The literary journals class has ben running at UMW since Spring 2007, and I’ve written about this course a couple of times before. The course was initially designed by Claudia Emerson, and the idea was to have the students break up into four or five groups and come up with an idea for an online literary journal and then see it through to an inaugural issue in 15 weeks. This means making a call for submissions, vetting the submissions, and creating an online space where it can all be experienced. No small task for a 15 week course, but in the six or seven times it has been taught every group has finished the course with a full blown online literary journal. Which I think is really quite impressive, and underscores what can be done accomplished the course of 15 weeks when you both push students and give them freedom.
For the last two semesters professor Michael McCarthy has taken over the reins of the course, and this semester’s crop of journals is really impressive. I tried to admonish them early on to stay away from prefab site creators like WIX—there was a move towards WIX last semester that I believe hurt the overall quality of the experience—and I want to say that that has pushed a number of groups to dig deeper in terms of the site design and user experience, but truth is all the credit really goes to professor McCarthy who has kept them on task all semester. This course is quite unique in that they work in groups almost the entire course, and so much of the work is self-directed—creating a series of milestones for the groups and keeping them on task and giving them regular and necessary feedback is crucial—and this semester’s journals are some of the best yet. Take a look for yourself.