New resource for anthropology instructors enhances online teaching

Anthropology is the scientific study of humans and their sociocultural worlds, a field of study made significantly more difficult by a global pandemic. But an online resource is making it possible for anthropologists to support each other and their students.

Zoë Wool.

Zoë Wool. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Zoë Wool, an assistant professor of anthropology at Rice, teamed up with anthropologist Paige West of Barnard College and Columbia University to create the Anthropology Mini Lectures Project, an open education resource for fellow instructors and others interested in the field.

“What we have done is made a platform where the anthropologists involved can record short lectures to pair with readings, resources such as slides and film clips, and assignments that can be easily graded and submitted online,” Wool said.

The idea for the mini lectures project was inspired by the very nature of the discipline of anthropology — observing people’s everyday experiences, but also participating in people’s lives.

“The way that we do our work, we’re embedded in other people’s worlds all the time,” Wool said. “We don’t work in isolated laboratory spaces. We’re working with people’s daily lives, we’re working with people’s histories. And it’s important for us ethically to think about how that work can be a kind of work that is building relationships, not just work that is extracting information.”

This ethos informed the project, which is collective, free and built on an open-access platform. It’s also creating paid work for students. Wool said the collective allows her and her fellow contributors to feel connected to each other while offering something for students striving to stay engaged.

Anyone interested in contributing should create an OER author account and send a name and OER-registered email address to The collective is accessible online at, and more information is available at

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.