The Gilder Lehrman Institute and Dickinson College Unveil New Model for Online Education with “Understanding Lincoln”

The new online graduate course offers live seminars, virtual field trips, training in digital history tools—and for three exceptional participants, a free journey to Gettysburg during commemoration ceremonies marking the sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address, November 19, 2013.

New York, NY (June 17, 2013) – Following the success of a pilot online course offered during the summer of 2012, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and Dickinson College have once again joined forces to offer K–12 educators unique opportunities for boosting professional credentials. “Understanding Lincoln,” a three-credit graduate course bookended by the 150th anniversaries of the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address, is open for registration until July 19, 2013. 

The course will offer up to 100 participants the opportunity to engage in live seminar-style discussions led by noted Lincoln scholar Matthew Pinsker. The Dickinson College historian, who is also a Visiting Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College, has organized the course around five key periods in Lincoln’s life: boyhood on the Plains, early career in law, short stint in the House of Representatives, work toward Emancipation, and his ultimate effort to save the Union. Virtual field trips and extensive use of digital history tools will further challenge participants to consider Lincoln’s life and legacy in new ways.

“The buzz around online courses is difficult to miss,” notes Gilder Lehrman’s Director of Digital Projects, Lance Warren. “But on the whole, the existing models trade opportunities for true engagement and deep learning for the chance to build massive cadres of participants.” Instead, “Understanding Lincoln” will enable a limited number of participants to converse with one another and Professor Pinsker in real time, with primary documents from Lincoln’s own hand serving as the starting point for a wide-ranging consideration of the sixteenth president’s life. K–12 educators who enroll will also work one-on-one with Professor Pinsker to develop practical twenty-first-century teaching tools for use in classrooms across the United States. The three participants who create the best final projects will enjoy an all-expenses-paid trip to Gettysburg to present their work and observe ceremonies marking the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s address dedicating the cemetery there.

The course’s focus on primary documents will call upon teachers to think, write, and debate as historians. It will also offer participants new resources for teaching literacy skills under the new Common Core State Standards. “Teachers have heard the call,” says Tim Bailey, a Senior Education Fellow at the Gilder Lehrman Institute and the 2009 National History Teacher of the Year. “We must inspire and instruct our students to make arguments and draw insights from within the four corners of each text we present. This course,” he notes, “offers teachers a thrilling way to introduce students to Lincoln’s life: through an impressively diverse collection of his own remarkable words.”

After two weeks of course registration, the Gilder Lehrman Institute and Dickinson College report great interest in “Understanding Lincoln.” The class is steadily growing and expected to reach its 100-person capacity before the July 19 deadline. “Understanding Lincoln” represents a unique online offering in the humanities, embracing the rich complexities and contradictions of history while calling upon participants to work just as hard—and learn just as much—as they would on the campus of any top-tier university. As enrollment climbs, it’s a model already proving compelling.

For more information and to enroll, visit