The twenty-first century is witnessing a blurring of the traditional divisions between the domains of learning, teaching, and research. This change has been spurred, to a large extent, by advances in information technology, and all that that term implies in hardware, software, new pedagogy, access, accessibility and distribution of data and its application. The collaborative promise of new technologies and the so-called semantic web have the potential to free information from the dark corners of archives and forgotten shelves of history and make it accessible to all citizens. The ubiquitous anytime, anywhere learning that the twenty-first century both proffers and demands implies that teachers and learners must take a much broader approach to scholarship, teaching, and learning; new technology helps us meet that challenge.
I-CHASS has developed RiverWeb in an attempt to address the needs of undergraduate education in support of inquiry-based learning. A dynamic multimedia archive of Mississippi River history and information, RiverWeb was created to meet the challenge of integrating information technology into the classroom by providing an interactive, web-based research and learning environment that engages students and brings the humanities, arts, and social sciences to life. It is structured so that faculty can offer their students the assistance they need to identify a problem; create hypotheses; explore humanities, arts, and social science information from different sources; combine, classify, and analyze that data; work with others interactively; and present conclusions in a cogent and concise manner. These skills, which structure all intellectual inquiry, are fundamental to transforming data to knowledge and knowledge to action, forming the capstone of research. RiverWeb integrates these critical data resources into cohesive narrative stories that follow individuals and cases over time and are linked to other sources in a coherent manner. The hands-on, inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning is supported by giving students access to original documents and artifacts, enabling them to “do” research instead of simply reading about it, thereby contributing to their own sense of genuine discovery. By providing access to interesting, concise, and relevant primary materials for research projects, RiverWeb also provides a learning environment that can help prepare students to handle life in a society that is increasingly dependent on science and technology.