In January, I decided to work toward a certificate program offered by the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. I’m working on the American Records certificate, and have completed my first three classes: Methodology Part 1, US Census Records, and Electronic Resources. I started my fourth course, US Land Records on March 1st, and will begin two more courses (Methodology Part 2 and US Vital Records) on April 5th.
So far, I’m enjoying the courses. I’m learning new things in a structured way, which is helping with my research. Since these first courses are the Basic Level, there is some overlap with what I already know, but in some cases, it serves as a reminder and is strengthening my knowledge.
Most of the assignments are practical. For example, we had to analyze an 1870 Products of Industry schedule of the census. For me, this was a great exercise, as I had never used this type of schedule prior to this class.
The one thing I don’t like so much is that you don’t really get any feedback from the instructors. Each level has an Analysis & Skills Mentoring course, where you do “meet” with the instructor twice during the course. But so far in the other courses, I have not received any feedback. It is possible that you get feedback upon the completion of the course, but technically, my three course do not end until March 28th (I have completed all the assignments and the exam though).
Some of the assignments are “public” meaning you post them to a message board type tool and others can view your answer (likewise, you can view others’ answers). You have the ability to send an email message to a classmate, but not the ability to comment directly on their assignment post. I think this would be a nice feature.
One thing I’ve noticed from the public assignments, is the lack of thought from a few of the students. In some cases, it seems that they’re just posting a quick answer without putting much thought into it. In other cases, I’ve seen people basically give the impression that they only use Ancestry for their research, without regard to other resources. Then, why, I ask, are they taking these courses? They don’t really seem open to learning about additional resources, and these classes are not exactly cheap. I truly hope that my impression is wrong, but I fear some of them may simply be after the certificate and postnomials PLCGS (Professional Learning Certificate in Genealogical Studies). Regardless of the other students’ intent, I am set on learning all that I can to enhance my research and analysis skills. The certificate and postnomials are a bonus.