It’s with a strange mixture of excitement and trepidation that we’re gearing up for the next run of the Shipwrecks and Submerged Worlds course (which starts on Monday 25th May). The first run last year was an incredibly positive experience. We had no idea what to expect, or an understanding of how people would react to the content we had created. From my experience working out on site and doing lectures for different societies, I thought that there would be a good level of interest. However, if you’d told me that over 10,000 people would take part I don’t think I would have believed you. It was those people and their diversity of experience and ideas that really made the course come to life, and what makes this next run so exciting a prospect.
It is very easy to sound glib about this, but, it was our primary reason for creating the course. We wanted to make maritime archaeology more open and accessible to people, and to hear about their experiences and views. The most rewarding thing to see was the discussions going on beneath each article. The course quickly took on a life of its own, with people asking questions and others answering; bringing new ideas, examples and datasets to light. I was also amazed at how welcoming and willing everyone seemed to be. With so much written about negative internet and social media experiences, it was genuinely uplifting to see people helping each and discussing things out of pure scholarly interest.
This is not to say that the course was perfect, or that we haven’t wanted to change things. Indeed, we got some excellent feedback from participants. It was clear that we had been a little ambitious in cramming in so much detail into four weeks, with the extending reading offering people ways to lose days rather than hours in pursuing their interests. Our initial idea was to lengthen the course for this run; to turn it into a six-week rather than four-week course. However, in the end we have opted to do one more run of a four-week course, tweaked to balance material out a little more and with the further reading listed on this blog rather than the site (so people don’t feel so pressured to do it!). In a way we’re conforming to the diving maxim of ‘plan the dive, dive the plan’, continuing to perfect what we have before creating additional issues to resolve.
We’re very interested to hear what people think of the changes we’ve made, and if you think we should have shifted it to a 6 week format. One thing we’re doing this time to help answer questions and provide more detail is to do a weekly Q & A video. During the week we’ll collate your comments and questions and provide answers via a video discussion. We hope this will allow us to both address simple and complex issues, smoothing out any bumps that remain (and we do expect there still to be some).
It seems appropriate that I am going to be spending this weekend exploring the maritime landscapes of the Outer Hebrides (looking at the Neolithic in particular), meaning that when I log on to see the initial comments I’ll just have been immersed (at times literally) in the subject we’ll be exploring.