DPTP Online 2017 is a series of 14 modular courses which deliver a beginner’s guide to digital preservation. It is intended for complete beginners in this field and aims to introduce learners to the concepts, terms, language, and practices of digital preservation.
The course builds on a face-to-face course which we have taught since 2005. The Digital Preservation Training Programme was created in the UK at a time when digital preservation was a relatively new thing, there were many unknowns, and there was a perceived knowledge gap. Through the work of many gifted expert contributors, a syllabus evolved, covering the main points that would be important to help learners understand digital preservation.
A lot of the work improving and enhancing the original modules was done by my colleague Patricia Sleeman and myself over many years. This happened in response to student feedback, user needs, and us learning on the job. We also improved the way that we taught the course, using pedagogical teaching methods to engage students in activities and exercises.
Ever since 2010 we have wanted to make the course into online course. One driver for this was in response to the large numbers of students, including overseas students, who wanted to learn digital preservation but couldn’t come to London. The challenge for us was how to pour all of this richness into a distance learning course that could be served online. To make this happen, we used all the learning mechanisms we could get our hands on, including discussion forums, quizzes, exercises, and visual aids. We used videos of screencasts in one instance. We worked hard to recreate the content – some of which can be quite intense – into chunks of learning that would be digestible.
We launched a prototype of this course in 2016. This went well, but it was still heavy going for the student. In effect, we had turned an intense two-day face-to-face course into a single online course; the student can choose how much time to devote to it, but it’s still a sizeable amount of content. At this time we also created a stand-alone short online course (an introduction to the OAIS reference model) which has proved popular, and not just because it’s free; my guess is that people still want to understand more about that model, and that a handy short course is just the way to do it.
In late 2016 we had the idea of splitting all this content into 14 separate modules. We assumed – correctly, as it turns out – that it would be technically feasible to copy modules and recast them online in this way. The idea was inspired by seeing another online teaching service (in a similar area) which offered its content in a very manageable user-friendly way. We also considered that split modules would allow flexible learning pathways, so that students could pick modules that were relevant to their work, and build a custom learning experience. It’s also more cost-effective for customers to purchase individual modules instead of making a substantial upfront payment.
Our ideas about learning styles and delivery preferences were informed by our 2015 training needs survey. We learned a lot about what students wish to learn in digital preservation and how they want to learn it; more details can be seen in this blog post assessing the results of that survey.
As part of the reworking required for the split, I took the opportunity to beef up some of the modules and build on the 2016 version. In particular the course on access metadata for users, which has improved in line with some of my own understanding of the subject and relevant technologies. I also added a good deal more content to the reading lists, bringing the learning up to date with more recent developments and ideas. I tried to find more case studies and examples; students want more real world examples, and less theory, in learning about digital preservation.
The last step was to arrange the modules into a coherent sequence. I decided to structure this based on assumptions about what would be the most popular courses, and put them at the front of the list. This includes a module which attempts to answer the question “What is Digital Preservation?”, which finishes with a quiz designed to expose some of the common myths and misunderstandings about digital preservation.
The offering in 2017 covers the following areas, distributed among 14 modules:
- Approaches to preservation, including migration and bit-level preservation;
- File formats, and tools for working with them
- Metadata for digital preservation
- Managed storage
- Understanding users, and improving access to digital content
- Legal issues for digital preservation
- Preservation planning
- Certification and assessment
- Risk management