Best practice: Learn about anything - fast

October 1, 2004

Ever wanted to expand your mainstream lecturing repertoire into more off-the-beaten track areas? Then Overnight Experts may be for you.

When the history, classics and archaeology subject centre of the Higher Education Academy started the project last June, I was very conscious of the possibility of accusations of "dumbing down", so I began by asking scholars who were known as much for their research as their teaching to provide us with expert information. The title is clearly tongue in cheek: no one is capable of becoming an expert in Byzantine history in 24 hours, but tutors may find that they know more than they think and that there are more resources available than they imagined. The ultimate aim is not to produce overnight experts, but students and tutors with broader horizons.

We started with Teaching Byzantium by Jonathan Shepard, recently retired from Cambridge University and with 25 years' teaching experience. This was followed by Teaching Medieval Armenia by Tim Greenwood in the Oriental Studies Institute at Oxford. I was not at all bothered that these were relatively obscure topics. It seemed to be the best way of getting the template right.

We are slowly moving on to more mainstream subjects. Out this week is Teaching Quantification in History by Mark Freeman at Hull University. Jim Simpson of Glasgow University is writing on Medieval literature for historians and Rob Liddiard at the University of East Anglia is doing an Overnight Expert on Teaching Medieval Castles .

We are open to offers for new subjects and, as we get to more familiar subjects, we could be a valuable resource for new lecturers who have to teach a subject at short notice. I hope we keep a sense of adventure, though. It seems to be the essence of teaching history.

Andrew P. Roach is commissioning editor of Overnight Expert. See http:/// .

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