A Learner-Centered Approach to Design an Online Food History Course

As a Bass Online Apprentice (Bass OA) this fall Ashley Rose Young has the opportunity to design an engaging online course that aligns with her research on American food history. Her project, Cornbread Nation will critically examine both the history and culture of Southern cuisine.

I am also thinking deeply about pedagogy and how I might share my course design process with fellow educators. One way I am making my process transparent is through a portfolio and personal learning platform called PebblePad. I will house my syllabus, course materials, and students’ public writing on this platform including blog posts and multimedia video profiles of local food entrepreneurs.

In this post Young shares her plans and the digital tools she will use to create a learner-centered experience:

Journaling, Blogging, and Creative Writing

In this class writing, cooking, and tasting, among the other senses are the modes through which students will critically engage with Southern food cultures. One of the course’s primary objectives is to bridge the gap between past and present to understand how our modern food culture is informed by long standing historical trends related to race, class, ethnicity, and gender. With our senses as our guides, we will practice several types of writing styles including journaling, blogging, creative writing, and also exercise different investigation methods including archival research and oral history in order to understand the development of Southern food culture.

Oral History & Media Presentation

Students will spend about 2 hours a week in the university’s surrounding communities observing how food is locally produced, distributed, and consumed. To connect writing and consumption practices, students will keep a Food Culture Journal as they observe food cultures in our community, revising certain entries to publish on our class blog.


In order to practice journalistic research and writing each student will conduct an oral history and create a multimedia profile of a local farmer or chef that will also live on our class blog.

Through this final project students will learn key digital tools and methods of research to create a 3-4 minute media presentation.

Rubenstein Library – Archival Research

The Cornbread Nation Bass Online Apprentice project also explores the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s Southern cookbook collection, which Young became quite familiar with during her 2-year internship at the Rubenstein library. Young has worked as a graduate intern at the Rubenstein as a Hartman Center Graduate Fellow. To learn more about Young’s work with the Rubenstein library see this video.

Sharing the Course Design Process

With this Bass OA project, It is my hope to track the process of course planning so that I can share a step-by-step guide on how to incorporate a multimedia video project into the classroom, thus making this dynamic course assignment available to other educators. Stay tuned!

Read About Young’s Work

To read about Ashley Rose Young’s work on American food cultures see her professional website. Read about the Southern Foodways Alliance where she co-researched and created the Carrboro Farmers’ Market Oral History Project which you can find here. This project served as inspiration for Young’s multi-media profile assignment in Cornbread Nation.

About the Bass OA Program

To address the need of preparing graduate students for online teaching the Graduate School implemented the Bass Online Apprentice Fellowship Program in partnership with Duke Learning Innovation. The program provides graduate students practical experience with online course design and development, and online course implementation and teaching. To learn more contact Sophia Stone.

To learn more about the current projects see Welcome Fall 2017 Bass Online Apprentices.