In my survey class this semester, I am experimenting with a variation on the traditional term paper. Instead of posing a research question, I created an Image/Object Gallery that includes several dozen images from the period covered in the class. The images and objects are varied; they include historical maps, portraits, engravings, photographs, objects including a teapot, a pipe tomahawk, and a lukasa (or Congolese memory board), and the like. This took a little while, but it was fun and took on a momentum of its own.
Once the images and objects were assembled into a single PDF, with a link for each that would lead students to its source and provide some bare-bones information about it, I asked them to choose one--or alternatively, propose an image or object of their own choosing--and research it. Here is the instruction I provided: "In general, you should begin with the following questions: What type of image or object is it? Who produced it? Who was the intended audience? In what context was it created, and for what purpose? How have scholars interpreted it? Considering the materials we have covered in class, what larger meanings or interpretations can you ascribe to this image or object?"
Students will write a traditional essay about their image/object, but they will also prepare a visual presentation for the class on the subject. These are short--no more than five minutes--and I have asked them to use Adobe Spark, which is currently free to users, though it would also work to use presentation software like PowerPoint or Prezi. My purpose in this aspect of the assignment is, first, to give students a chance to share what they've learned (which most students love to do), and second, to encourage them to find other images or objects that accompany the one they've researched, and do a presentation that is as much visual as textual.
I'm excited to see the results. Any other alternatives to a traditional term paper out there?