The Digital Past: An Exploration of the Virginia Commonwealth 

This course is focused on teaching about how history and technology are interconnected. You’ll be learning about Virginia history with a special emphasis on local history of the area as well as how to create historical content on the web in many forms. This course meets the Mason Core IT requirement.  

Image of Colchester roadside marker. The sign reads: Colchester, founded in 1753 at the location of a ferry crossing, was the second town established in Fairfax County. Located on the main post road from Boston to Charleston, and at the end of the Ox Road leading west to the Blue Ridge, the town prospered as a trading center and tobacco port. In 1781, Gen. Washington and Comte de Rochambeau passed through Colchester en route to Yorktown. The creation of an alternate postal route over a new bridge upstream in 1805; the diversion of grain shipping from the Shenandoah Valley to Georgetown, Alexandria, and Baltimore; and, according to tradition, a great fire in 1815 contributed to the town's decline.
Colchester Roadside Marker

Essential info 

  • Course: HIST390: The Digital Past, DL2 
  • Time: Tuesday 7:20 pm-10:00 pm 
  • Location: Online Synchronous 
  • Instructor: Dr. George Oberle and Ms. Alyssa Fahringer (doctoral candidate) 

The basics 

In this class, you will learn to “do history” using digital tools. The course—which satisfies the Mason Core IT requirement—teaches the fundamentals of information technology by applying them to practical problems in history. You will learn how to perform historical research online, but also how to put those sources in the context of other scholarly work. 

You will gather data, learn how to question it, analyze it, summarize it, and interpret it. You will create visualizations of datasets, including maps. You will learn how to present visual and textual sources online, and you will learn how to write and publish effectively online. 

Through learning by doing, you will gain both digital skills and the skills of a historian. This combination will be useful to you throughout your university career and in your future work.  

Our focus this semester will be on the history of Virginia. 

In this course you will: 

  • Learn the history of Virginia with a focus on local history topics 
  • Create historical scholarship using varied tools and sources; 
  • Publish historical scholarship on the web. 

Because it is a Mason Core IT course, this course will also meet the following learning outcomes: 

  1. Students will understand the principles of information storage, exchange, security, and privacy and be aware of related ethical issues. 
  2. Students will become critical consumers of digital information; they will be capable of selecting and evaluating appropriate, relevant, and trustworthy sources of information. 
  3. Students can use appropriate information and computing technologies to organize and analyze information and use it to guide decision-making. 
  4. Students will be able to choose and apply appropriate algorithmic methods to solve a problem.