Top 5 Perks of Enrolling in IDCL’s Oral History for Social Change Certificate

By Dr. Elizabeth M. Melton, ACLS Leading Edge Fellow

This day has been long in the making! About a year ago, I started working with IDCL to create a new online training program for anyone who wants to learn how to create an oral history project that promotes social justice. Eleonora Anedda (IDCL Oral Historian), Dr. Tiffany Puett (IDCL Executive Director) and I teamed up with ReligionAndPublicLife.org to design an asynchronous online curriculum that is engaging, informative, instructional, and comprehensive.

We call it the Oral History for Social Change Certificate.

The Oral History for Social Change Certificate is made up of five individual courses: 

▸ HUM 301: Introduction to Oral History
▸ HUM 302: Oral History and Social Justice
▸ HUM 303: Oral History Project Planning
▸ HUM 304: Conducting Oral History Interviews
▸ HUM 305: Archiving and Curating Oral Histories

Each course is designed to stand on its own, but the courses are most comprehensive when completed together as the full certificate. Course one focuses on the origins of Oral History as a formal methodology and the second course delves into oral history’s relationship to social justice, anti-oppression frameworks, and ethical issues. Courses three through five provide more technical instruction on the tools and skills needed to successfully plan, collect, and archive oral history narratives.

Sounds interesting, right? Well, there’s a lot more that makes this certificate special, so here’s my top 5 reasons you should enroll: 

  1. It  teaches you how to do oral history and thus, change the world. 

At IDCL, we believe oral histories can help us describe the world as it is, but they can also be spaces where we identify social problems and imagine social alternatives. Collecting, sharing, and archiving oral histories is one way we can start to make sense of the everyday experiences that shape the world we live in. Traditional historical narratives have often excluded voices of women, people of color, indigenous, young people, lgbtq+, disabled persons, and others. This means their stories have been left out of the historical record, further contributing to their disempowerment. When we make spaces for the telling and preservation of these stories, we support a more robust and inclusive historical narrative.

  1. It introduces you to a community where you can brainstorm and troubleshoot ideas.

ReligionAndPublicLife.org is a new online learning and gathering space. This means it’s as much about meeting and connecting with others in your community as much as it is about learning new skills. IDCL is committed to creating spaces where oral historians, activists and other practitioners can come together as they develop new oral history projects. Our team is available to answer your questions as you make your way through the curriculum and later this fall we will host our first cohort of certificate students. Cohort members will still work independently, but there will also be a few group meetings where we can discuss specific challenges and project ideas in community. We’ll share more about the cohort period in the coming months! 

  1. It uses innovative and engaging online learning approaches. 

Our certificate benefits from ReligionAndPublicLife.org’s innovative approach to designing and organizing online courses. We follow Dr. Nate Walker’s WISE steps in order to present a more dynamic and engaging style of e-learning. Each course is made up of four WISE sections:

W – Watch 

I – Interact

S – Study

E – Engage 

Each section builds on the other.  For example, in Course One you first watch three videos that introduce course topics and IDCL’s team. This is followed by an interactive vocabulary game where we review the terms introduced in the videos. Next, learners study the material by listening to podcasts that go into greater detail about concepts and projects, and review course packs that include reading materials. Finally, learners engage with one another and IDCL’s team in a discussion forum where they can reflect on the course material and ask questions about their project. 

  1. It is asynchronous and fully online, so you decide when and where you study.
    *Bonus* It’s reasonably priced!

One of the unique aspects of this training is that you can complete it on your own timeline. ReligionAndPublicLife.org is available as both a website and an app, so you can balance your instructional time in a way that works for you. You can listen to the podcasts and review the course packs anytime, anywhere. This means you can listen to podcasts on your way home from work, review the course pack in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep, and you can walk away from a lesson any time life intervenes. 

We want this certificate to be a useful tool and resource for real practitioners, so we’ve kept the cost of enrollment low. If you already have some experience with oral history and just want a refresher on interview transcription and best practices in archiving, then you may just want to take a single course (HUM 305: Archiving and Curating Oral Histories). An individual course costs $56. This gets you access to all of the WISE steps in that lesson– videos, course packs (with resource guides), podcasts, interactive games, and the discussion forum. If you’re a newbie to oral history and want to learn it all, then you can enroll in the entire certificate for $224. 

  1. It builds on knowledge developed by experts in the field. 

Anyone can do oral history, but it can be difficult to know where to begin or just how much is involved in seeing a project through to completion. Building on the Institute for Diversity and Civic Life’s extensive oral history training and archival expertise, the Oral History for Social Change certificate walks you through the steps needed to design and execute your own oral history project. 

Our team has a strong and diverse background in oral history methods and other critical cultural methods. Eleonora holds an MA in Oral History from Columbia University and came to this field from a Gender Studies background. Dr. Elizabeth Melton, whose background is in Performance Studies and Communication, came to oral history through critical performance ethnography and oral history performance. Dr. Tiffany Puett, who also made her way to oral history through ethnography, is the resident religions expert and founded our Religions Texas oral history. 

We each brought our own background and experience to the certificate. When you enroll in the certificate you’ll encounter Scholar Highlights where we introduce and unpack works by seminal scholars like Dr. Luisa Passerini, Dr. E. Patrick Johnson, and Dr. Nepia Mahuika. You will also find Practitioner Highlights, which are interviews with oral historians and archivists active in the field. Finally, our team invited outside experts, including teachers, scholars, activists and community-based practitioners, to review our curriculum. 

For more information about the Oral History for Social Change Certificate visit our website:

To enroll: 

  1. Visit http://www.bookstore.religionandpubliclife.org/partners/idcl/
  2. Make an account on ReligionAndPublicLife.org.
  3. Sign up in the IDCL bookstore.
  4. Get started!

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