Understanding Lincoln

The online graduate course is designed for educators seeking credit and ideas for teaching the Common Core State Standards


Image of Abraham Lincoln

Dickinson College, in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, will offer K-12 educators as well as American Civil War enthusiasts a unique opportunity to explore the life, leadership and legacy of Abraham Lincoln through an online journey titled Understanding Lincoln.  Available for graduate credit, or as a free course for personal enrichment, the course blends online seminars and virtual field trips with opportunities for in-depth discussions with noted Lincoln scholar, author and educator Matthew Pinsker, associate professor of history at Dickinson.

The course begins on July 23, and concludes on Nov. 19, during the 150th anniversary commemoration of the Gettysburg Address. The course will culminate with live-streaming presentations from the historic Wills House in Gettysburg conducted by students from the course who will be invited to attend the ceremonies based on the quality of their final projects.

The abundance of multimedia materials and opportunities to access primary-source documents make Understanding Lincoln a web-based resource for social studies and English teachers to implement the Common Core State Standards—nationally developed state standards for learning—into their classrooms.

"We are attempting something new in the world of online education, by making a graduate course in U.S. history not only open and online but also infused with liberal-arts values," says Pinsker. "Our course will promote interaction with participants, not discourage it. Lincoln was perhaps the greatest self-made learner in American history, and we are aspiring to live up to his ideal. This will not be an exercise in merely watching videos and taking quizzes."

Pinsker holds the Brian C. Pohanka '77 Chair in American Civil War History at Dickinson College, where he also serves as the director of the House Divided Project, an online repository of digital American Civil War resources for K-12 and undergraduate classrooms. Since its 2011 public launch, House Divided has had more than 500,000 unique visitors. Pinsker is the author of Lincoln's Sanctuary and the forthcoming Boss Lincoln. He has led numerous K-12 educator workshops for the Gilder Lehrman Institute and has been designated as a Distinguished Lecturer by the Organization of American Historians.

Course sessions will include live-streamed virtual field trips; live, interactive video seminars led by Pinsker; and discussion sessions led by pedagogy experts from the Gilder Lehrman Institute. The open section of the course is free and provides a certificate of completion for all participants who successfully finish a series of document-based assessments. There also is a limited-enrollment graduate section available for tuition-payers seeking a full master's level course credit certified through an official transcript from Dickinson.

Graduate section participants will engage directly in the interactive seminars with Pinsker and will work under his supervision to create various research and writing assignments, including a major final multimedia project. Three students who submit the best final projects will be invited at no cost, including free travel and accommodations to attend the commemoration ceremonies on Nov. 19 at Gettysburg. They will present their work as part of a final live-streamed virtual field trip to Gettysburg that will conclude the online course.

Partner Institutions:

Dickinson College
, founded in 1773, is a highly selective, private residential liberal-arts college known for its innovative curriculum. Its mission is to offer students a useful education in the arts and sciences that will prepare them for lives as engaged citizens and leaders. The 180-acre campus is located in the heart of historic Carlisle, Pa. The college offers 42 majors with an emphasis on international studies, has more than 40 study-abroad programs in 24 countries on six continents and offers 13 modern languages.

Founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit organization devoted to the improvement of history education. The Institute has developed an array of programs for schools, teachers and students that now operate in all 50 states, including a website that features the more than 60,000 unique historical documents in the Gilder Lehrman Collection. Each year the Institute offers support and resources to tens of thousands of teachers, and through them enhances the education of more than a million students. The Institute's programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Organization of American Historians.


Published June 4, 2013