You just heard another student say, “I’m only taking this course because I needed another Gen Ed credit to graduate.” After everything you’ve put into your course, they’re only taking it because they have to?

Unfortunately, students are often unpleasantly surprised to learn that humanities courses are in their future. At most institutions, students will take at least one required humanities or social sciences course. While students may not know the intention behind such a requirement, it’s our responsibility to make sure they reap the benefits from our courses.

We strive to make the content relevant while sharpening students’ critical thinking, communication, writing and problem-solving skills. We want our students to be actively engaged, participate in class discussions, ask perceptive questions, leave enlightened in some capacity and challenge what they think they know and believe.

Today, humanities courses span across traditional subject areas, proving vital to education. Want to make sure your humanity course doesn’t go overlooked? The answer is to go digital.

If you’re already using a Cengage text, e.g. Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities by Lawrence Cunningham, Lois Fichner-Rathus and John Reich, the MindTap platform is already available.

Going digital with MindTap elevates the instruction of humanities, making it more engaging and approachable for students, both majors and non-majors. It also allows instructors to be more creative, personalize how they instruct their students and communicate with, their students differently and more effectively than before.

Based on this text and humanities courses in general, there are four key components: 1) the importance of artwork and music; 2) the understanding of literary works; 3) the inclusion of maps and timelines; and 4) the significance of critical thinking.

By going digital, MindTap improves student experiences and further enhances these components. MindTap also makes your humanities course more enjoyable. Here’s how:

1) The Importance of Artwork and Music

The interactive ebook allows students to view and consider artwork by zooming in/out while remaining in focus. Once in a chapter, an artwork film roll appears along the bottom with clickable thumbnails of the chapter’s artwork. This way, students can look at the artwork as they read the chapter or by clicking between images. MindTap also provides students with artwork flashcards to help them study the title, artist, origin, year, location, medium and description of the artwork they saw in the chapter. Students can also listen to music. Each chapter’s “Study” folder directs students to a Spotify music playlist designed specifically for the chapter, genre or period discussed.

2) The Understanding of Literary Works

To learn more about a society, it’s critical to consult the literary works that emerged during that historical time. This text’s MindTap blends literature excerpts throughout its chapters while also providing a “Full Literary Works from Chapter Text” folder so students can view and read the selections in their entirety. By accessing the chapter and literature in MindTap, students are able to listen to their texts on their digital or mobile device. They can even design their listening experience by choosing the reading speed, gender of voice (male or female) and type of accent. Students can access the full literary works in Questia—where they can save what they’ve read and their sources to an “active project”—allowing them to conduct research and write an essay in a guided and portfolio-style environment. Questia has a Writing Center built into it to serve as a perfect refresher of the writing process. Including Questia in your humanities course will help build and encourage students’ confidence in writing. It will even help students cite what they’ve read to include in their essays later!

3) The Inclusion of Maps and Timelines

While providing historical context for our students, it’s often necessary to show them where it all began. In the past, we’ve shown them on a map and moved on. With MindTap however, students are able to use Google Maps to go on a digital journey of the locations discussed in the text and the map links associated with the artwork and figures provided. Here, students are able to view map and satellite views of the locations referenced, thus providing students with a more hands-on, tangible understanding of where history was made and how societies were and are interconnected. The text also provides chapter timeline graphics, corresponding and dictating the order of topics discussed. These images provide a framework for the chapter but also pinpoint key events thus highlighting the culture and values that emerged from the period.

4) The Significance of Critical Thinking

Part of thinking critically is to think creatively, arriving at the same answer or solution through multiple avenues. MindTap provides Compare and Contrast quizzes—allowing students to think critically about and apply what they’ve read and learned in the chapter. While working, students are able to “check their answers” for instant feedback. There are also pre- and post-tests provided to help students gauge what they know going into the chapter versus what they’ve taken away. The questions and exercises throughout the text are uniquely designed to encourage critical thinking, problem solving and reflection.

Still not convinced this is the right move? Consider this: we want to prepare our students for the real world, for a career, right? We also want them to be the best citizens they can possibly be. Let’s face it. Our society, today’s culture, is already driven by technology; we already reside in a digital world. If humanities courses are supposed to prepare our students for the world around them, why wouldn’t you use digital to do that?

Learn more about the textbook discussed here and its features.


Jenny Billings is the Chair of ACA, DRE and ENG, and teaches ENG-111 at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Concord and Salisbury, North Carolina. She has a lot of experience with college/student success, other English courses and all levels of Developmental Reading and English through course, curriculum and master shell development. She’s very versatile when it comes to digital solutions and technology. While she’s been at Rowan-Cabarrus since January 2011, she’s been with Cengage since fall 2013.