and what to do about it

The essay is due Sunday at midnight, and it’s hard to know who dreads the deadline most, professor or student.

The standard five-paragraph essay has been seen for many years as the best way for students to demonstrate knowledge, especially in the humanities and…


Modified ungrading can help both professors and students

Most professors would rather wash walls than grade a pile of blue books (or an inbox with 39 papers). Students worry about grades when they turn in assignments, and react with feeling when they receive them. Grading is fraught with emotion on…


In 1864, a 69-year-old bank official named Thomas Briggs was murdered on a moving train. In those days, the compartment doors opened only on to the platform, so each compartment had complete privacy.

The deed was discovered when two clerks entered the compartment and found blood, a walking stick, and…


Canvas, Blackboard, and most other systems are awful

During the pandemic year many faculty have been forced to create fully online classes in a Learning Management System, such as Canvas or Blackboard. It has been surprisingly difficult. Even those fluent in technologies like email and social media have been flummoxed…


and Congress left through the tunnels — in 1932

The press has been looking through the past for previous examples of what happened in the Capitol last week, partly to see if they can justify using the word “unprecedented.”

It depends on the sort of precedent one is looking for. Are we looking for times when a violent group…


The ongoing case of Dr. James Barry

Whenever historians discuss the “first” of anything, they use qualifiers. In the case of the first female doctor in the UK, there might be several candidates, depending on how one qualifies the word “doctor.” The innumerable wise women and healers who made diagnoses and prescribed treatment for centuries may be…


The complexities of vaccination go back to the 18th century

In the early 18th century, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu would discover the inoculation process for smallpox while she was living in Turkey. She had lost a brother to the disease, and barely survived it herself. …


Caring more may mean doing less

So many people have been thrown into online teaching and learning, and the most conscientious professors want to do a good job. And yet, as the holidays approach, many are weary of the online grind, and looking to make some changes for next time.


How H. G. Wells created an at-home science laboratory

In 1858, the University of London began offering examinations at the Matriculation, Intermediate, and Bachelor’s level to all comers. Students could study independently, with a private tutor or without, and take the exams to earn a degree. …


Open the windows and don’t read the funny bits aloud

While she was not writing about people in quarantine or suffering from new viruses, Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing (1859) did advise on caring for people in their homes.

Nightingale is known, of course, for her service during the Crimean War and her active reform of nursing and hospital hygiene…

Lisa M Lane

Lisa teaches history at community college, writes fiction, and blogs about history and teaching online.

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