Creating a Timeline with Knightlab

Submitted by Paizha Stoothoff on February 17th, 2021
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Short Description: 

Digital timelines enable us to tell stories visually by connecting non-linear moments: events, reactions, and experiences. This assignment includes a lesson plan and worksheet for teaching with timelines. Timelines work best when they are created as a project for a course, since they take time to develop. Project ideas include: alternatives to the research paper in humanities and Literature courses; embedding timelines in website projects where students also create bibliographies of secondary sources; and library archival projects to showcase student work or a collection with an open-source tool if space or platforms are limited.

The lesson plan and worksheet are designed around Knightlab TimelineJS, but can be adapted for use with other timeline tools. Also included is a guide for selecting a timeline tool for instructors.

Learning Outcomes: 

Students will:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the scholarly discourse and/or cultural, historical context for a topic.
  • Use basic digital skills required for developing digital projects including use of URL links, embed code, alternative text for media.
  • Select appropriate materials for timelines including images, articles, and other resources available through library databases, library archives, and open web resources.
Individual or Group: 
Course Context (e.g. how it was implemented or integrated): 

This lesson plan was implemented in a Victorian Literature upper division English class. The Professor assigned students a final website project as an alternative to the research paper. On their website, they included the following pages: About, Timeline, Reflection, and Works Cited. This workshop aided students in creating and finding resources for their timeline, and provided citation guidance as well. Archives and Special Collections at our University has also used Knightlab Timeline to create a digital exhibit with student interns to be embedded into a departmental project.

Additional Instructor Resources (e.g. in-class activities, worksheets, scaffolding applications, supplemental modules, further readings, etc.): 

A supplemental LibGuide, Creating Timelines with Knightlab, was designed by the Humanities Librarian for all instructors/librarians/archivists interested in using the tool in their projects or courses.


Assessment or Criteria for Success
Assessment Short Description: 
Assessment may include student's grades for course projects. Professors did not use a rubric for grading the timeline, but there may be opportunities to develop a rubric for them in the future.
Potential Pitfalls and Teaching Tips: 

Part two, registering for Knightlab, will take time. There are some technical nuances that come up with using the Timeline (which the FAQ in the LibGuide aims to address). To avoid spending the whole library session on registration and using the tool, have students register in class and spend the remainder finding sources. Students can 'plug in' their content at home and follow-up with any questions. When piloting this worksheet and lesson plan, about 5 students reached out with some technical questions to the Librarian. Updating the FAQ to answer common questions proved useful for the Librarian and for students.

Also, tailor the resources you share based on the context for the timeline. For example, if it's being used for a Victorian Literature class, I would emphasize the British Library, ArtStor, free Images, and Britannica Online. If it's being used for 19th Century Novel, I would emphasize 19th century newspapers, ArtStor, free images, and possibly Women's Studies Archives.


Suggested Citation: 
Stoothoff, Paizha. "Creating a Timeline with Knightlab." CORA (Community of Online Research Assignments), 2021.