Once I decided to pursue training in indexing, I looked at the main three sources for training. At the Providence, Rhode Island, ASI conference in 2011, I attended sessions in which participants reviewed the three major sources. ASI Training in Indexing was in the process of upgrading their course, and it was mainly a self-learning approach. You read the materials, then tested for the three separate levels or courses. The USDA course didn’t seem as up-to-date or relevant as the other two, and I liked the idea of a project-based learning style, which Berkeley offered. I could test how well I was doing at this new skill set and get valuable feedback before throwing myself into freelance indexing. The Berkeley course allowed six months to complete all the assignments.
When I joined, I was grouped with others in various stages of the course. Thursday evenings gave us a chance to ask questions of whichever teacher was assigned the chat session. Though there were hiccups with the chat sessions, they switched to a new tool that worked a little better. I was assigned to Max Macallister, who lives in Australia. Getting assignments returned from him always involved a time delay, since our time zones are over 14 hours apart. Without the luxury of Skype or audio calls, it took me a while to get a feel for Max's grading and instruction style. I remember him saying that I had done a “reasonable attempt” at one index assignment. I didn’t know if this was a nice way of saying, “not so good” or a compliment. Turns out, it was a compliment, but it took some email conversations to clarify. Also, you were graded on participation and interaction in the chat sessions. This helped make sure everyone contributed something during the chat sessions.
Sylvia Coates, creator of the course, would moderate chat sessions and share her personal experiences. I think that indexers are great at sharing how they do freelance work and how it is an ongoing learning experience from the variety of books indexed to the peculiarities of publishers/authors. There are so many nuances of indexing that it will continually test your ability to be a lifelong learner. It helps if you enjoy this.
We were given access to test versions of each of the three main software indexing tools, and I really struggled with Macrex. I recall a fellow novice indexer not taking the Berkeley course precisely because of the requirement to complete the first several assignments using each of the tools. I thought it provided an IT challenge that I could hang my hat on; however, there were evenings that I questioned my quest to conquer all three tools. Still, it gave me insight into how the tools worked before committing money to purchase one of them. I settled on purchasing Cindex and have not regretted the decision.
Berkeley offered some very basic embedded assignments which I feel could have been developed more. Although I thought I would finish early, a summer visit with our son from South Korea had me finishing just a few weeks from the full six-month time limit. Having six months to complete the course gives you freedom to work around the events and interruptions in your life. It also gives you time to do more reading and practicing. I liked the real life project-based training. It worked well for me. I have gone on to create indexes for pay, and I have the course materials to review, with notes.
My graduate degree was in education, instructional design, and curriculum development, and I work for a university, so it was intriguing to see how the course would be designed and how I would feel about taking an online course, when I have always attended a brick and mortar setting. I highly recommend it for adult learners with day jobs. Self discipline is required, but that will be needed once you start indexing, too!