Sharon McMeekin

Sharon McMeekin

Last updated on 22 January 2020

Establishing a new programme of work can be incredibly difficult to do if you cannot devote enough focused time and resources towards the objectives you wish to achieve. I bring this up because the DPC has been keen to break into online training provision for several years now, especially with our membership growing in terms of both numbers and diversity of location. It is, however, not an easy thing to do, and even harder to do well.Graphic showing elements of online training

There needs to be time spent on procuring and implementing a learning management system. You need to test out content creation software and get training in how to use it well once you’ve found the package that’s right for you. You need to think about learner needs and how to manage their training experience.  And all of this (and more!) needs to happen before you even begin to think about designing courses and creating content, which is incredibly labour intensive in itself.

Needless to say, being a small organisation that is already trying to punch above its weight, finding the time to even start thinking seriously about online training, let alone finding the resources to start a programme, has been practically impossible. We were, therefore, very interested to see an invitation to tender from the UK National Archives in Autumn 2019, asking for proposals around the development of online ‘Novice to Ninja’ training as part of delivering their ‘Archives Unlocked’ strategic vision. After a bit of soul searching around potential impact on our other activities, we decided to proceed with a bid and were incredibly happy to hear we had been successful in early November 2019.

The ‘Archives Unlocked’ strategic vision has lead to the 'Plugged In, Powered Up' digital capacity building strategy which has 4 strands, each containing multiple workstreams, which will support the archives sector meet its digital ambitions. The ‘Novice to Ninja’ project represents one of 3 workstreams, along with the ‘Archives School’ and ‘Workflows’ project, that are focused on developing training and resources relating to digital preservation skills. The ‘Archives School’ workstream is offering 5 days face to face training for a cohort of archivists inhouse at the UK National Archives. Through the ‘Workflows’ project, an external consultant is creating practical guidance and resources around basic digital preservation workflows for archivists.

Graphic of Ninja WarriorThe ‘Novice to Ninja’ project covers an intersection of these two streams, developing an online course that will provide archivists (and the wider information management community) with an understanding of the key issues around digital preservation and the skills to start developing simple digital workflows at their organisation. Over the course of 5 months we are working through 3 project phases: research and learning pathway design; content development; and pilot, review and delivery.

Needless to say, this is the opportunity the DPC has needed to kickstart our wider online training work. We've now completed of phase one of the project: we are close to procuring an Learning Management System, we’ve designed a skills framework aligned with the DPC RAM Maturity Model, and have developed a course outline with learning outcomes and module structures. In the next week we’re moving on to creating the substantive content for the courses.

So, what does this mean for the future? By the end of March 2020, there will be a free online course providing learners with practical skills for digital preservation at a bitstream-level. (The jury is still out on if it will actually be called ‘Novice to Ninja’, alternative suggestions are welcome!) Priority will be given to learners from the UK archives sector in the first year, but watch out for more information closer to the release.  On completion of the project we’ll be developing plans for how we can continue to expand our online training offer, filling out more areas of the skills framework. We’ll be keeping members in the loop on this, particularly to help identify priorities.

There will also be more blog posts on the project as it continues, so keep an eye out for more updates!

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