University of Strathclyde



We have been running a postgraduate programme through distance learning for the last 9 years. We have 3 quite distinct levels (PG Cert, Diploma and MSc by dissertation) which build upon one another and interest different markets.


Centre for Lifelong Learning

Faculty of Humanities and Social Science

Contact Details

Tahitia McCabe




Genealogy is a multi-million pound market attracting millions of keen amateurs across the world. There were a few non-credit bearing courses being run across the UK and in the USA and Canada with one undergraduate programme in the USA focused on genealogical studies. We were the first in the world to offer a postgraduate level course in genealogical studies and now have one competitor at this level.

There is a thriving professional genealogy sector and we are the place these people go to for training. We are recognised by the two professional bodies in the UK and are involved in setting up a Register of Professional Genealogists.


Positive impact – providing the programme online simply meant many more students could take part. Our students are mainly mature, many work full time or have families while a significant number are new retirees. A small number live in the Glasgow area and we have 5-10% international students on the courses each year. There are many things we could share about how we run the programme really! It’s been a positive experience and the students and tutors get a lot out of it. Most of our tutors are former students and it helps that we understand the trials of studying online.

Lessons Learnt

  • Online teaching and tutoring is very intensive and time for continual monitoring of the course’s VLE needs to be factored into the planning.
  • If something can be misconstrued in instructions, it will be. Try to get a number of people to review assignment and assessment wording.
  • Consistency in wording is important as well; be sure to use the same terminology when referring to aspects of MyPlace. 


There are certainly challenges with providing a programme online – mostly around not really having any downtime, forward planning and communication. Our programme runs from early October with the last piece of work marked in late July. The summer is spent revising content and preparing the VLE for next year’s course. You have to consider how the course works on the VLE from the student perspective and if something can be misconstrued or confused, it will be! Every year something new crops up and confuses a student…we’ve gotten used to it. We monitor the course forums daily and respond to queries immediately as we’ve learned that if students get no reponse, a situation will often spiral into negativity.


We have around 60-70 students across the 3 levels of the programme each year. PG Cert typically from 30-45 students, PG Diploma 25-35 and MSc by dissertation 4-10.

The major issue with scalability for us is tutor availability. We try to keep the tutor groups down to no more than 8 students as there is a significant marking load. We need to train more tutors as we anticipate growing our student numbers due to a new modularisation of the PG Certificate and 1 year (full-time via distance learning) MSc.

Suggestions for Transferability

 We would be happy to share our experiences delivering a postgraduate programme entirely online. It certainly would work for most humanities subjects, we feel.



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