iDigBio launched its new Digitization Academy this summer with an inaugural course, Introduction to Biodiversity Specimen Digitization. This free, online course focuses on introducing the creation of digital data about biodiversity specimens to those who are just beginning this activity. Instructors Michael Denslow, Erica Krimmel, and Austin Mast taught this course for the first time July 12-15, 2021 to an enthusiastic cohort of 24 participants representing a variety of collection disciplines, institution types, and career stages, as well as seven countries and 12 states within the U.S. Synchronous lectures and discussions complemented asynchronous readings and activities, all with the aim of empowering participants to plan and implement a digitization project at their own institution. Approximately half of the July cohort came to the course with little or no prior experience in digitization. Even for those in the cohort with a significant amount of existing experience in digitization, the course provided instruction on some topics that they may not have covered in previous training. Post-course survey responses indicated that participants valued their learning experience and found that it provided the conceptual framework and confidence to take their digitization activities to the next level. Participants also valued the opportunity to network with each other, and we found that having a cohort of mixed digitization experience was beneficial for everyone.
A second session of the Introduction to Biodiversity Specimen Digitization course is being offered August 9-12, 2021, due to the overwhelming number of applications we received for the July course. In Fall 2021, we plan to begin developing content for additional Digitization Academy courses, with the long-term goal of creating a set of courses that are more than the sum of parts. iDigBio’s Digitization Academy will complement other training opportunities offered by our peers at GBIF and within Thematic Collections Networks, as well as by domain-agnostic organizations such as The Carpentries. As we design the Digitization Academy to provide predictable delivery of training, we intend for this to also sustain systematic attention on evolving digitization protocols, best practices, and other resources relevant to the biodiversity collections community. Please keep an eye out for future course offerings from the iDigBio Digitization Academy!