Earlier this week the IHR held an afternoon workshop on the topic of developing online research training and course delivery.  The event attracted around 20 people from various professions and bringing with them differing expertise.  In all the event was a great success with a good deal of discussion taking place concerning the nature of online training, best practice and limitations in comparison to traditional face to face courses. 

It quickly became apparent that the ideas concerning online training that we, at the IHR, are currently considering are very much the same as that which the Open University and others are already grappling with. 

It was interesting to note that the OU spend around 3 years developing their online courses much of which is concerned with getting the processes behind the scenes right.  Having ourselves experimented with an online course on Moodle (which I hope will one day see the light of day!) I can easily see how time consuming it is just getting the sign-posts inserted into useful places, not alone the length of time it takes to consider course structure and design.  You can’t just upload a face to face course ‘as is’ and expect it to work!

I think for me, personally, the workshop helped to bring to focus a very simple issue with regards to online courses: Are we able to translate everything that we do in face to face teaching and training onto an online platform and make it equally as useful and understandable for the learner?  We decided that no, it was not possible, at least not entirely. What we did realise was that training about resources and processes can work very well online (perhaps better in some cases) but that discussions concerning concepts and ideas is much harder to put across.  Palaeography is one such topic which we felt an online course could work even better than face to face.  Students catch on to this type of training at greatly varying speeds and traditional training can end up holding back some students and losing others somewhere in the wilderness.  Yet, in an online setting students really would be able to go at their own pace and, due to the nature of the training, would probably lose very little in the translation from the real world to the digital.

Tomorrow I will continue to talk about the workshop with a little bit about Online History Course that are already on the Internet.