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E-Learning Project “Methods for Digitally Indexing and Compiling Digital Editions in the Philology of the Christian Orient: from Digitizations of Handwritten Text to a Digital Edition”

The E-Learning Project “Methods for Digitally Indexing and Compiling Digital Editions in the Philology of the Christian Orient: from Digitizations of Handwritten Text to a Digital Edition (</xml>)” develops future-oriented Blended-Learning concepts with long-term goals and impact for university students and young philologists at the Freie Universität Berlin. The project is aimed at providing Byzantine Studies students, as well as students of Classical Philology more generally, with education and training in the digital humanities. It is of utmost importance that these digital methodologies and modes of operation are taught and communicated to students and future scholars since they are increasingly becoming required standards for academic philological work. They must therefore be included in any long-term plan for academic education.

Students and researchers alike can expect to learn the methods and tools of the digital humanities through first hand practical experience. These skills are first introduced in a foundations course and then further explored in an advanced training course. The international TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) standards for the markup and processing of texts will be used to teach digital indexing methods as well as the tools for creating digital editions. In the course of the project digital teaching and learning resources will be generated to then be used as part of a blended-learning concept.


Contents of the project: The project aims to convey to students and researchers in the philology of the Christian Orient, as well as neighbouring disciplines at the Freie Universität Berlin, the foundational knowledge of and instruction in the methods and tools of the digital humanities. A special focus will be the creation of digital editions and the structured markup of philological texts. Until now, these topics have not established themselves within the humanities and cultural sciences at the Freie Universität; rather, they have only been mentioned as goals in various research projects. There has not yet been any concerted effort to establish a enduring, long-term, well-ordered education for students of philology that includes the digital humanities in the regular curricula of the various courses of study at our research and teaching institution.

The project “Methods for Digitally Indexing and Compiling Digital Editions in the Philology of the Christian Orient: from Digitizations of Handwritten Texts to a Digital Edition (</xml>)” therefore seeks to take advantage of already existing educational e-learning material as well as generate digital learning and teaching material to produce high quality blended-learning courses and curricula. The course offerings that this e-learning project produces are open to all graduate and postgraduate students, as well as researchers from the humanities including philosophy, history and cultural studies. The courses themselves are well-suited for masters as well as advanced bachelors students, as these young academics can be expected to do work with a high level of independence.


Incorporating current developments: In recent years more and more manuscripts have been digitized and made available online to the public. As a result, students can come into contact with handwritten manuscripts much earlier and with much less difficulty than ever before. The goal of the current e-learning project is to take advantage of these possibilities to expose students to original primary sources (in the form of digitizations of handwritten texts) early on and make use of these in a forward looking manner.

Opening up the field of philology to the current digital age will be of utmost importance to the e-learning project “Methods for Digitally Indexing and Compiling Digital Editions in the Philology of the Christian Orient: from Digitizations of Handwritten Texts to a Digital Edition (</xml>)”. These measures are necessary to shape philology as a competitive academic discipline and also to ensure that Berlin remains a respected site of research and teaching in this field. With an eye on what future skills and abilities will be required of philologists it is therefore important to convey to students digital competency in a structured manner.


Project Goals: The planned project will focus on a fundamental aspect of the digital humanities: the structured indexing and markup of texts to be used as core philological data. The project will seek to convey knowledge of the following: Established standards for the indexing and marking up textual data such as XML (eXtensible markup language) the TEI standard (Text Encoding Initiative); software tools for processing data according to the aforementioned standards such as the XML-editor oXygen; and familiarity with software and programming languages for the processing of this generated data to construct and be used in an XML database (e.g. XQuery, XPath). The e-learning project empowers students to independently work through questions and inquiries arising at the intersection between classical philological work (studying manuscripts, appraising digitized handwritten sources, print editions, etc.) and the future-oriented digital implementation of this philological work (compiling digital editions, creation and maintenance of databases, etc.).

To this end the philological foundations courses will be restructured to incorporate blended learning and develop blended-learning concepts. Online teaching and learning activities as well as e-learning materials will complement the teaching done in the classroom effectively. The main aim of the e-learning project is the development of blended-learning concepts and digital teaching- and learning material for several courses. From these acquired experiences it will then be possible to establish foundational knowledge of how the digital humanities can be leveraged to be used to compile digital editions, specifically in the field of philology in the humanities.


Course offerings for students: Two blended-learning courses will be offered in parallel as part of the e-learning project. Their aim is to convey knowledge of

1) the foundational methodologies used in philological work

2) what possibilities exist for how to process and use these methodologies with the help of the digital humanities.

Both perspectives on philological work will thereby be conveyed: Acquiring and using foundational knowledge of contemporary analogue and digital technologies in the field of philology will be covered and conveyed to students in a structured manner.


The e-learning project is a conceptual development of the Byzantine studies teaching project “The Digitization of Philology – the Corpus Coranicum Christianum as well as of the research project Corpus Coranicum Christianum. Both projects are funded by resources from the Freie Universität Berlin (granting of the Teaching Prize of 2016 and research grants from the Research Commission). With the help of the Presidium of the Freie Universität it is now possible to systematically include students in the long-term digital development of field of philology not only in the context of research projects but also in the context of more direct teaching. This third successful teaching concept in the realm of the digital humanities will more effectively implement the core purpose of any professorship, namely engaging with its students in the form of teaching.


The course offering is initially planned to take place across two years and will begin in the winter semester of 2019/20. Each area – on the one hand classical philological work and its digital extension on the other – will be introduced with its own foundations course in the winter semester and will then be further developed in an advanced course in the summer semester. This amounts to a total of four courses per academic year.

Past experience lends itself to constructing and designing the current teaching project. The current project will benefit from the experience gained from the introductory course “Digital humanities and methodologies of digital editions (XML)” at the Institute for Greek and Latin Philology (winter semester 2017/18) as well as the foundational work in the area of classical philology done by the Byzantine Studies professorship in its research internships since 2014. Additionally, the current project can take advantage of close collaboration with the universities of Halle and Leipzig, specifically the availability of their teaching material and expertise regarding the digital humanities.


The Berlin Byzantine Studies is committed to integrating its ongoing research projects into its regular teaching operation along the lines of the future-oriented concept of the Freie Universität Berlin. In order for this research-oriented teaching to now also include the digital humanities the professorship is planning larger research proposals for projects at the intersection of classical philology (appraisals of handwritten sources, critical editions, Palaeography/Codicology) and their digital processing and preparation (databases, online editions, text markup). Our own students as well as students from neighbouring disciplines will be hereby included in investigating new questions and developments in current research projects as they arise.

The aim of the Berlin Byzantine Studies is to guide students at one of the best networked German universities towards methodologies and work processes of future-oriented research. In the present digital age the digital humanities are indispensable to the field of philology.



Contact: Dr. Manolis Ulbricht