History launches “From Waterloo to the Rhine: The British Army 1815-1945” online course

The School of History has launched its first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), entitled ‘From Waterloo to the Rhine: The British Army 1815-1945’, which explores the British Army’s part in the making of the modern world.

The course, which was developed by Dr William Butler and Dr Mario Draper, followed discussions about setting up a distance-learning Master’s programme. Building on the School of History’s strengths in 19th and 20th Century British, European, and Imperial History, the MOOC has been created to appeal to a global audience, who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to engage with the University.

Students on the course will explore how the British Army evolved as an institution between 1815 and 1945, reflecting on its social composition, place in society, and military proficiency, analysing a range of primary sources and incorporating their findings into historical debate. The course aims to enable its students to develop a deeper understanding of the British Army – its successes, failures and role in shaping the modern world.

Sixteen members of the School of History’s academic staff were involved in the creation of videos, many of which were filmed on campus. The School would also like to record its thanks to its friends at the Commonwealth War Grave Commission (CWGC), which granted us the opportunity to film some First World War week at sites in France and Belgium. Once the content had been finalised, colleagues at The National Army Museum, London, provided a large number of images, archival material, and online resources for each topic week.

The University of Kent’s partnership with FutureLearn has provided a user-friendly platform to deliver content. The majority of FutureLearn courses are free-to-access and require no previous experience or knowledge to participate, allowing the School to showcase the expertise of its staff and share their enthusiasm for Modern History with a much broader audience.

Dr Will Butler, Outreach Officer for the School of History and one of the academic leads for the project said, ‘we were keen, as part of our outreach work in local schools, to encourage GCSE and A-Level students to experience what learning and teaching is like at university. Consequently, we have designed many components of the course to fit alongside the existing curriculum. We want to help, in the short term, to improve students’ understanding of the topics they are studying, but also to help them develop new and build upon existing skills. Longer term, we hope that, by engaging in an online course like this, participants will also emerge with greater self-confidence when approaching new or challenging material.’

‘We hope to educate and inspire a different audience but also one that has the potential to take their interests further by studying at university. Part of this exercise is to raise the University of Kent’s – and the School of History’s – online presence ahead of future ventures in this sphere.’