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2021 in Review, a look back from Academus founder at the past 12 months

Academus Founder Emily Shead reflects over the past 12 months for Academus

1201 Students, 18 Events and Summer Schools, 64 articles and over 400 hours of live teaching.

What a year it's been, I find myself using this expression a lot when it comes to Academus, but it is always because I am amazed by what triumphs volunteers can achieve when they are truly passionate about something.

Academus is a testament to the goodwill of a group of people who share a common interest, in this case, the Ancient World. Over the past 12 months we smashed every target we made for ourselves, achieved more than any annual plan could have accounted for and we are now only dreaming bigger and better for 2022.

What's the mission?

For those of you who may be reading this as your first introduction to Academus, welcome. Academus might just be a social media presence that you've seen across your timelines, but behind the scenes, we are a finely tuned machine of volunteers all working towards a greater goal of providing free education to students aged 11-18 who are keen to learn more about the ancient world.

Our dream is to make sure there is equality in education and that regardless of where you went to school you will still be able to access any subject you wish to study. At the moment, the current educational landscape does not reflect a system where you can follow your passions at your will, as it is limited by where students live, their families finances and other factors which mean that at its core- education is not fair.

Our aim is to bring back a degree of fairness to ensure that our students leave our courses and programmes feeling equal to their colleagues at other schools and institutions - ready to tackle higher education.

To learn more about our mission head to our about page or do not hesitate to drop us an email and one of the team will happily get in touch.

How did 2021 go? From Winter to Spring

From start to finish this year has been filled with people putting in so much hard work and effort to ensure that we stuck to our mission and achieved our goals. I am astounded by the dedication of our team and our wider network of supporters.

We began the year with our Digital Think Tank series being revived and some excellent talks on Thebes taking place and we were so thrilled to see some of our events getting turnouts of over 250! Over the year we held seven think tanks on an array of topics from Greek Theatre to LGBT History in the Ancient World. We were able to allow academics from across the field to share their research and work with young audiences.

Academus content team gathered on zoom. 12 squares for different attendees.
Academus Meeting Spring 2021

2021 also saw the launch of our first school's workshop Cyclopeia, aware that many schools hadn't returned to normal and there was a notable absence of guest speakers due to Covid, we developed a workshop programme that could be held completely remotely. We were delighted to hold this workshop with over 60 students throughout the year, with great feedback. If you would like to explore this option for your school in 2022, please get in touch.

As momentum began to build in the year we hosted our first crash course in the Easter Holidays for beginner students aged 14-18 to get their first glimpse of the Classical World. We were joined by 119 keen learners who enjoyed a variety of different lectures from our tutors on subjects like Minoans and Mycenaeans, Epic Poetry and the Age of Alexander alongside the Roman Empire and Rome and the Alt-Right.

At the end of the Easter Period, we held our first Outreach Conference where we were joined by so many passionate figures within the academic community and we received talks from undergraduate and postgraduate students about their experiences; educators working in schools about the current secondary school landscape and academics who are dedicating their research to outreach and the promotion of Classics. The day was an excellent learning experience. Following the learnings of the day, Academus is producing a paper that will hopefully be available in early 2022 to discuss our findings and the next steps from the conference.

How did 2021 go? The Summer Period

The Summer Period is always a busy one for Academus, with the Summer School on the horizon it was all systems go. During this time we recruited 42 new members of staff to join our ranks and assist in our operations, from content writers to academic content creators and tutors.

All of our team were incredibly committed, developing work of the highest standard, attending intensive training sessions on a number of areas and mucking in wherever they were required. I'd just like to thank every team member at this point for their monumental efforts to pull off all our work this year- it certainly wasn't easy and we cannot thank you enough for all your hard work.

Before we embarked upon the summer school, we just squeezed in another Crash Course in the May Half term. 101 students joined us for a day of intensive mythology learning about Gods, Monsters, Heroes and modern adaptations of mythology during their school holidays. The course was so well-received we incorporated it into our summer school to come.

This leads us up to the focal point of the Academus year: the Summer School. We weren't joking around this year as we undertook a major expansion introducing three new summer schools: the Intensive Latin School, the Intensive Greek School and the Ancient World Sumer School. In total, our team produced 90 hours of new materials to be taught throughout the summer school.

Academus Tutor teaching online via bigbluebutton videoconferencing platform. Using a kahoot to teach students. Question "what policy did the assyrians have towards other states?" Answers: Red triangle, tolerance or Blue diamond, isolationism
One of our tutors in an Ancient World Lesson

We also channelled our efforts into accessibility this year as we strived to make all our summer school resources dyslexia-friendly to uphold our mission of making education equal for everyone.

By the time the Summer School came around we had 4 courses, 201 students enrolled and 22 tutors ready to teach over the next 10 days. In the final week of July and the first week of August, over 300 hours of teaching took place across our classes and students immersed themselves in various aspects of the ancient world.

Screenshot of Academus EdTech Platform - Moodle. 6 course cards for Latin, Greek, Roman History, Latin History, Greek History, Classical Culture, Greek Literature.
Screen Grab From Academus Moodle Platform

Seeing everything come together for a second consecutive year was such a joy, considering where Academus had started in April 2020 this enormous feat felt slightly surreal and we hope that every student who joined us gained a lot from taking part in our Summer School. If you're interested in joining our Summer School for 2022 keep watching our website as we'll be sharing updates early in the new year.

How did 2021 go? The Rest of the Year

After the Summer School, our team took a well-earned break for the remainder of August and September. We took this time to reflect on our work, pinpoint improvements for 2022 and celebrate our team's achievements with the very first Academus Awards Show. We had an evening of celebration dedicated to our staff and it was special all-round as many of our team were able to meet in person for the first time.

Academus team members dressed in blue to celebrate the achievements of Academus in 2021
Some of the Academus Team 2021

The remaining part of the year has been a time for us to research as we head forwards into the future and assess where we can expand and what we can improve upon. We have channelled our efforts into fundraising strategies and more diversification for 2022.

Behind the scenes, we have also been working on the launch of the Ancient Outreach Network (AON) for 2022. We hope AON will enable more people to engage with our work and will allow us to deliver more education through virtual and interactive means.

Even whilst much of our work may have been strategic, our content team have been hard at work making sure there are lots of new resources going up every month so that students always have access to new reading material. And, this year the content has not disappointed, we've diversified to have topics on Mesopotamia, Ancient Japan and book reviews. We've also engaged with what's going on in the media to make our content as relevant as possible, releasing content about Norse mythology around the Loki release and discussing the likeness of modern figures like Elon Musk to the ancients.

Through the content team's consistent work we have been able to attract a global audience, with 46% of our online audience coming from the USA, allowing us to expand our services. We have also increased our annual monthly engagement by 253% since 2020, which is an indicator to us that what we're doing is clearly having some impact. We are now the top result when you search 'Academus' on Google and we hope to continue building on this online presence in the new year, and reach as many new people as possible.

This year also saw the launch of our very own Academus Merchandise, through our designs we have been able to help financially support some of our operations. So, a big thank you to anyone who has purchased any Academus designs, it is directly going into our services and that money is vital to our continuation.

As a final send-off, we compiled the Academus 12 Days of Christmas, this celebration allowed Academus to share a fun and less formal side where we put together a series of activities from crosswords to personality quizzes all centred around the ancient world. Once again, this campaign was a huge success as previously December had been a very static month for us, but this year we saw a lot of engagement and new leads coming in as a result.

This brings us to the end of 2021 and now it's time for us to look forward to 2022 and here's to another successful year! However, before I finish there are some people who I need to thank.

Thank Yous

Firstly, The Classical Association, without your support, we would not have been able to run our operations to the same degree: you enabled us to expand our capacity, expand our offerings and improve our services. We are so very grateful and we cannot wait to continue in 2022.

Next, I must thank our staff. Our volunteers have worked tirelessly, with no challenge being too difficult or too inconvenient. Many are working from different timezones, working alongside full-time study or a job and they are still giving 110%. It has been my pleasure to lead such a phenomenal and enthusiastic group of people. Thank you, guys!

This year would also not have been possible without the invaluable support of our guest speakers and advisors from the academic community. To all our supporters who have given up their time to speak for us or get involved with one of our projects, we are so grateful. You add so much value to our organisation and have helped build it into the platform it is today.

Finally, it just leaves me to thank our audience. If it wasn't for you guys, our audience, reading this right now- Academus would not be possible. We have become a community of people who love the Ancient World as much as we do, and that is so special. Thank you to everyone who has attended a course or talk, everyone who has read an article and everyone who has ever hit like or retweet across our social media. YOU are the people who have made this whole endeavour worthwhile and we hope you continue to follow our progress in the future.

Here's to a happy and healthy new year!

Emily Shead

Academus Founder

If you would like to support Academus in 2022 please feel free to get in touch with me via email:

We are always looking for donations and funding to help support and expand our operations, and we are always so grateful for more hands to join our team.

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