Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pam White's Perspective on NIGS and BU Genealogy Certificate Programs

From time to time I will invite guest authors to share their experiences with different genealogy educational programs. Today the guest author is my good friend Pam White who has completed the certificate programs from The National Institute for Genealogical Studies and the the Boston University Center for Professional Education.

Pam White received a Professional Learning Certificate in Genealogical Studies in American Records from the National Institute of Genealogical Studies and a Certificate in Genealogical Research from the Boston University Center for Professional Education. She is a volunteer genealogist with the Butler County Records Center & Archives in Hamilton, Ohio; and is president of the Butler County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society. Pam is the owner of Key Genealogy, LLC.

Pam's perspective on the certificate programs:

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies has 40-course certificate programs in American, Australian, Canadian, English, German (not yet complete), Irish and Scottish Records. They also offer a 14-course certificate in methodology and a 12-course certificate in librarianship. The various 40-course certificate programs share the same courses in methodology, paleography, genetics, electronic resources, and research from Family History Centers and FamilySearch. All offer three Analysis and Skill Mentoring courses in which the student completes assignments and has two 20-minute telephone chats with a mentor to discuss those assignments and ask any questions they might have.

The courses are pretty much self-paced. They are broken down into several week-long modules (most are 6 weeks) with reading and written assignments each week. There are usually two extra weeks one of which is an exam week. The exam is a multiple choice test which is completed online. You do not have to take the full 8 or more weeks allotted to complete the class. As soon as the assignments are submitted for week 1, the student has access to the material in week 2 so you can move at your own pace. There is not a great deal of interaction with the instructors, but the student can ask questions of an instructor via email. I did so twice with German electives but never received an answer. There are chats scheduled periodically for some of the courses and students can “talk” to an instructor and ask questions during the chats.

The material offered is very good and I have used the course material as a reference for my own research. This course is best suited for someone who is a self-starter and does not require much validation for their skills. There may be more interaction now. As I was finishing, they were just beginning to hold live meetings using webcams and they also have a web presence at Students may sign up for as few as one or two courses if they do not want to sign up for a full program. There are packages available to reduce the cost over individual courses.

The Certificate in Genealogical Research through Boston University is an excellent program. The course covers the following topics:
  • Foundations of Genealogical Research
  • Problem-Solving Techniques and Technology
  • Evidence Evaluation and Documentation
  • Forensic Genealogical Research
  • Ethnic and Geographic Specialties
  • Professional Genealogy

The course can be taken on site in Boston or online. I took the online course which lasted about 13 weeks. The course requires a commitment of time but is well worth the effort. It is advertised as “an interactive, multimedia course of study that serves as excellent preparation for those who seek certification through the Board for Certification of Genealogists,” and I definitely agree with that assessment.

There are assignments due each week, some of which are graded and critiqued by either the instructor or a teacher’s assistant. Other assignments are uploaded using BUs Blackboard software interface for all students to read and discuss. There is also an area for students to ask questions of the instructors who respond within a day.

It is hard to compare the two programs because they are very different. If you’re a beginner or intermediate genealogist, you might prefer the NIGS courses which would expose you to record groups that may be new to you. If you’re an intermediate to advanced genealogist who is thinking about certification, the Boston University program might be better suited for you. I learned a lot from both.

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