tend to appreciate
the opportunity it provides to work closely in groups, draw upon the full
range of their creative talents, develop marketable web development skills,
and reach a potentially unlimited audience with their findings. Please
see Contributor Comments for representative student
evaluations of the project.
of this site has been an ongoing, collaborative effort. David
Porter, an associate professor in the UM
English Department, has been chiefly responsible for the design and
implementation of the project as a whole. Ellen Chien, a student in the
university's Undergraduate Research
Opportunity Program, created initial prototypes of the introductory
pages and the first student project. School
of Information graduate Angela Napili designed the tutorial and resource
pages as well as the original version of the current ECE home page. James
Mitchell, a doctoral student in the Department of English, contributed
to the pages on copyright, plagiarism, and principles of web design, programmed
the search function, and currently serves as the web project consultant.
Tonya Howe, also a doctoral student in English, created the current design
template for the site and the eighteenth-century slideshow. The projects
themselves are the work of students in Prof. Porter's eighteenth-century
literature classes from 1999 to the present. The project has been financially
supported by the Department of English and the Center
for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan.
Students who have
contributed research projects to this site have been asked at the end
of the term to evaluate their experience and offer suggestions for improving
the assignment. Many suggestions have been incorporated in revisions
of the site and the project
requirements. What follows are representative excerpts from their
comments on the project as a whole.
was one of the most creative projects I have had the opportunity to
participate in while at the University of Michigan. It was so much
more fun to do research for a website than for a research paper because
the web medium is much more creative and interactive. After establishing
our topic, I became excited and actually wanted to read the books
I had checked out of the library. Who knew the eighteenth century
could be so interesting?"
having completed the web project assignment, I can honestly say that
it was one of the most enjoyable assignments I have worked on in my
undergraduate career. I appreciated the fact that the project required
us to do extensive research yet challenged us to organzie it in a
new way, within the newer medium of a web-based environment. Rarely
in my five years as a music and English major have I had to do such
thorough historical and cultural research; this project provided a
great opportunity for me to take out my rusty researching skills and
do some satisfying digging. I was very interested in our subject matter,
and I'm happy to have gained such extensive knowledge on the subject."
- "I found
completing this web project an extremely useful experience. I had
only a little experience with web programming and certainly had never
contemplated producing something that an infinite number of strangers
might use as a resource. The project made me think about how web resources
are put together and what makes certain resources more useful than
others, both in terms of content and technology, in ways that I had
not done before."
- "I think
the most useful and challenging part of the project was the focus
on form and content. Since that is not something I usually think about
when writing a paper, having to focus on the visual presentation of
the information while still having to concentrate on its academic
value was something quite useful and new for me."
- "As a learning
experience, I believe that tackling this web project was one of the
more challenging projects in my career as an English major. This project
forced me to think 'outside the box' of writing papers and analyzing
narratives. Rather, this project made me interpret social and historical
information and present it in a new, interesting, and accesible format."
very glad that I chose to do the web project for this class, even
though it was quite a bit of work. I had essentially no web experience
before undertaking this assignment, and while I'm far from being an
expert, I now feel confident that I could build a full, decent-looking
webpage with all the basic fixings and information."
felt that the web project was a very valuable learning experience.
To create the site, [my partner] and I had to do an incredible amount
of research for each individual page, and the result was an extensive
knowledge of not only what actually made it on to the site but also
all of the context that went into developing the pages. I did a lot
more reading than would be required for, say, a paper of similar magnitude,
and I also did a lot more processing of information. It was very enjoyable
work, too, not that writing a paper isn't, but the motivation of having
your words displayed in a public space for others to view and criticize
is an experience I have not had in the past."
actually amazed at how much I've learned from creating the web page....
I entered into this project with absolutely no experience, and I was
very worried about my lack of technical finesse. This was certainly
a learning-by-doing, trial-and-error process, and I definitely believe
that I have significantly expanded my knowledge of the Internet and
web design.... On the other hand, it was also a source of great frustration.
I felt that, because neither of us had had much (or any) prior web
experience, we would be at a serious disadvantage, and those fears
were not entirely disproven."
experience brought back programming I did in high school that I didn't
on the web. I can make pop-up footnotes. There were so many times
during this project when I felt invincible, even when it was 5 in
the morning and Pizza House was closed and the coffeehouses weren't
open yet, and I felt like I was in my darkest hour, and then I got
the buttons to work on Netscape on a PC, and that was amazing. Simply
amazing. It was nothing like a paper high, when you rearrange two
sentences and suddenly have a thesis. It was a logic rush. I miss
it already. When can we modify these pages?"
think the website choice is a great part of this class. I think all
classes should have such a choice."
I don't feel that I have now turned from fairly computer-illiterate
to computer genius, the making of our site was definitely an educational
experience. The three most important things I learned were time management,
design principles, and and the distinction between presenting something
appealingly on paper and on the web."
was more fun than just putting pen to paper: knowing that my project
had the potential to be seen by someone other than myself and my professor
made me feel as if my research somehow had more purpose."
web project was the perfect combination of research, literary analysis,
and web-building exercises. Not only did I gain an increased understanding
of British women and the role literature played in forming their relationships
and alliances, but I now can confidently use Dreamweaver software
and navigate my way through web design problems."
chose this project because, as an English major, I write ten-page
papers in nearly every class and I wanted something different. I also
thought it would be a good opportunity to learn about using the web.
Having done the project, I am extremely glad I chose it. Although
I spent much more time on this project than I would have on a paper
(and I wrote approximately as much text), I had fun working with my
group and I learned enough about the web to feel confident in future
most educationally valuable aspect of this project for me was the
fact that I was forced to face my demon: the computer.... My whole
family has been on the ECE site gushing over my web page. They cannot
believe I actually sat at a computer long enough to make it, and I
can hardly believe it myself."
have to admit that there were times when I thought that I made the
worst decision possible by choosing to do the web project. Losing
files, finding times to meet, figuring out how to use Dreamweaver
effectively, and playing in Photoshop almost sent me through the roof.
None of this seemed worth it until the day that the project was done.
Now, I feel like I would do it all again if I had the choice."
was one of the most educational and fun assignments I have done at
research papers which allow very little room for creativity, I enjoyed
the fact that on our website we were able to come up with original
and creative ways to present our information on the masquerade."
was very nervous about doing this project, because before I started
working on it, I knew nothing about creating a web site. But since
I am going into teaching, I thought that knowing how to create a site
would be a useful skill to have as a teacher. I have to say that I
never worked so hard on a project in my life, but now I feel like
all the hard work was worthwhile.... Not only was this project useful
in increasing my confidence with technology, but I felt that it helped
me to better understand some of the novels we read, as well as the
historical context in which these novels were written."
an academic standpoint, this project really allowed me to work with
the researched topic in a creative manner. When writing a paper, one
has to think about the text in a certain way, but I think the web
project was much more engaging and allowed more room for freedom of
I had some previous experience, this assignment really helped me to
experiment with new devices and fine-tune the old. I feel, even in
terms of the subject matter, I learned a lot more than I would have
from a paper."
a paper, where I usually focus on a small aspect of one literary work,
the web project allowed me to delve into the history of the Eighteenth
Century in an interactive and fun way, thus providing me with a wide
backround for much of the literature I have read and will continue
found this particular project to be much more useful and interesting
than a simple research paper. Before taking this class, I had a small
amount of web development experience, but this project helped me to
expand my skills and learn new ways to apply them.... Creating a web
site requires a difference approach from writing a research paper,
but the modes of thinking that I learned from this project will still
enable me to think differently about every paper that I write."
web project was honestly one of the most interesting and effective
projects that I have ever completed.... The knowledge I amassed while
doing this project will stay with me as I graduate college and move
out into the corporate world."
an English degree at the University over the past four years has meant
that course after course I completed essay after essay. Often times
it felt as if it was the same assignment over and over again--just
a different polot and cast of characters. This website assignment
challenged me to break that routine... The best part of this project
was that I felt as if it had a higher purpose. I was part of creating
something that would be enjoyed by my classmates and countless potential
can describe this experience of designing and creating our own web
site using merely one adjective: amazing.... What I did not expect,
besides the time commitment, was how much I enjoyed researching the
topic, creating an innovative and unique web design, and constructing
the web site from the beginning stages.... To be honest, I spent more
time on this "project" than any other class assignment in my four
years at the University of Michigan, including studying for finals,
writing term papers, and working on semester-long projects. However,
here's the difference between these other class projects and our web
site: I enjoyed the work."
of the most useful and productive projects I've ever done."
glad I had the chance to learn how to make a web page. I thought it
was an excellent idea."
web-based project was very cool--gave me the opportunity to learn
a new medium along with a new subject."
option of a web page project was awesome! I hate exams, and this allowed
me to demonstrate my knowledge of the course in a way that was much
web project was a lot of fun--I think people needed a little more
help on learning and getting help with problems, but it was certainly
an innovative and very interesting experience. Keep it in the course!"
web-based stuff was great. I learned important skills and really benefitted
from the experience."
one thing I enjoyed most about this course was the chance to create
a website. It was fun, I learned a lot about the subject I chose,
and about web pages and I think it was a good opportunity for me.
I wish more teachers would do this."
loved the web project - that was the highlight of the class for me.
I would highly recommend offering it as an option again in the future.
It was a great way to really study and research on a topic I wanted
to learn about, and it was refreshing to put it in a different 'medium'
than a paper."