Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cable History

Inside Higher Ed
May 27th, 2015

The University of Oklahoma raised some eyebrows last year when it announced it was partnering with the History Channel to offer a new U.S. history survey course. The thrust of the initial interest was the university’s decision to pair up with a relatively old-school medium -- cable television -- to offer distance learning in the midst of a digital platform boom. But after a successful first run of the course, another story has yet to be told: that of history faculty members’ lingering distaste at what they call being left out of the process and, more generally, at the university partnering with a commercial entity now perhaps better known for reality TV shows such as Ice Road Truckers and Swamp People than college-level history. Proponents of the partnership, meanwhile, tout the channel’s top-rate archives and audiovisual capabilities, as well as its mission to make historical study more accessible.
“This is the best introductory history class I’ve ever taught,” said Steven M. Gillon, a professor of history at Oklahoma who spends much of the year in New York City, where he is the History Channel’s longtime historian in residence. “This has completely changed my perspective of [distance learning].”

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