Courses: How To Get The Best Out Of Them

Just a few hints on how to get the most out of a Family History Course, based on comments that myself and other tutors frequently hear.

You Didn’t Teach Me How To Use A Computer!

Check the course outline to see whether computer skills are required.  If so, you will almost certainly only need basic computer skills – use of keyboard and mouse, how to use a search engine, how to print and save your work – unless the course outline states that more advanced skills are needed.

Most Family History Courses will teach you how to use a variety of websites and other resources – but I’m sorry to tell you that your tutor will not have the time to teach you how to use a computer starting from the very basics.  Some tutors (including myself) run courses on basic computer skills for family history, and if you have no knowledge of how to use a computer at all, then I would advise that you seek out one of these courses.

But I Don’t Have A Computer At Home!

Relax – it’s not the end of the world! Most public libraries and Record Offices/Archives have computers which you can use for free.  You may have to book in advance, though.

Too Many Handouts!

My courses are very handout-heavy, and I will admit that this does attract some criticism.

However, in my defence I will say that the idea of a lot of handouts is that you – as an individual – are building up your own personal textbook, which you can add to with whatever leaflets, notes etc that you find on your journey through family history  and use as you wish.

Many of the handouts may be a step-by-step guide to using a particular website – if you follow the information, you’ll be able to use that site without needing help!

You may find that some of the handouts are not particularly relevant to your own particular research – but they may be relevant to other members of the group.

Some Of These Forms Are No Good To Me!

As with handouts, you may find that some of the forms which your tutor hands out are not relevant to your research – for example, you may not see the point of a checklist.

However,  someone else in the class might.

Store them in the file with your handouts – you may find them useful in the future.

Isn’t This Course Expensive?

Some courses are – admittedly – very expensive, and you may feel that you’re not getting value for money.  But many courses are remarkable good value.

Some years ago I co-tutored a short course which cost slightly in excess of £60 for 21 hours tuition (over seven weeks) and included handouts, forms, use of computers, printing/photocopying of documents relating to individual learner’s ancestors  and approximately 20 minutes individual tuition/advice time per student per week.

Once you add in oncosts, at under £3.00 per hour, I must say that I thought this was in fact remarkable value for money.

Some courses will also include ‘welcome packs’ such as booklets of forms.  My own course on using computers also includes a free USB stick.

The First Class Was A Waste Of Time!

As an experienced teacher/tutor, I sympathise.  But the first class of any course is always difficult – tutors have to explain the course outline, centre regulations, health and safety requirements and many other things.  And it is not unusual for students not to have read the course information sheet (if there is one!) and not have brought pens/pencils/notepaper etc.

As a student – yes, I still regularly attend courses, there’s always something new to learn – I really do sympathise – like you I’m raring to get started.

So – be prepared. Take stationery (and some change in case you need it for the coffee machine!) and read the course information sheet.  It may ask you to bring along any certificates/photographs/other documents you have so that the tutor can discuss these and help you start your research.

And think about what you want to know before you even turn up at that first session.  Do you want to find out who your ancestors were?  Do you want to find out about Grandad’s bigamous marriage, or his involvement in the Great War? Have you got a story in your tree you want to find out about?  Let your tutor know – they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.

My Tutor Didn’t Trace My Tree For Me

I’ve heard this so many times…

Your tutor is there to help you develop the techniques you need to trace your tree, not to do it for you.  And although it all seems very easy on programmes such as ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, programmes such as this have an army of paid researchers behind the scenes doing all the donkey work.

If you want someone else to trace your tree, you don’t need a class – you need to employ a professional genealogist.  But it’s not half as much fun as finding it out for yourself.

I Didn’t Get As Much Individual Attention As Other Students

This is always a problem, especially if the class has one or more ‘needy’ students, who try to ‘bag’ the tutor for themselves for the whole session and don’t appreciate that other students are entitled to some ‘me’ time!

I allocate an equal amount of time to each student for their individual time – so for example George has my undivided attention from 2.00 – 2.25, Elsie from 2.25 – 2.40.

As a student, I would advise you that, if you find someone is taking up all the tutor’s time,  have a quiet word with the tutor and ask for a bit of time for yourself. Whatever you do, please don’t wait until the end of the course to say that you didn’t feel that you had enough time.

My Tutor Didn’t Take Account Of The Fact That I’m Dyslexic!

Did you tell them, and explain what sort of help you need?

If you did, then explain again that you need handouts on cream paper, in larger type or whatever.  Help your tutor to help you.

Please let your tutor know if you have any medical condition which they should be aware of. I once had a student who didn’t let me know that she was epileptic.

I found out when she had a petit mal in the middle of the class. Fortunately I knew how to deal with it. But it was – to put it mildly – somewhat distressing for the rest of the group. And it could have been very dangerous for her.

My Tutor Says I’m Not Ready For An Intermediate Class

If you’ve just completed your first beginner’s course, then your tutor is correct – you need to practice your skills before you go any further.

3 Responses to Courses: How To Get The Best Out Of Them

  1. nluktidzu says:

    Excellent blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring
    writers? I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free
    platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely confused .. Any
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    • kate says:

      nluktidzu: the most important piece of advice I can give you is simply ‘write what you know about’!

      As for platforms, I’d suggest that you try a free platform – this site is hosted by one, and I’m perfectly happy with it – before considering any of the paid options.

      Best of luck with your blog!

  2. Lea says:

    This post, “Courses: How To Get The Best Out Of Them” shows the fact that you really know just what exactly you are speaking about! I personally completely agree with your post. Thanks -Lea

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