NEWS RELEASE, 10/22/98
Rare medieval manuscripts to be examined Oct. 23 via the Internet in UC Berkeley distance learning class
By Kathleen Scalise, Public Affairs
BERKELEY -- In an experiment using the latest methods in technology and distance learning, scholars on opposite coasts - at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Columbia University in New York - are team-teaching a Medieval Studies 205 class via the Internet. The class examines rare medieval manuscripts too valuable and fragile to be handled regularly.
Both universities are famous for their extensive and rare medieval manuscript collections, dating from the 8th century through the 15th century.
The distance learning class not only introduces students to the Middle Ages through these valuable primary source materials, but this Friday will teach students how fraudulent manuscripts can be detected.
Reporters are invited to sit in on a portion of the Oct. 23 class - specifically, from 11:30 to 12 noon - to see distance learning in action. In this particular session of the semester-long course, students will learn how one supposedly priceless manuscript, a Luke gospel lectionary said to date from 1328 A.D., was recently unmasked at UC Berkeley as a fraud.
"It is clear that no university in the country has the resources to teach everything," said Charles Faulhaber, director of the Bancroft Library, who organized the course and planned the team-teaching assignments. "Together, however, we can do just that. This course is an experiment to see whether it will be possible for very different institutions to teach collaboratively, sharing faculty and library resources through the medium of the web and distance learning technologies."
Almost every session of the course is taught by a different professor. The Oct. 23 class will be taught by Robert Brentano, chair of UC Berkeley's Academic Senate and a professor of history, and Anthony Bliss, UC Berkeley's curator of rare books and manuscripts.
The manuscripts to be seen via computer were digitized through the Digital Scriptorium project, a web database of some 10,000 images of important research materials based mainly on medieval documents from UC Berkeley and Columbia. The project is housed on a UC Berkeley web site (http://sunsite.Berkeley.edu/Scriptorium/) and is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Columbia's manuscripts, also in the UC Berkeley database, will be among the images viewed online by the class. Some sessions of the class will be taught by Columbia instructors from their New York distance learning facility, and others from UC Berkeley. The class syllabus and list of instructors can be viewed at http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/scriptorium/Class/syllabus.html.
Two huge computer screens measuring five feet across diagonally are used in the class. At UC Berkeley, one screen shows Columbia students in their classroom and the other screen displays the fragile documents being examined. Students at Columbia can see the UC Berkeley class and instructor, as well as the manuscript images. The large video screens and complex audio technology involved allow students at the geographically distant campuses to see and hear each other, ask questions and work together as if they were in a traditional seminar course.
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