At the workshop held by the IHR on Tuesday this week we held presentations from myself, my colleagues at the IHR Simon Trafford and Mark Merry (IHR Training), and Chris Williams, Stuart Mitchell, and Wendy Mears from the Open University History MA course.  Over the next few days I plan to briefly summarise what each of us said (in general terms) and say a little about the subsequent conversation that occurred in the break out groups.  Today, I will begin with the first part of my own presentation a discussion of online training that already exists online.

In the humanities there is very little in the way of online courses.  The Open University are the big exception of course.  They provide various short courses, a foundation and undergraduate degree programme and a History MA.  Most of these contain a face to face element and the provision of physical books, pamphlets and associated materials.  Their online content is largely structured through the use of an open source virtual learning environment (VLE) named Moodle.  Moodle (which I will talk a bit more about next week) is the same VLE system that we are using for the research training in History SPOT.  The OU also use Elluminate! a Virtual Classroom which provide live lectures and seminars online.

But there is much more online with regards to the OU than their actual courses. For starters the OU have developed a ‘taster’ website recently rebranded as Learning Space.  This site provides potential students free course content and exercises as a draw toward the larger tutor-led courses.  The OU is also very proud (and rightly so) of their podcast content on iTunes-U.  As of 16 May 2011 the OU could boast 35,000,000 downloads from their store with the vast majority deriving from overseas interest.  The OU are by far the most popular source of academic content on the iTunes platform.

The University of Oxford have developed around 15 short courses in History and History-related subjects.  Included in this number is a highly popular and well-regarded Advanced Diploma in Local History.  This is a 1 year part-time course delivered entirely online.

In 2007 the University of Warwick attempted to build and gain accreditation for an online only MA in History.  The attempt ultimately failed to materialise but the extensive hard work that was put into developing the course can still be found on their website and is well worth a look.

These examples are far from the only ones around, but there really is not much else or at least not much else that can easily be found.  One item that I did not mention on the day, but occurs to me as related enough to mention here are two JISC-funded repositories for the upload, download and discussion of Higher Education teaching materials.  These are;



I’ll end today’s post with a few bullet points showing some of the features and tools that most of these online courses use or planned to use.

  • Use of a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) such as Moodle; Blackboard
  • Podcasts/Vodcasts (audio and video recordings of lectures; interviews etc)
  • Virtual Classrooms
  • Email; Telephone communication (with tutors)
  • Face-to-face elements – occasional seminars; summer schools

Next week I will talk a little about the second half of my presentation and in the process give you a sneak preview of the upcoming History SPOT platform.