Taylor Branch spent 25 years crafting America in the King Years, a trilogy of popular books about the Civil Rights Movement. The work won him a Pulitzer Prize and cemented his reputation as one of the country’s most-respected historians.
He recently returned to the 2,300-page effort to condense it into a 190-page volume called The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement, now out in paperback.
The book also became an enhanced eBook featuring archival footage of historic interviews and speeches, and was the focus of an online seminar that Branch taught to 20 University of Baltimore students and 100 auditors tuning in virtually.
On the eve of the historic March on Washington‘s 50th anniversary, Branch talked to eCampus News about the challenges of teaching history with digital tools like massive open online courses (MOOCs) and eBooks, the difficulties of editing his own work, and the reasons why the Civil Rights Movement continues to captivate him.
eCN: In January, you taught an online seminar-style course based on The King Years. How was that experience?
Branch: Well, it was new. Let’s say that.
Part of the experience was testing the possibly that an online course could have any number of teaching assistants grading any number of online students, making sure that they were doing ideal work weekly. And that their grading would be in line with mine.
That may not be very exciting or sexy, but it does go to the question of “how do you maintain quality?” If you’re going to be asking universities to accept credit for this class based on more than just my reputation, you have to show a track record that students are doing work, and getting graded on it.
See Page 2 for details about The King Years as an eBook.