Friday, February 12, 2010

Course Review - Methodology Part 1

I have finally finished my review of the first course I took at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies (NIGS). In this post, I share my experience with using the NIGS website as a learning platform, as well as my personal reflection on what I learned from the class.
When I first registered at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies, I received a few emails with some basic explanation of how the online courses worked. In particular, they described how to find the classes for which I registered in the My Briefcase section of the site, how to find and submit assignments, and how to view your grades on completed courses. These emails saved me some time when I started my course. However, on my email client (Gmail) the sender of these emails is only given as “admin”; so, I almost dismissed them as spam at first. I'm not sure how the sender (NIGS) appears on other email clients, but be on the lookout for emails from NIGS if you register for a course. I did not find any increase in spam after I registered – unlikely from educational outlets, but it's always smart to be safe. If you do sign up for a course from NIGS, be sure to add “” to your list of “safe” email addresses, as they send announcements of live chat sessions with instructors.
Speaking of which, I must admit that none of the live chat sessions have worked into my schedule so far, as I've already WAY over-scheduled myself. I do plan to attend one, and if/when I do, I'll be sure to provide an update.
For my first class, Methodology Part 1: Getting Started, I did not purchase the printed course material available, as I thought that it would be more efficient and economical to print out the material myself. However, I've now started my second class, and it has been much easier (and cheaper) for me to use course material purchased from the NIGS store. I printed almost 100 pages for the first course, and refilling my ink cartridges is not a task I look forward to. So it was worth it for me, simply for the convenience, to buy the printed material. With the shipping, it was about 16 USD, and I received the material in about 1 week.
Each course is slated to last 6 weeks, but you can work at your own pace. You only need to complete the final exam before the course end date. The readings and assignments for this first course were not overwhelming, but it is a good opportunity to evaluate your own schedule, and to get used to scheduling enough time to go over readings thoroughly – take notes, read sections over that you don't completely understand, etc. This is really the area that has given me the most trouble – time management. I have to get back into “the swing of things” academically, and I've only been out of college for three years. I would recommend planning out your class schedule beforehand – set realistic timetables for assignments and readings, and stick to that schedule. If you take one class every two months, every four months, every six months, so what? No one is going to tell you that you're not speeding through the courses quickly enough. Certainly not Ms. “Absolutely, I can fit that into my schedule for you” over here
Here’s a general list of topics that were covered in Methodology: Part 1:
-Reasons for tracing your genealogy and general “dos and don’ts”
-Beginning your research (including taking notes and research planning)
-Conducting interviews
-How to use pedigree charts, family group sheets, and other forms
-Some common confusing situations
-An introduction to using outside sources
-Basic transcription
-A genealogical case study.
The assignments for this course were not particularly difficult – they correlate directly to the readings. I was glad to see that many of the assignments are designed to help you apply what you’ve learned in each reading.
One area that I would like to see NIGS develop further is that of personal feedback on assignments. I realize that, most likely, it is not practical for teachers to respond to every assignment from every student. However, there were times when I would have liked to know if I was correct, or on the right track. Again, this might be resolved by attending one of the live chat sessions, so I will try that in the future.
Overall, this class has left me eager to learn more. I am excited that I will have the chance to find out more about my own history, and be able to introduce people to their personal histories. A career in genealogy may give me the chance to pursue a career that it continually interesting and exciting to me, and which gives me the chance to make a difference in the world. I think I might be on to something here, career-wise, which would be a long awaited relief ;)


  1. Thanks for this great post on NIGS. I really want to take the courses now, but, as one of those "Absolutely, I can fit that into my schedule for you" people, I think I'll take your advice and wait until I'm a bit freer. I hope you continue posting on what you're taking through them!

  2. I hope I didn't scare you off of taking any courses. I bet you could do it :) It's not an overwhelming amount of work if you take one course at a time - it's just squeezing one more thing into your schedule. I'd say give one course a shot. If you don't finish it, you don't finish it. They are usually more than happy to grant you an extension if you need it.
    Of course, if you know you're too busy, you know your schedule. Whatever you do, good luck!

  3. I've been looking at NGIS as I am considering genealogy as a potential career, so I'm glad to see your opinions on the classes! I've been waiting to figure out what I want to be when I "grow up" (I'm 32!) and I'm tentatively thinking that genealogy may be the right path as I love everything about it. I'm grateful to see someone who is in the same place! I look forward to reading your posts. :)

  4. I too am taking classes through NIGS and am loving it. I have finished three so far. Methodology 1 and 2, and US: Census Records. I think that the hardest class so far has been the census one, just because there is so much in research there. Hope you enjoy your next class.