International Training Programme Annual Programme 2021 – Week 1

Written by Claire Messenger, Manager, International Training Programme

On 2 August we were excited to start the ITP Annual Programme 2021 and welcome 21 fellows to our new e-learning platform.

Taking the ITP online has been a delight, a challenge, and a learning process for the team.  We developed the idea of splitting this year’s Programme into two distinct parts back in February 2021 and since them we have been working to take our imagined e-learning package from an on-paper proposal to reality.

To move forward, earlier in the year, we started talking to colleagues across the British Museum and around the UK, who we knew had excellent experience of moving projects and programmes online.  We spoke to Naomi Salinas-Burton, Ashley Almeida and Georgia Mallin, at the British Museum and Louise Smyth, Sarah Gore and Jessica Juckes from our UK and Programme partner network.  The information and tips and hints they shared have been invaluable, not simply for developing content and considering platforms and tools but through generously sharing their successes and challenges we have been able to learn so much in so short a time.

Developing content has been key to the Programme going digital.  We wanted to take the usual summer programme ‘whole group’ sessions and deliver those remotely with the objective of ‘setting the scene’ for the cohort 2021.  Our aim has been to share useful learning and skills but also put the British Museum’s staff, structure, collections, projects and programmes into context providing useful background to the fellows visit to the UK.

We created a list of ‘core’ ITP sessions and shared those with our ITP Senior Fellows as part of our ITP Futures project.  During an online discussion with our wonderful Senior Fellows, they shared ideas and suggestions for sessions and modules they felt would be useful for our new cohort filling in gaps and building on our existing programme content.

Our biggest challenge was how to ‘present’ our e-learning in a way that was structured, coherent and systematic and give opportunities for e-networking and collaboration.   The Learning Management System we’ve chosen is accessible and easy-to-use and sits alongside our ITP website, which is also receiving an upgrade which we are looking forward to sharing with you.

Our contextual session, released this week, covers the ITP summer programme ‘welcome days’ and has introduced our cohort 2021 to the Programme, the British Museum and culture and heritage in the UK. Our ITP Fellows, BM and UK Partner colleagues have also recorded short films to introduce themselves and their institutions.

So, what have we learnt over the past few months putting together our e-learning content and choosing a platform?

Be creative – you don’t just need to move your existing projects online – think about projects that can be ‘born digital’ and developed specifically for an online platform.

Think positively – don’t let participants think this is a second best solution and don’t dwell on ‘what would have been’.

Ensure variety – make sure your online projects come in a variety of forms so that there is something for everyone whatever the time or place they are taking part and think about their role profile and professional projects and programmes to get your themes right.

Explore – look at all the different platforms and tools out there.  There are so many systems so think about what works best for you and what is the best fit for your project.  And talk to colleagues who have done this already so you can learn from their successes – and challenges.

Teamwork – one of the challenges has been to create a platform and content in just a few months so having a great team, with complimentary skills, around you is essential.

Analyse – think about what your network – or audience – wants and needs from your e-learning.

Evaluate – ask your colleagues for their feedback throughout.  You might not always be able to make all the changes they want but knowing what works and what didn’t is so helpful.

Practice and test your tech – make sure you learn how to use the platforms and tools (or have someone on hand who does!!) and that you create comprehensive guidelines for your users.

Accessibility – create an access audit so you can know, in advance, what the challenges of working online will be so you can bridge the digital divide.

Compliment your project with social media – think about how you are going to use social media to compliment your e-learning and give your project visibility.

Piggy-back on other initiatives – what’s happening on social media that you can adapt and use ie. international and awareness days. How can you take those initiatives that already have a profile and hashtag and use them to your advantage?

And finally, have a ‘Plan B’ – what happens if your colleagues can’t connect or can’t logon?  You definitely need a ‘Plan B’!!

We’ll be sharing weekly on the ITP blog with news and updates on this year’s ITP e-learning and hoping to share some useful insights with you as well as providing opportunities for you to get to know our 2021 cohort.