Interdisciplinarity and On-Line Learning: Fiction in the Victorian and Edwardian provincial press

E-Learning, Edwardian literature, Interdisciplinarity, Victorian literature

Brief Descriptiondora_russell

This project encouraged students to look at the role of fiction in specific relation to the late Victorian and Edwardian provincial press, a subject which offers an ideal interface for interdisciplinary work across the English and History study areas. A sample of local and regional newspapers from the 1880 -1914 period was digitised and made available for study online along with a variety of exercises designed to encourage interdisciplinary readings and analysis. Newspapers offer a particularly rich source for this kind of work, where fiction can be placed and read in the context of news gathering, social commentaries, visual images, lifestyle articles etc. The project focused on the popular press of a predominantly working class community to look at fictions as part of popular culture and encourage their study in terms of cultural activity embedded in wider socio-cultural frameworks. You can read more about the completed project in our article ‘The Wrong Dora Russell: research informed learning in a digital world’ written for the English Subject Centre magazine.

Background

nenaOur project is linked to North of England Newspaper Archive (NENA) (link to British newspaper archive)which was created as part of Tony Nicholson’s National Teaching Fellow (NTF) project and involved the digitisation of c. 58,000 pages of local and regional newspapers in the Tees Valley region, covering the 1800-1920 period. The archive is a searchable online of database and encourages the interdisciplinary study of regional culture by staff and students in the HE sector, as well as by individuals and groups in the wider regional community. The NTF project covered the costs of designing the website, together with the digitisation of newspapers to be used for our ESC project – i.e. the distinctive local and regional ‘weeklies’ that appeared in the post 1880 era that formed an important element in the new weekend leisure culture of late Victorian and Edwardian Britain. These papers were characterised by what we might describe as ‘lifestyle articles’, including women’s columns, fashion tips, sporting intelligence, popular local history; advertising etc., as well as brief digests of the week’s main news. Most of the column inches however were devoted to popular fiction, including serialised stories that were often syndicated, as well as short one-off stories linked to the specific locality.

We piloted the learning and teaching units as part of two semester long modules at Teesside, aimed at level-three students.

Aims and Objectives

The aim of this project was to construct a website with digital images of newspapers to encourage students to look at the role of fiction in the late Victorian and Edwardian provincial press. We see the website as an open resource for students and staff here at Teesside and at other institutions who wish to encourage and support students in producing interdisciplinary work. As well as providing runs of digitised newspapers and links to related websites, the site contains customised learning units that provide a pedagogical structure for in-depth case studies of fiction/s located in place and in time.

For student learning, the primary objectives of the project were to:

  • help students to make creative connections between popular fictions and the major organising concepts of region, class, gender and time;
  • encourage students to understand how the production and consumption of texts exist in relation to their various contexts;
  • explore the interactions between genres and sub-genres of fiction and journalism;
  • support students in achieving insights across programmes and disciplines;
  • develop student skills in the effective use of online resources;
  • construct pedagogical exercises that help build a range of transferable skills for related projects;
  • establish modes of assessment that reward and encourage independence and a range of transferable skills.

Further objectives included:

  • develop existing staff skills in the design of online learning;
  • build an effective interface to deliver and make connections between face-to-face and online learning
  • maximise the benefits, resource possibilities and pedagogical potential of team-teaching across disciplinary boundaries;
  • develop and refine a pedagogical model that can be drawn on by other institutions and be applicable to other region- and time-scales.

Products

The project delivered three key products:

  • Online learning and teaching units looking at the place of popular fiction in late Victorian / Edwardian society
  • An online newspaper digital library that can be used by the HEI sector (North of England Newspaper Archive(www.n-e-n-a.co.uk) – British Newspaper Archives .
  • Web-based guidelines for the digitisation of local and regional sources that can be used by colleagues to develop similar resources and programmes in other HEIs.

Publications

Project Leader

Jan Hewitt
School of Arts and Media
University of Teesside

Project Partner

Tony Nicholson
History
University of Teesside

Research Period

2005-2008