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In Spring 2000 I began an experiment to reinvigorate my United States History 1916-1945 course. I arranged to teach the course in a "smart classroom" with a computer console and direct connections to the Internet. I then created an interactive syllabus. This online syllabus did not just link up to other web pages, but rather to a wide range of primary source materials that would be used to illustrate the lessons and stimulate discussions. It contained links to maps, tables, documents, photographs, mov ing pictures, recordings of speeches, songs, advertisements, radio broadcasts, and documents from that era. These resources were all drawn from materials already available on the Internet.
The three decades covered by the course proved ideal for this experiment as they marked the introduction of many forms of modern media to the people of the United States. For example for a discussion of advertising in the 1920s, the links included magazi ne ads, radio broadcasts, and even a movie ad for corsets that appeared theaters in 1919. A session on the response to the Great Depression included Bing Crosby singing, "Brother Can You Spare a Dime;" an Eddie Cantor comedy routine about the stock marke t crash; a clip "I Am a Prisoner From a Chain Gang; and a 1930 speech by Huey Long as well as photo montage of images of the early years of the Depression.
Since this was all posted and linked from the course web page, not only were these materials available for class discussion, but students could revisit these materials from campus computer labs and at home and use them as resources for their class papers.
The course was also Internet based in yet another way in that all students were required to complete an Internet research assignment using primary sources available from the Library of Congress's American History site. This exercise enabled students to p erform primary research in a relatively controlled environment.
The paper will discuss the creation of this course, the various obstacles that needed to be overcome, and the student response and will evaluate this method of teaching in the university classroom.