A note on communication

You are always welcome to stop by my office hours or arrange for an appointment–just email me with at least three possible meeting times. All other communication for this course will happen in the Slack group. If you registered for the course but did not receive an invitation, please add yourself to the group using your UNO email address. You are responsible for all announcements posted to the #general channel. Here is how to get started with Slack.

If you’re writing me an email, bear in mind your tone and audience: emails to your professors shouldn’t be like emails to your friends. For help, see this guide to emailing your professors. I can promise to respond to emails within 48 hours; often I will respond more quickly, but you should not send me an urgent email the night before an assignment is due, for example. I only check email during business hours.

Attendance and participation

Participation is essential to this course, requiring active and engaged participation in our activities and discussions. There will be few lectures and we are not building towards a final exam. Instead, we’re working to think critically about environmental history and analyzing relevant data. Come to class having completed the readings for the day and be prepared to discuss them. We will assess your reading through course engagement and writing assignments.

This means you must be present not just physically but mentally. I allow you to have two missed classes without penalty over the course of the semester. But note that I make no distinction between excused and unexcused absences, so use this allotment wisely. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed and make up any assignments. Once beyond your allotted absences, you will receive zero credit for any in-class work or activities missed.

This said, I allow for one “information overload” day in the semester. I understand that semesters get hectic, and the reading and workload of this course will be challenging. There might be days where you simply cannot, for any reason, complete the assigned reading. To that end, you can take a single “information overload” day during the semester. On that day, you will not be expected to contribute to class discussion and you will receive a pass on any in-class work. But to take the “information overload” day:

  1. You must attend class, listen to any lecture or discussion, and take part in activities or group work not dependent on the day’s readings. Information overload days are not an additional excused absence.
  2. You must inform me before the beginning of class that you will be taking your information overload day. You may not wait until I call on you or or you see the day’s in-class work. I will not honor any information overload request made during class.
  3. Take care to be on time if you plan to make an information overload day request, as you won’t be allowed to request it if you arrive late.
  4. You may not extend information overload day into another class session, even if the readings or activities of one day continue into the next.
  5. You may not take an information overload day to avoid completing an assignment.
  6. Information overload days will excuse you from any quizzes or reflections, but nothing of more serious import.

At the end of the semester, for any allowed absences or information overload days you do not use I will drop your lowest in-class work grade. This means if you attend all sessions prepared and did not require an information overload day, I will drop your three lowest in-class work grades from my final grade calculations.

Digital devices


All phones should be silenced and stowed for the duration of the class. If your phone rings once during class in the semester, we will all laugh at you. If your phone rings again during the semester, I will ask you to leave and count you absent.

You’re not as sneaky texting under a table or desk as you think you are.

Laptops and tablets

This course will rely on access to laptops for almost every session, but laptops also present a temptation to disengage from the class. You cannot use a laptop to follow a game, text, check on your friends latest social media posts, and so forth. These are distractions not only to you, but to those around you as well. If you choose to virtually exit my class, I will ask you to physically leave and mark you as absent. If you seem frequently distracted by what’s on your screen, I will ask you to put your laptop away–even for the duration of the semester. I may periodically ask everyone to put their “lids down”–this includes me!–in order to focus our attention on another aspect of the class.

Technology problems

At some point in the semester, you will undoubtedly have a problem with technology: a laptop will crash, a file will be corrupted, a server will go down, software will not work as expected, and so on. But these aren’t emergencies, they’re part of living life in the 21st century. Now is as good a time as any to start working on habits to prevent such snafus from halting your work: safe often and early; always keep a backup of your work (ideally, in at least two places). However, virus infections, lost flash drives, lost passwords, corrupted files, and so on is not an emergency. It is your responsibility to take steps to ensure your work will not be lost; or if a device isn’t working, to find one that does. I will not be granting extensions based on problems you may have with a device or internet services you use. If a problem arises with software we are all using for the course, we will work through them together.

Academic dishonesty

Don’t cheat. I hold a hard line on this: if you cheat, you’re done. That’s an F for the course and you will be reported to the University.


Reasonable accommodations are provided for students who are registered with Accessibility Services Center and make their requests sufficiently in advance. For more information, contact Accessibility Services Center (MBSCMBSC, Phone: 554-2872)

Acknowledgments and license

This syllabus borrows ideas from other digital history classes taught by Sharon Leon, Trevor Owens, Mills Kelly, Jeff McClurken, Caleb McDaniel, Douglas Seefeldt, Zephyr Frank, Ben Schmidt, Ryan Cordell, and Lincoln Mullen. The design and layout are explicitly borrowed from Lincoln Mullen’s syllabus layouts <http://http://lincolnmullen.com/>.

This syllabus and all assignments are copyrighted © 2016 Jason Heppler and licensed CC-BY 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/>. You are free to use or modify this syllabus for any purpose, provided that you attribute it to the author, preferably at the course website listed above.