Online course and collection exhibits make teaching and learning resources shareable worldwide, turning historical and academic achievements into evergreen digital content. In the University Libraries at Virginia Tech, digitizing educational materials offers learning engagement outside of the classroom to anyone connected to the internet.

The Active Learning Curation Program is a showcase of innovative teaching methods – an exhibit series of digital artifacts,” said Alice Rogers, the program manager for the University Libraries’ digital exhibit initiative. “The first project is comprised of videos, but I would like to expand future projects by creating entire websites. That way, people can interact with exhibit content when they visit the page.”

Seeking Sustainability is the University Libraries’ latest online exhibit that showcases the instruction of geography assistant professor Timothy Baird’s course, Geography 1115: Seeking Sustainability.

Rogers begins the exhibit process by first finding which university courses use innovative teaching methods. While working in the New Classroom Building in October 2017, Rogers noticed Baird’s course in action; the room facilitated group discussion and interactive technology, similar to how the University Libraries’ SCALE-UP and Athenaeum spaces encourage classroom interactivity.

“When I saw Dr. Baird’s engagement in the classroom, I wanted to emphasize why it was effective,” Rogers added. “I decided to interview him and his students so I could make videos explaining his methods and student responses to them.”

This exhibit consists of seven YouTube videos that tell the Seeking Sustainability story, a course on local sustainability taught through open conversation, group participation, interdisciplinary engagement, multimedia learning, and critical thinking.

“General education classes can be a bit tricky because students come from such a diversity of majors and educational experiences,” explained Rogers. “Seeking Sustainability brings students together to discover how a topic can be applicable across all disciplines. It focuses on social networks, justice, economics, and other aspects of life people normally do not think are relevant to sustainability, but are nonetheless dependent on it.”

Similarly, the University Libraries’ Special Collections has produced several online exhibits that aim to bring the diverse Hokie community together to learn about the school’s history, social impact, and research.

One of these exhibits, Black History at Virginia Tech, was first developed in 2000 and is now under construction for a 2018 re-release. This exhibit features the pioneers, events, outstanding achievements, and newspaper articles about the university’s black community. It also describes the many firsts for black students, including the first 100 black graduates and the first black women to enroll.

The LGBTQ History at Virginia Tech exhibit, which went live in 2015, is an ongoing exhibit that chronicles the efforts of LGBTQ students on campus from the early 1970s onward.

“We have patrons and researchers scattered all over the world, so digital collections and exhibits are a great way to share some of our materials with people that might not come to campus,” said Adrienne Serra, University Libraries technical archivist. “Digital exhibits offer the advantage of being able to pull together media in a variety of formats and allow users to interact with the exhibit in more interesting ways.”

“Several of our other exhibits also incorporate mapping tools,” said Serra. “We're able to plot geographical locations on the map and connect them to some of our digital objects, such as architectural projects or transcribed entries from Civil War diaries. Online exhibits allow patrons to interact with our collections in new and interesting ways that simply aren't possible with the traditional format of items sitting in a display case.”

The Seeking Sustainability exhibit will be featured at the ICAT Creativity and Innovation Day on April 30 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. in the Moss Arts Center. For more information about online course or collections exhibits, contact Alice Rogers ( rogersa@vt.edu), Scott Fralin (safralin@vt.edu), or Adrienne Serra (aserra@vt.edu) at the University Libraries.

Written by Alec Masella