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History 130 - Social and Cultural History of the United States - Erik Altenbernd, PhD

Course:Social and Cultural History of the United States
Professor:Erik Altenbernd, PhD
  • Online
Course Length:
  • 16 Week


Dear Student,

Welcome to History 130, a specialized course on the social and cultural history of the United States.

This course is a 100% online course and, thus, does not include direct, in-class instruction or face-to-face meetings between me, you, or the other students in the course. All the assignments for this course (discussions, exams, and essays) will be completed and/or submitted entirely online. This means that you can complete the work for this class anywhere and anytime. However, it also means you will need regular, uninterrupted access to the internet to successfully complete the class.

PLEASE NOTE: This course will include semi-regular ZOOM meetings. These meetings will be optional; however, portions of the meetings will be recorded for those interested but unable to attend. The meetings will focus mainly on the various feature films assigned in the class but will also address other issues like essay assignments.

Although we will not meet regularly week-to-week for this course, I will be available on a regular basis to answer your questions. I want you and everyone enrolled in this course to succeed, so please feel free to contact me whenever necessary. I will be contacting you on a regular basis through course announcements and on the course message boards. I hope these regular channels of communication will help you feel as though you are not alone in this class—that I am available to you and that you are one of many others enrolled online. Hopefully, we’ll all work as a team as we learn about modern US history.  

To succeed in this course, you will need to check Canvas on a regular basis for information. I recommend you check the “Announcements” section of Canvas no less two or more times per week. In addition to the course Announcements, I also recommend you familiarize yourself with the “Syllabus” and “Modules” sections of the course. Each of these sections contain important course information, including the course schedule, readings and assignments, and exam and paper due dates.

Again, if you have any questions about any of these matters, feel free to reach out to me via email or a message on Canvas.

Course Description

This class is a specialized course on the social and cultural history of the United States. Like a standard survey course such as History 111 or History 112, this course covers a wide variety of topics and periods in American and US history. However, unlike a standard survey course, which is organized chronologically, this course is organized thematically. Put another way, whereas a survey course is organized horizontally according to distinct periods of time (Precolumbian America to Reconstruction in the case of History 111; Reconstruction to the election of Donald Trump in the case of History 112), this course is organized vertically around major themes that span the chronological scope of both History 111 and History 112. For example, one of the major themes of this course is the American Dream. What is American Dream? When did Americans begin to use the term “American Dream” as a way of understanding American society and history? What are the social and cultural origins of the American Dream? To answer these questions, we must examine not only the development of the idea of the American Dream during the twentieth century, but its social and cultural roots in seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century American and European history as well.

The major themes of this course are as follows:

  • The American Dream;
  • Class, Wealth, and Poverty;
  • Race/Ethnicity;
  • Women and Gender;
  • Migration/Immigration and Multiculturalism;
  • Consumer Culture;
  • The West and the Mythology of Territorial Expansion.

What to Expect in this Course

This is a semi-intensive writing course. There are no objective (i.e. multiple choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank) quizzes or exams in this class. This class focuses on written analysis of key themes and ideas in American and US history. Therefore the focus is on not just comprehending primary and secondary sources but analyzing those sources and explaining how they highlight/illustrate key ideas or themes like the American Dream.

In all, expect to write 500-1000 words per week in this class. Weekly assignments include online discussions and short précis (summaries) of assigned readings. The course also includes a midterm essay exam (approximately four pages double spaced) and a final final essay (approximately six pages double spaced) that requires a small amount of outside research. 

Types of Assessments

Online Discussions
Short Précis (summaries)
Midterm Essay Exam
Final Essay

Textbook Information

1. The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation by Jim Cullen ISBN 9780195173253
2. The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States by Mark Fiege ISBN 9780295993294
3. American Women’s History: A Very Short Introduction by Susan Ware ISBN: 9780199328338
4. American Immigration: A Very Short Introduction by David A. Gerber ISBN: 9780195331783

Other Relevant Course Information

To succeed in this course, you will need to check Canvas on a regular basis for course assignments and information. I recommend you check the “Announcements” section of Canvas no less two or more times per week. In addition to the course Announcements, I also recommend you familiarize yourself with the “Syllabus,” “Modules,” and "Assignments" sections of the course during the first two weeks of the semester. Each of these sections contain important course information, including the course schedule, readings, and assignment due dates.

The course textbooks are required and essential for success in this course. The two main textbooks—The American Dream and The Republic of Nature—are on reserve at the Valencia campus library.

Additionally, as this class focuses in large part on the history and various manifestations of the American Dream, this class involves watching and analyzing feature and documentary films. Watching and analyzing the assigned films is required and may add to the overall cost of the class in addition to the required textbooks.

Additional Resources


This course can be accessed on the first day of class via Canvas at Log into Canvas using your CanyonsID single sign-on:

  • CanyonsID Username is your COC student email address (Ex:
  • CanyonsID Password is your COC student email password

Please visit the Get to Know Your Online Classroom page for help logging into Canvas and for tips on using Canvas and Zoom. Canvas Chat Support is also available 24/7 for any Canvas related issues.

Online Education

Check out the Online Education website for more information on a variety of topics that can help you be a successful online student such as: exam proctoring, learning styles, computer skills, and tips for student success. If this is your first online course, feel free to take our online learning readiness assessment to assess your skills.

The Learning Center (TLC)

The TLC provides FREE online tutoring resources to COC students!

Academic Accommodation Center (AAC)

College of the Canyons AAC provides educational services and access for eligible students with documented disabilities who intend to pursue coursework at COC. A variety of programs and services are available which afford eligible students with disabilities the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of the college programs and activities through appropriate and reasonable accommodations. For more information on their services visit the Academic Accomodation Center website.

Online Counseling

The Counseling Department offers appointments online. You can schedule an appointment by visiting the Online Counseling website. Counselors can help you map out a plan to reach your educational goals as well as advise you on course selection and registration.

Management of Stress and Mental Health

Often the pressure on our students is very strong, involving academic commitments, relationships, outside jobs and family pressure to name a few. The staff and faculty of College of the Canyons are here to see you succeed academically and care about your emotional and physical health. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential student services, including counseling and mental health services available on campus by visiting the Student Health & Wellness Center in the Student Services Building (across from the bookstore). The phone number is 661-362-3259 that you can call 24/7. You can also e mail for an appointment at At the Canyon Country Campus the Health Center will be in the new Student Services Building.

Also, the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number is now 988. All students at COC are encouraged to enter that phone number in their cells. You can call it when you, or someone you know, is having thoughts of suicide or is in severe distress.

You can also now use the Crisis Text Line: Just text "Courage" to 741741. Someone will get back to you immediately. Its free, 24/7, and confidential.

Veterans Resource Center

The College of the Canyons Veterans Resource Center is a department within the Student Services Division at the college, created to help veterans and veteran dependents with applying to College of the Canyons, enrolling in classes, and requesting VA Education or Vocational Benefits. For more information please visit the Veterans Resource Center website, email or phone (661) 362-3469.


The Library provides live online and in-person research help, access to a full range of e-resources and physical materials that support the curriculum, individual and group study areas, and much more!

Last updated: 10/25/2021 Sub#: 928