How to Ace the Course


There are two underlying principles built into the scheme of the course that provide keys to success in HIST 104.


1.      The system of evaluation reflects the values of the course. Look at where the points are, and you know how to direct your efforts. This is deliberate.

2.      Your fate is in your own hands. It is up to you to study the lectures, do the reading, and get your assignments in. Even if you are struggling with the content of lectures and readings, you still can do pretty well in the course if you just hang in there and put in the effort.


This brings me to my basic philosophy in teaching this kind of course. I'm not here to guard the gate. I'm here to enable your success. This doesn't imply any dilution of standards or expectations. I expect you to handle challenging material and to do good work. I expect serious effort and respect for the enterprise. In return I'll not only wish you well but also do what I can to make your work rewarding and your success attainable. I won't be playing any games with you or tripping you up. I state clear expectations and act according to them. I want you to do well. When you succeed, I succeed. So here are some final points of advice. 


·         Be familiar with the organization and requirements of the course. If you are uncertain, ask your instructor.

·         Stay current. You have to contribute to discussions on time; you have to take the quizzes on time; and in order to do those things, you have to do the reading and study the lectures on time.

·         Pay attention to communications. Check the Facebook wall, because it will carry announcements and reminders. Check your messages, too.

·         Work through the lectures conscientiously. This takes time, but it is the only way to do well on the quizzes. Put in the time, take some notes, and then take the quiz for each lecture shortly after you've completed study of the lecture.

·         Maximize your participation points. Notice that points for participation are hard points; you need these. So get in there and talk Tocqueville!

·         On the soft-points side of the ledger you have flexibility. Do all the work you need to get all the points you need. It's as simple as that.

·         Attitude and commitment are underlying factors in success. This course is a good workplace, where expectations are reasonable and plain. Come on in, relax, do the work, and get something out of it. You should sense that I think History is great stuff. Whether or not you agree, you'll find value in the course and enjoy good company along the way.


I won't say good luck in the course, because there isn't much luck involved. Instead  I'll say I'm happy you're here, and I wish you well in all your work.


Tom Isern

Professor of History & University Distinguished Professor

North Dakota State University