Princeton's Global History Lab (GHL) is a platform for learning, skill development and collaboration in the creation of new narratives across global divides.
How Does it Work?
The GHL program begins with its first course, History of the World or "HOW," which is a course about world history from 1300 to the present. Students at our 28 partner institutions work in teams, solving common historical problems and posting their work in a shared gallery space where fellow GHL students across the globe comment and collaborate. HOW has two goals. First, to teach global history globally. It encourages students to engage with each other to debate the dynamics of integration and disintegration across borders. Second, it bridges the divide between refugees and non-refugees, stateless strangers and host country students. HOW is the world’s first course to merge refugees and non-refugees into a single, collaborative, learning ecosystem. Refugees feel included in the historical mosaic; non-refugees learn from their stateless peers.
The GHL's second course, Global History Dialogues, carries deep exchange one more step by enabling all of the GHL's learners, including refugee learners, and their collaborators to transition from consumers of knowledge into producers of knowledge. By integrating refugee learners and host community learners to design collaborative oral history projects narrating the lives of strangers and their new neighbors, students work to create studies and stories about migration, resettlement, integration, and exclusion. Once complete, students are invited to share their oral history projects with the greater global community on the Global History Dialogues website.
Unlike most online—and even traditional—history courses, in which students learn parallel to each other, the GHL's emphasis on collaboration, conversation, and connection places interaction at the heart of the classroom, both digital and physical. A network of partner institutions offers the course concurrently, meaning students participate in local classrooms embedded in the larger global whole. This blended model, wherein students use an online platform to watch lectures and interact with distant peers, and meet with local colleagues for in-person discussions and assignments, increases the time students are able to spend working with and learning from each other.
Global Learning in a Global Classroom
The use of digital technologies allows for collaboration across oceans, borders, and time zones. By partnering with institutions of higher education in Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, the GHL welcomes the world into the classroom. As students work with their local peers in both courses, they rely on their counterparts around the world to teach them about other topics and sources. Interdependence is built into the class structure, and students are encouraged to see their peers, near and far, as contributors to the program's growing reservoir of shared knowledge. The many perspectives that students bring to the classroom, and the narratives they study and create with each other, both enrich learners’ experience in the class and suggest possibilities for global histories that are more polyphonic, dialogic, and decentered.
From its inception, the GHL has been committed to including refugee and migrant learners, a commitment that has profoundly shaped the GHL over the years. It is the first program to include refugee and non-refugee learners in the same global classroom.
The GHL is unique not only for its class makeup, but also for its content as history, particularly historical narratives, are central to how we understand the world and make sense of the strangers that inhabit it. Moreover, the work of historical inquiry, from analyzing primary sources, to creating narratives with other members of a team, to presenting findings in written and oral form, develops and hones a myriad of transferrable skills. The GHL thus challenges the prioritization of vocational training in emergency higher education contexts, making a case for the importance of historical understanding and insight in our fractured world, and for the broad utility of the historian’s toolkit.