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"Hello Humanities!" – A Modular Python Programming Course Targeting the Specific Needs and Requirements of Humanities Students

Activity: Talk or presentation at external institutions/eventsTalk/PresentationContributed

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27 Mar 2023


At the Chair of Applied Linguistics at TU Dresden, teaching programming skills is part of the basic humanities curriculum designed to prepare students for the increasingly digital world. Building on several years of expe- rience in teaching programming to linguistics students, we are currently developing a modular programming course in Python addressing a broader community of humanities students and researchers, not least from the newly-established DH Master’s at TU Dresden. Embedded in virTUos which explores digital teaching and learn- ing, we are designing materials taking into account the specific needs and requirements of our target group: Humanists typically have no prior knowledge of programming, often little technical knowhow in general and sometimes even reservations about technology.

We are creating modular Jupyter notebooks which do not presuppose any specific knowledge. We distinguish a basic module from advanced modules. The former contains notebooks covering the basics of programming, relying on examples relevant to DH, i.e., focusing on text rather than numerical data like in many programming textbooks/tutorials. The advanced modules, then, deal with real use cases, both general ones (e.g., web scraping) and ones that are of interest for specific humanities subjects such as automated news factor analysis for commu- nication studies. Thanks to the modular structure, students from diverse subjects and on different levels can learn programming skills that are relevant to them specifically. Being designed for asynchronous learning, students work on the notebooks whenever, wherever and at the pace they wish. As we will publish our materials as Open Educational Resources, lecturers can include our notebooks in their teaching both as-is, or easily extend them with modules building on the provided ones, but delving into further topics. The notebooks are complemented by videos, e.g., introducing students to algorithmic thinking (shown to increase learning success) and show-casing the iterative and rarely straightforward coding reality.

At TU Dresden, we have integrated the notebooks in a Blended Learning setup where students individually study the materials but still meet regularly to address issues as well as to cultivate an open-minded, frustration-tolerant attitude towards programming. Furthermore, we organize hackathons as collaborative learning has been shown to be beneficial in acquiring programming skills.
On our talk we want to show an exemplary Jupyter notebook, highlighting our strategies in training our specific target group, humanities students, in programming, as well as sharing insights from teaching using our materials in the last terms.


TitleProgramming and Data Infrastructure in Digital Humanities
Conference number
Duration27 - 29 March 2023
Degree of recognitionInternational event
LocationUniversidade de Évora