Friday, December 19, 2014

Wondering about the new VIGR "interactive" option

Now, it appears Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research is changing it's presentation format, but just for participants who pay extra. Ol' Myrt here still has two important questions for VIGR administrators, still unnamed on the website.

Ol' Myrt here took a Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research course that left me continuing to struggle with the use of the term "institute." Our instructor did a great job lecturing, reading his PowerPoint slides, and entertaining the usual rushed QandA for five minutes the end of each webinar session. Missing was the advertized higher level of interaction with the instructor than is normally found in typical webinar presentations. How the instructor could have managed this with 100 participants, I cannot imagine.

Plans for additional instructor interaction never materialized. This has nothing to do with virtual or in-person attendance. There was no workspace for exchange of ideas from attendees with feedback from instructor and no place to upload homework for instructor evaluation.

It is the concentrated series of classes, homework reviewed by instructor, and classroom interaction with the other students and the instructor that mark the essence of a true genealogy institute.

Now, comes news of a "planned" shift in presentation format at an upcoming VIGR course. Why not just start out with fully fleshed-out plans, to avoid the frustrating experiences for folks like Ol' Myrt and Jenny Lanctot who wrote Review: Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research (VIGR) saying "I would like to see VIGR research (and hopefully implement) a better platform for the lectures than GoToWebinar – something that makes it feel like an institute instead of just 4 webinars on the same subject.  Then I might sign up for more courses.  For now though, I’ll probably just save up my money and my vacation days and spend them on IGHR in the spring, where I can actually interact with my instructor and get feedback, which I feel is probably the most important part of an institute."

I tend to agree with Julie Cahill Tarr who wrote Feedback in a Good Thing: Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research Offers New interactive Option for Courses saying "I’m not sure that I agree with the solution of a “Plus” package, especially since a higher level of interaction was promised from the beginning."


Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research Offers New Interactive Option for Courses

RALEIGH, North Carolina, 17 December 2014:

The Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research is evolving!

Student responses to our first course have reinforced our plans concerning the need for additional instructor interaction and feedback. Beginning in 2015 we will offer instructors and students this option.

Previously our courses came in a single format: four 90-minute lecture sessions with Q&A, extensive syllabus material, and at least one practical exercise.

Plus courses will consist of:
  • the same four 90-minute lecture sessions and syllabus material offered to standard students; plus
  • an additional one-hour Q&A/discussion session held on an evening either midweek or at the conclusion of the course;
  • individualized instructor feedback on practical exercises by email;
  • a Certificate of Completion for the course.

The Plus option for any course will cost $99.99, as compared to the $69.99 cost of standard courses.

J. Mark Lowe’s “Preparing the Field: Understanding the Agricultural Records of Our Ancestors” will be the first course to offer this new option. Beginning on Wednesday, 17 December 2014, buttons will appear on the website to purchase either the Standard or the Plus option for this course. Many of the Institute’s future courses will also offer this option.

For more information visit or email

About the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research
The Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research offers virtual, year-round courses on a wide variety of genealogical subjects from top experts in the field. For more information visit or email

  1. During joint sessions, how will those paying the lower amount not "hold back" those who purchased the "Plus" option?
  2. During joint sessions, how will insights gained during additional instructor interaction not be conveyed to those who didn't purchase the "Plus" option.

If anyone could pull this off, it would be the aforementioned J. Mark Lowe, but is this to be the "norm" for future VIGR courses?  (OK, that's three questions.)


VIGR is a catchy acronym, but it simply isn't a genealogy institute in the true sense of the word as developed by the NIGR (National Institute on Genealogical Research) established 1950* and IGHR (Samford University's Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research) established in 1964.*

As my DearREADERS are certainly aware, Ol' Myrt applauds any form of high quality virtual presentation. The VIGR courses are definitely a notch or two above the typical one hour genealogy webinar. Indeed, some VIGR instructors also teach at Samford, though in decidedly more rigorous courses of study.

I wouldn't think VIGR would presume to change the definition of a genealogy institute to something other than what NIGR or IGHR offers diligent researchers in a week of intensive, in-person, full immersion daily classes, homework and case studies chaired by a course coordinator and featuring multiple instructors. For more information about NIGR and IGHR, see:

*Bettag, Claire. "Educational Opportunities," in Elizabeth Shown Mills, editor. Professional Genealogy, A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors Lecturers and Librarians Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2001. Chap. 2,  pp. 18-42.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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  1. I'm still puzzled. Part of going to a genealogy institute is the opportunity to interact with people. Fellow students as well as your instructors. Get to know each other. Spend a meal chatting about research experiences, bouncing ideas for "brick walls" off of other people, people who are as "into" genealogy as you are. It is an opportunity to make friends with people who get where you are coming from and want to hear about family and exchange researching strategies. This spring I will be taking a research trip to DC to visit NARA with two genealogy friends, one of whom I met at GRIP in Pittsburgh, 3 years ago! Institutes provide the opportunity for question and answer throughout the class so that if there is confusion it can be sorted out before "losing" the entire class. Classes are more than about reading the slides. Slides are meant to guide presentations, keep the presenter on track and summarize the most important "take-away" points and ideas. They are the talking points, but they shouldn't be the "entire" presentation. In addition, many classes at GRIP have homework, which is checked (with frequent group collaboration on the assignment) as well as the occasional in-class workshop where we put new skills to use.

    Sandy Rumble

  2. Pat. I've never taken any online genealogy courses. I've thought about it, so thanks for the info. I do attend webinars and our genealogy society here in San Diego has great seminar speakers twice yearly. D. Joshua Taylor will be here next month. Cyndi Ingle was here in September. It is important to keep on learning as it keeps us young. Well, young at heart anyway. LOL! Thanks for all your wonderful posts this year.