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New Stanford Course Brings Silicon Valley to the Humanities Classroom

Stanford University doctoral candidates Alice E.M. Underwood and Daniel Bush.

Stanford University doctoral candidates Alice E.M. Underwood (comparative literature) and Daniel Bush (Slavic languages and literature) developed an online collection of literary quizzes.

Credit: Corrie Goldman

Stanford University's new Literature and Social Online Learning course brings computer science and humanities students together in one classroom. The students work in teams to create websites and mobile apps that give readers new ways to experience literature.

The interdisciplinary course is part of the university's new CS+X initiative, which enables students to study computer science in parallel with the humanities for a joint major degree. It was developed by Stanford comparative literature lecturer Petra Dierkes-Thrun and Stanford computer science professor (and Udacity CEO) Sebastian Thrun. They say learning to communicate across disciplines is the course's greatest challenge as well as its major payoff.

"I want the students to learn to talk to each other and reach levels of achievement that individual disciplines alone never could achieve," says Dierkes-Thrun.

The class also has helped graduate students rethink how they teach literature and given them new ideas about how to harness technology in the classroom. In addition, having students develop websites and apps can improve humanities education by encouraging students to learn in public, according to Dierkes-Thrun.

From Stanford Report
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