How Courses Work

How Tutor-Led Courses Work How Tutor-Led Certificate Courses Work How Anytime Courses Work



How Tutor-Led Courses Work


What is a tutor-led online course?
How do you join a course?
How long is a course?
What happens on the start day of a course?
How much time will you spend on a course each week?
What do you do in the forum?
Do you have to attend the chats?
Are you going to find your lost ancestors?
Does it matter where you live?
Do the course numbers mean anything?
Does someone check your work?
Still puzzled?


What is a Tutor-led online course?

An online course is any course that is taught over the Internet. All you need is an email account and a connection to the Internet and you can take an online course from anywhere in the world.

Tutor-led courses are self-study. You work in your own time from lesson material that comes to you each week that the course runs. You also have a tutor and you get to 'meet' the tutor and your fellow students on the course forum which is available 24/7 and in a secure online chat room for an online chat which will happen at specific times as the course progresses.

How Do You Join a Course?

First, complete the payment and register for your Student Account. When you click on the Buy Now button for any course you are prompted through the easy-to-follow steps. This gives you access to the Student Area.

Before the start date of the course, the tutor receives the names of all registered students and sends out a welcome message to everyone in the class. You will also receive emails from Pharos Admin telling you that the forum and chat room are ready for you to visit. The course forum is the online notice board for the class. The chat room is where you interact with your instructor and other students at the same time using your keyboard. You access the forum and chatroom using your Student Area.

The forum opens a few days before the course starts so you have an opportunity to visit and get some experience posting to it before the course is underway. You will get a message from Pharos Admin telling you the forum is ready to visit.

Registering for your Student Account, joining the forum, and finding the chat room are the steps involved in joining a course. You are then ready to receive course materials and participate in course activities and discussions.

How long is a course?

They vary from two to six weeks. Mark this period in your diary, and try to keep some time free for participation in lesson exercises, forum discussion and online chats.

What Happens on the Start Day of a course?

On the start date of the course the first lesson is also available in your Student Area and you get an email notification that it is ready for you. It is a PDF file (you probably have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer) for you to save and print out. Remaining lessons will come to you once each week. Please note, if you live in an Australian or New Zealand time zone, you may find that your lesson arrives on the day after the scheduled start date.

There is no other scheduled activity on the Start Date. However, you should be prepared to visit the forum on the start day or as soon as you can. If you cannot be available on the start date, this is not a problem, just join in as soon as you can.


How Much Time Will You Spend on a Course Each Week?

You should allow at least 4 to 5 hours per week for most courses.  If course content is totally new to you, then it may take you longer to read and absorb it. Some of you will work a little faster and others may require longer. This estimate does not include the time you spend researching your own ancestors because something in a lesson side-tracked you back to your own research.

Generally it takes between two to three hours to go through a lesson taking time to visit any websites mentioned and to do the exercises. Allow about 30 minutes each week for visiting the forum and making your own contributions to class interaction. Attending a chat will add another hour.

What Do You Do in the Forum?

Each class has its own forum and only those in your class read posts and contribute. You can visit at your own convenience. The tutor keeps an eye on discussion, adds new topics, answers questions, and generally keeps the activity going.

When your class is over we hope you will join in discussions in our Open Forum anytime, found under the section heading “for Everyone” at the top of the list of forums. It is a good place to request advice and find information posted by others in our Pharos community. If you are already a member of the open forum, then joining a course forum will be easy and familiar. Remember, if you have any problems then we are here to help and you can email us or contact us via the Contact Form in the Student Area.

What are the Chats?

You are not required to attend the chats, unless you are being assessed as part of the Family History Skills & Strategies (Intermediate) programme.  For all other courses we encourage you to come to chats because the discussion supports what you are learning in the lessons, but there is no necessity to do so.  Sometimes the chat session is used for “hands-on” activity at useful websites. Chats are not lessons, but are there to support the lessons and help you learn.

Chats are scheduled by the tutor and where possible we try and accommodate preferences. Most courses have chats on weekday evenings UK time.  If you want to check the time difference between where you live and UK time, go to The start date of a course does not imply that chats are on that day of the week.

After a chat is over, the text is saved and sent round to all students in the class or made available in the class forum. There is no need to take notes during discussion.

The instructor acts as a moderator and guides the chat. There is time for questions and free discussion. The exchange of “chat” is all by typed text – type a sentence or two or three, hit the OK button on the screen or your Enter key and your text appears for all to read. We hope you will contribute to the discussion – chats are fun and make you feel part of a class group.

Are you going to find your lost ancestors?

Much as we would like to promise that you will, there is no guarantee. We can promise that you will discover new ideas for searching online and off, and that you will find out fascinating things about records that you did not know before. We are all experienced researchers and teachers, and we share our tips and strategies. We can help you search more effectively and to accomplish more in less time. Most of all, we are enthusiasts, and do our best to help you have fun and increase your research success.

Does It Matter Where You Live?

It makes no difference where you live. You work on the lessons at your convenience. The forum can be visited at any time. Only chats are scheduled and the tutors will do their best to ensure everyone has the opportunity to take part in one or two of them.

Do the Course Numbers Mean Anything?

The course numbers are assigned with a progression in mind. This may be useful as you consider what courses to take.

100 series courses are about sources and methods and are designed with a broad range of knowledge and experience in mind. Whether the subject is new to you, or you are returning for review, you will find course content filled with new information, practical advice and interesting background.
200 series courses are for those who have experience using the knowledge of the 100 series courses and who wish to expand on that.
300 series courses take students onward from the content in 100 series sources and methods courses. Usually they also involve working in an earlier time period. If you have knowledge and experience consistent with the description of the 100 series course for the same region then you are ready for a 300 series course.
400 series courses are advanced courses for those with significant experience and involve early time periods or more advanced methods.
500 series courses build on the 300 and 400 series.
800 series courses are no longer in use.
900 series courses are those developed in conjunction with family history societies.

Does someone check your work?

That is up to you. There are exercises with most lessons, and many tutors encourage you to put something from your work on the exercises into the forum. It creates discussion and gives the tutor an opportunity to help you. You should not expect detailed personal feedback on your work and there is no requirement to turn in exercises.

Tutor-led courses are assisted self-study, so you are able to work at your pace and your chosen level of involvement. If you would like more feedback on your progress, then you might like one of our Certificate courses

Still puzzled?

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How Tutor-Led Certificate Courses Work


All the Family History Skills and Strategies certificate courses work in the same way as Tutor-Led courses.

You can take any of the certificate courses without being assessed, or being part of a certificate programme. Simply buy the course you want using the ‘Unassessed’ option.

If you opt for ‘Assessed’ on any of the certificate courses, your tutor will know that you will be submitting work for marking and assessment. There will be deadlines to meet and compulsory activities.

Enrolment for the certificate happens automatically when you buy a course using the ‘Assessed’ option.

You should set aside around 6 - 8 hours each week for the course if you have opted for assessment. Some people may need more time. Assignments are due after the course ends. You will need to have time available in the week after a course ends for work on your assignment.

Detailed information about the assessment on each course will be sent to you when the course begins.

Read more about the Intermediate Certificate   Read more about the Advanced Certificate


How Anytime Courses Work

What is an Anytime Course?
How Do You Join an Anytime Course?
How long is a course?
What Do You Do in the Forum?


What is an Anytime Course?

If you like to work on your own completely at your own pace, then anytime courses provide the answer. Anytime courses have no formal start date, you can simply buy and start your course immediately.

Course materials will vary from course to course, but always consist of a PDF document to read through, with links to websites and exercises to help you learn.

Test your learning as you go with quizzes and exercises.

Anytime courses have their own forum for you to interact with others, collect any extra materials (if relevant) and ask questions of our tutors. Put your questions about the course into the forum and someone will answer them.

There are no online chats scheduled with an anytime course.

How Do You Join an Anytime Course?

First, complete the payment and register for your Student Account. When you click on the Buy Now button for any course you are prompted through the easy-to-follow steps.

You will find your course materials in your Student Area under the heading ‘Files and Messages’. It is a PDF file (you probably have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer) that you can save to your computer and/or print out.

You will find a link to the forum in the Student Area. If you are new to Pharos, you will also need to register for the forum.

We are ready to help if you have any difficulties. Simply use the Contact Form in the Student Area.

Once you have registered for your Student Account and have joined the forum, you are ready to start right away.

How long is a course?

Anytime courses are equivalent in written length and the work required in each lesson to other Pharos courses. The number of lessons is shown, so that you know how many lessons each Anytime course has. We recommend you allow up to 4 hours for working on each lesson, and more than this if you start applying what you have learned and actually research your family. You will have a time of 200 days to access your course and visit the forum.

After the 200 days are expired your course materials will disappear from your Student Area and the link to the forum will also disappear. We recommend you mark this period on your calendar. You will also be able to save the course material to a hard drive if you wish to do so, so that you have access to it after the 200 days expiry.

What Do You Do in the Forum?

The course forum is private and only those who take the same course can read posts and contribute. You can read what others say any time of day. One of our tutors keeps an eye on discussions and answers questions.

You may also be asked to collect any extra material from the forum.

Drop in at your own convenience, request advice from the tutor, and to see what others have posted.