Two weeks ago we held a workshop on developing online research training particularly focused on the History profession (see my previous posts).  Of course my post at the IHR asks for me to develop online training courses (not so much the content but the infrastructure and design) so the topic of the workshop was intricately linked with focusing and enhancing our future plans.

At that workshop my colleagues, who are employed to develop the content of these courses both online and face to face, gave a brief talk about what the IHR provides in terms of research training, how successful that has been and where we plan to take it in the future. 

Simon Trafford began with a brief rundown of what the IHR offers the Historical community.  The common room and library are foci for historians.  The 50+ seminar groups a place for learning, teaching and scholarly debate.  The various publications and e-publications a furthering of academic knowledge and the research training programmes an opportunity to help both new and older academics make the most of their skills. 

As an institute set up to aid research both nationally and internationally the IHR have always tried to reach beyond its London base.  However, the continued tendency for training uptake to derive from the London region continues to be a challenge.  The IHR have, however, had some success in broadening its appeal.  Various summer schools are held to make it easier for visiting scholars to gain something from the IHR in a short period of time and at a time when their own institutions’ demands are less.  The IHR have also undertaken a programme of regional training events – taking our expertise out to other areas of the country.  More recently the IHR have begun to develop a greater online presence for its research training, which brings us to the second half of the presentation, given by Mark Merry. 

Mark Merry told the audience about the IHR’s three phased approach to developing online training.  The results from Phase One will be made available with the launch of History SPOT when several handbooks derived from our own expertise and training courses are provided free of charge.  These handbooks (named Historical Research Handbooks) are meant as reference guides that can be dipped into or read as a whole.  They will tackle methodological, theoretical and practical problems related to their topic and, hopefully, act as a hook to our face to face courses and, in the future, online courses.  Phase One also includes additional online material for our face to face courses.  We hope to provide something a little extra for those who attend a course with the IHR. 

Phase Two will present ‘tutorless’ courses on various subjects that can be undertaken at a learners own time and pace.  These courses will emphasise interactivity and communication between users (community support) as well as providing various assignments, exercises and activities.  Phase Three will develop out of these resources new tutor led courses entirely provided in an online environment.  These courses will include virtual lectures, seminars and discussions and will be tutored by an expert in the field of study.