The Nomadic Professor History Courses

The Nomadic Professor History Courses

The Nomadic Professor plans to produce a series of courses covering American, world, Western civilization, and Asian history. American History is the first being produced, and three of its four semester-long courses are available as of January 2024. I couldn’t wait for all four courses to tell you about them!

The courses are being created by Dr. William Jackson and Nate Noorlander who have been teaching history at the university and high school levels, respectively. Jackson creates the videos and writes the text based on his years of teaching at the university level. Most of the videos are filmed on his travels around the world—thus the name of the series, The Nomadic Professor. You can watch some of Jackson’s videos on YouTube that are presented in the same fashion as those throughout the courses. Noorlander presents "document lessons" that teach students how to evaluate information from different sources, including primary source documents. Noorlander is also responsible for the supporting resources: handouts, guided notes, quizzes, and course documentation.

While these are survey courses, they discuss particular topics in depth rather than trying to cover every important event. These courses are designed to help students think like a historian. I especially appreciate that both Jackson and Noorlander often teach by presenting opposing viewpoints on a topic without revealing their own biases.

Students will complete two courses per year for American History, but other courses might take only two semesters. I'm basing my review primarily on American History, Part 1, the first course, with updates added as each course is produced.

The American (U.S.) history courses follow this sequence:

Part 1: Pre-Columbian Americas to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution
Part 2: The Ratification of the Constitution to the end of Reconstruction
Part 3: The 1880s through the beginning of WWII
Part 4: WWII through the Cold War and War on Terror

New units are being completed at the rate of about one every five weeks.

How the Courses Work

These online courses are laid out online in a step-by-step fashion that is easy to follow. That’s important because these complex courses have several elements: text, images, videos, vocabulary words, quizzes, documents to read, and assignments.

The first American History course has ten units, and each unit has an introduction followed by four to six lessons. The unit introductions start with timelines, maps, and images that help students think about topics within the context of a particular time and place. The introduction then lists key ideas for the unit. The key ideas are stressed in the introduction, within the lesson material, and in a summary at the end of the lesson. Similarly, “Structure Terms”—words or phrases students need to learn—are introduced in the unit introduction then taught in each lesson and reinforced with practice activities. This way students know what they are expected to learn, and the key ideas are reinforced by repetition.

Three to five lessons within each unit are taught by Jackson, and a document lesson (described below) is presented by Noorlander. When students are ready to start a lesson, they need to first print out the Guided Notes that are linked at the beginning of the lesson. These vary from lesson to lesson, but they typically look like graphic organizers or have comprehension questions. Students can fill these in either after or while they watch the videos and read the lesson material. A key for the Guided Notes is linked at the end of each lesson, including the document lessons.

Jackson's lessons are a combination of online videos and text . Rather than starting each section of the text with a bland title such as "The First Colonies," each section of text has a question as the heading. This helps students focus their attention on how the material answers each question. There are occasional illustrations with the text. Audio recordings of the text material are available for those who would like to listen as they follow along or those who would like to listen rather than read. Students can listen online or download the audio to another device. Students who listen should also study the illustrations included within the text lessons.

When videos are included, they are interspersed among the sections of text. Students work through the material in order as presented. The number of video presentations is greater for some topics than others, probably based on the availability of appropriate locales and the practicality of filming there. There are a number of onsite video lessons for the first unit, which is about the pre-Columbian Americas, and only a few for the second unit on explorers. Apparently, there were plenty of accessible sites for filming about pre-Columbian civilizations such as the mound cities and Ancestral Puebloan ruins in the United States and Incan sites in South America. In most of these videos, Jackson walks through a historical site, talking as he goes. These videos generally show the location on a map on a sidebar on the right side of the screen. Sometimes, the screen zooms in with Google Earth® so students get a better sense of the location. Occasionally, the videos are of Jackson’s classroom lectures, illustrated with a few photos or other illustrations.

I noticed significantly fewer videos in the third course than in the first, but I am told that Professor Jackson already has plans to record more videos for these lessons that will eventually be added. The text will remain the same as it is.

Also in regard to the third course, several thought-provoking topics are raised as it moves into modern history. Lessons sometimes bring up debated viewpoints for students to consider, such as why the U.S. ignored advance warnings of an attack on Pearl Harbor and the ineffectiveness of President Franklin Roosevelt's National Recovery Act in reducing unemployment during the Great Depression. (Topics like these are rarely raised in most high school history courses.) As mentioned previously, the goal is to teach students to think like historians, considering different points of view.

Each lesson has "Structure" terms at the end in three forms for study. The first has the terms followed by a list of definitions for students to match. The second is a printable set of flashcards, and the third is a set of online Quizlet flashcards.

Each section ends with an online quiz, and students are given explanations for incorrect answers. Results are visible in the parent/instructor gradebook for the person overseeing the course and in the student report card for the student taking the course. The quizzes are a helpful assessment tool, but if students are completing the Guided Notes as they work through each lesson (and not cheating by looking at the answer keys) as well as the writing for the document lessons, you should have sufficient material to assess progress. The printable course documents include a rubric for grading the guided notes and a chart showing how the course gradebook is weighted.

Document Lessons

The document lesson at the end of each unit adds another dimension to each course. With Guided Notes pages in hand, students watch a presentation by Nate Noorlander that teaches students critical thinking skills for evaluating information. They work through a few documents for each lesson, such as primary source documents, excerpts from textbooks that express a variety of perspectives, and images of historical artifacts. For example, for a question relating to Christopher Columbus, the document lesson has students compare and contrast excerpts from three books. Two of these are written from dramatically different points of view—A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn and A Patriot’s History of the United States by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen. A third resource, Columbus: The Four Voyages by Laurence Bergreen, is more neutral in tone than the other two resources.

In another example, Lesson 5.5 poses the question, “Why do interpretations of historical events (and people) change over time?” This lesson uses Bacon’s Rebellion (in 1676) as the topic for investigation. It presents six sources: two historical letters, a poem written in that era, an image from around 1900 that illustrated the event after the fact, and two accounts from history books written 320 to 325 years later.

The document lessons often address "big ideas" that students that are very pertinent to today. The third American History course has a document lesson related to the fast-growing wealth disparity at the end of the nineteenth century and the challenges to capitalism that resulted, mirroring exactly what is going on in our modern economy. lt also presents the question, "Why did the U.S. go to war with Japan?." which students answer by considering information from the lesson and excerpts from two other sources. This, too, pertains to the present as the U.S. continues to be embroiled in conflicts around the world, even if they are not declared wars.

There are about 10 to 15 pages of Guided Notes for each document lesson, so these are substantial lessons that will take some time to complete. Strategies for working through these lessons are thoroughly explained in videos.

The document lessons in the first course build skills sequentially, and they lay the groundwork for work in the next three American history courses. The final assignment in the first American History course has students learn how to come up with a good research question by analyzing many examples. Building on this work, the second course has students write a research paper. For the third course, students continue learning and applying research and analysis skills as they write several essays. I am told that in the fourth course, students will "read and respond to American fiction (short stories and novel chapters) as historical sources and accounts of what happened and what things were like in the past." While it is best if students complete all document lessons, some might be abridged or skipped.

The course material without the document lessons is excellent, but the document lessons are so worthwhile that I would urge you to try to use them. The document lessons lend themselves particularly well to a group class setting where students can compare their opinions, but that setting isn't required.

Three Options for Students with Different Goals

These are survey courses that were designed for high school students, with three different options: full, standard, and content-only. Completion of the four American history courses over two years following the full course schedule should prepare students well for the Advanced Placement U.S. History test and the CLEP U.S. History I and II tests.

The full course option I have described is quite rigorous. The standard course option has students skip four specified sections within the lessons, and the document lessons are optional. The content-only option is for students who want to learn the historical narrative but want to skip the lessons on “how to read, research, reason, and write like a historian.” For this option, students skip some supplemental handouts and use none of the document lessons. The authors show the options in terms of the number of sessions required for each: 200, 168, and 160, respectively.

Since these are interdisciplinary courses, students can earn credit toward other academic disciplines. For example, for the first two American History courses (two semesters), students earn one credit for history plus a half credit each for language arts (composition) and historical methods. For the last two American History courses, students can earn half credits for rhetoric/logic and American literature. (See the credit allotments on their U.S.History program preview page.)


These courses should appeal to anyone who wants students to both learn history and learn how to evaluate historical information, a type of learning that is useful in many other areas. On top of that, the course design is perfect for today’s students with its mix of video, audio, text, and written work.

Pricing Information

When prices appear, please keep in mind that they are subject to change. Click on links where available to verify price accuracy.

$249 for lifetime access to one course (with student/teacher mgt. tools)
$199 for lifetime access to one course (without student/teacher mgt. tools)
$30 a month for a subscription to all courses (with student/teacher mgt. tools)
$25 a month for a subscription to all courses (without student/teacher mgt. tools)

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You might want to check out the ready-made lesson plans from Homeschool Planet that are available for Nomadic Professor courses. Find lesson plans available for this product at Homeschool Planet. Sign up for a 30-day FREE trial.

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Instant Key

  • Need For Parent or Teacher Instruction: minimal
  • Learning Environment: independent study or small group
  • Grade Level: grades 9-12
  • Special Audience: gifted
  • Educational Methods: traditional activity pages or exercises, research, multisensory, memorization, discussion, discovery or inquiry, critical thinking
  • Technology: PDF, online, MP3 or MP4, streamed content, supplemental digital content, video
  • Educational Approaches: eclectic, classical
  • Religious Perspective: neutral

Publisher's Info

Note: Publishers, authors, and service providers never pay to be reviewed. They do provide free review copies or online access to programs for review purposes.

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