An academic from the University of Aberdeen has received a prestigious award from the Royal Historical Society.
Professor Marjory Harper from the University’s School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, was named the winner of the Jinty Nelson award at the Royal Historical Society’s Publication, Teaching and Fellowships Awards for 2020, which were held virtually this week.
The Jinty Nelson Award is given for inspirational teaching and supervision in History. The society recognised Professor Harper for her work, which spans three decades, and her commitment to supporting others’ learning and progression.
The judges were particularly keen to ‘recognise her work in setting up an online MLitt programme in Scottish history and heritage which has very successfully opened up Scottish studies to a wide audience, including mature students from overseas. Building a complex, online learning experience that creates a sense of collegiality and belonging is a daunting task, but Professor Harper’s hybrid of pedagogic strategies for developing a community of practice were trumpeted by both colleagues and students alike, with one even stating that the learning experience was life changing’.
As the first online degree of its type, the programme was devised to offer those with an interest in Scotland’s heritage, history and culture the opportunity to study towards a qualification in the subject.
Professor Harper said: “It is a tremendous honour to be recognized by the Royal Historical Society for my work.
“I am immensely privileged to work with so many supportive and enthusiastic colleagues who undoubtedly deserve to share this award. Setting up and delivering an online programme is a collaborative effort, and I have benefited hugely from the advice, encouragement and practical skills of my academic colleagues and the online team."
One of the core courses in the programme is the Scottish diaspora, and some of the students have been either emigrants themselves, or descendants of those who left Scotland for a new life.
Despite her initial concerns that it might be difficult for students spread around the world to form a bond in an online setting, Professor Harper has been delighted at their eagerness to collaborate.
Professor Harper added: “One of the main challenges in running an online programme is to address the potential for participants to feel isolated. I was concerned at how we would foster the collegiality that comes more naturally with campus-based learning.
“But from the outset the students have been brilliant in engaging with each other and creating their own community, especially on the discussion boards.
“It has been extremely rewarding to see the programme come to fruition, and this award from the Royal Historical Society is a tribute to everyone who has taken part - colleagues and students alike.”