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Using Milestone Docs in a Survey Course


Judging by what I see in my social media feeds, instructors who teach the history survey are forever tweaking their course design and overall approach. And with good reason: what a daunting prospect it must be to cover the massive amount of eras/subjects that are possible when teaching the U.S., World, or Western Civ survey course. Because our service is so flexible and can work with a wide diversity of course designs, I thought it might be interesting to highlight some of the approaches that our adopting professors take with the survey course.

  • Traditional approach: coverage model, standard textbook, Milestone as a document reader. In this case, an instructor designs his/her course around a basic set of chronological units, with the textbook providing a narrative backbone (and often mirroring the chronological units) and our site providing supporting primary documents. Often, the instructor will use a small number of primary documents as supplementary readings, perhaps only 15-20.
  • Traditional approach, document-based: coverage model with Milestone as the primary “text” and the textbook as supporting material. This approach is popular with a number of our customers. Here, the instructor once again uses the traditional coverage model, generally with chronological units and a textbook, but with a twist: Milestone Documents becomes the primary set of course materials, with the narrative textbook serving a supplementary role. Instructors who take this approach often assign 60-70 documents or more to their students in a standard semester-length course. A good example is Eric Cunningham of Gonzaga, who serves as our Editor in Chief for World History 1500-present and Western Civ 1500-present. Read Eric’s case study.
  • Traditional approach, document-based, no textbook: coverage model with Milestone as primary text and no supporting textbook. This approach is similar to the previous one, with the difference being that here the instructor skips the textbook altogether. Our US History II Editor in Chief, Jonathan Rees, is a good example of this course design. However, it must be said that Jonathan has started to experiment with an “un-coverage” approach in his survey class. Read Jonathan’s case study.
  • Un-coverage approach, document based: In the un-coverage model, the instructor stops trying to cover the broad array of subjects/eras found in a typical survey course. Instead, the instructor highlights a smaller number of subjects/themes and designs the course around those themes. While this approach doesn’t preclude the use of a textbook, most of the instructors who use our site with an un-coverage model appear to have ditched their textbooks entirely and instead rely on our documents as their primary reading material.

While those examples don’t cover every possible permutation of survey course design, they do describe the majority of courses in use with our site. If you’re interested in reading more of our case studies and/or launching an evaluation trial of our site to see how it might fit with your own course design, click here.

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