Confessions of a Mature Student

Haven’t posted for a while – that’s because I’ve been busy with my University course.

I’ve started studying for a Masters degree in Family and Local History via distance learning at the University of Dundee.

Module Structure

Each module is split into a number of units. Each unit covers a distinct element of the module and has a task to complete at the end. Some of these tasks are assessed and have to be emailed to the module tutor for marking, but others are not assessed and involve emailing other students or posting onto the module discussion forum. A guideline mark together with helpful comments are sent back from the module tutor for each assessed task.

At the end of the Skills and Sources for Family and Local History in Scotland module there were also two main assignments – an Essay and a Report. These were 2,500 and 2,000 words respectively and had to have proper footnotes and a bibliography. I rather left things to the last minute and rushed both of these, but I was reasonably happy with what I submitted. Time will tell if I did enough to pass…

Too Much On My Plate

At the start of the course I had a problem accessing my email account at Dundee University and this led to me starting the first module a bit late. Also, due to bad planning on my part, the Pharos course on One-Name Studies started at the same time!

I pretty quickly realised I’d bitten off a bit more than I could chew by trying to do 2 courses at the same time and learn a new job (my previous Java Developer role was offshored to India and I’m now retraining as a Database Administrator). I knew the Masters course would be demanding, so adding other stuff on top was really pushing things…

I had to make a decision to drop something and I chose the unmarked module tasks. These are mostly to encourage interaction among the students and are a good idea. But, since they aren’t graded, I thought they could be sacrificed. Luckily the Pharos course was not assessed, but I rather missed out on some of the joint class exercises involved.

As a consequence, I didn’t get as much out of that course as I could have – but it was very good and highly recommended. It too had a discussion forum and there was also a weekly chatroom conversation which was always entertaining with folks chipping in their opinions from all over the globe (well, at least Scotland, England, USA and Australia).

Lessons Learned

This first University module has really opened my eyes into the number of sources available for Scottish family history research. Suddenly there is whole wealth of data that I’m going to have to include in both my one-name study into the RETTIE surname and my own family history.

I also learned a lot about the social, political and economic history of Scotland by seeing the level of detail that some of the records contain. Burgh records in particular were a real eye-opener. See example from Inverness Burgh accounts.

Up Next

The next module – Military History – just started on Monday and, being only a 10 credit course, last two months. I’m really looking forward to it and will be trying to improve my time management skills – hopefully leading to a better grade.

Interestingly, the module tutor is Simon Fowler who has written a number of family history books relating to military records e.g ‘Tracing Your Army Ancestors‘, ‘Tracing Your Naval Ancestors‘, etc. So, he obviously knows his stuff!

The Future

I’ve now decided on the four modules I’m going to study to achieve the 60 credits required for a Postgraduate Certificate. However, I’m not sure at the moment if I really do want to go on and undertake the Diploma afterwards – it’s a lot of work…

Year Module Title Credits
1 Skills and Sources for Family and Local History in Scotland 20
1 Military History 10
2 Heraldry 20
2 Ecclesiastical Archives 10
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3 comments

  1. Su Leslie

    Sounds like a fascinating degree. I’ve just finished a Master of Information Studies (also distance) through Victoria University of Wellington, which – while not directly related to family history – has helped renew my interest in my own family and given me some really useful skills. Good luck with your studies; I look forward to “hearing” more about it on your blog.

  2. Pingback: WDYTYA? Live 2013 | One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
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