T – 24 hours


After a lot of hard work by a huge number of people the Shipwrecks and Submerged Worlds course goes live tomorrow.  I and my colleagues have been spending the weekend reading through the different elements trying to iron out any minor issues, all the while thinking about how it will be received.  At points while we were putting this together it felt like we’d taken on an impossible challenge.  Not because it was hard work, but, because of the problem of how you condense a very broad subject into 4 different blocks, each supposed to take around four hours to complete.  Added to this we had the challenge of translating a subject which is rooted in material culture into a virtual form.  Archaeology is at its most vibrant in the field, museum and laboratory – when the material can be encountered and provoke a response.  Similarly, the different environments we work in as maritime archaeologists help create different forms of understanding; from plodding through sucking inter-tidal muds, happy days on boats, or diving down to visit a new site.  Viewed from this angle, translating all of that experience into an online course is a near impossible challenge – instead we’ve taken the only logical way forward, looking to introduce people to the subject, hopefully to enthuse them about it, and to position ourselves to respond to their thoughts and questions.

If you’re reading this post and are going to take part in the course, we really do want to know what you think, and to answer any questions you may have.  It will be interesting to see what people enjoy, what people hoped would have been there (but isn’t) and what people think should be changed.  Similarly, it’ll be interesting to hear about Maritime Archaeology and maritime heritage in different parts of the world and perspectives.

So, at the end of all this I, and i think all the team, have come to thinking that we may have finished posting material up onto the MOOC site, but, the course certainly isn’t complete.  Elsewhere i’ve written in an academic article about teaching maritime archaeology at university level, that the most important factor is the nature of the learning community you create.  You can’t simply plan your lectures and repeat them each year, as every cohort is different  and brings with it new challenges and opportunities.  This is what makes being a lecturer such a good job; we don’t just teach in the traditional sense of the word but look to engage, learn with (and from) our students.   As such, the prospect of engaging with a learning community at the scale of thousands is both daunting and exciting.   I am looking forward to being challenged in new ways and encountering new ideas and opinions.  Its still frustrating to think of new things we could add in and bits that could be refined, but, it would probably be more worrying if we didn’t …

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