Archival Continuing Education (ACE) Guidelines (2017)

Adopted by the Council of the Society of American Archivists, November 2017


Archival continuing education (ACE) provides professional archival knowledge beyond the formal credit/hour structure of education institutions. ACE connects with individual archivists in all phases of their careers by delivering basic, intermediate, and advanced courses in the areas of archival knowledge listed below.[1]

These guidelines encourage lifelong learning opportunities within the archival community and specifically apply to providers or sponsors of archival continuing education. Others will find them useful, including practicing archivists, allied professionals, employers, archival educators, accrediting agencies, and those who fund, oversee, support, work with, or use archives or who participate in archival continuing education.

Continuing education is typically focused on applied practice but should be grounded in archival principles, theories, histories, and values. All programs should engage the latest developments, technologies, and best practices in the knowledge areas.

Areas of Archival Knowledge

Archival continuing education programs should address the areas of archival knowledge delineated by the Society of American Archivists Guidelines for Graduate Programs in Archival Studies (GPAS) and the Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA)[2]:

  1. Nature of Records and Archives: The theory and history of archives and the archival profession; social and cultural history; records-keeping models; relationships to allied professions; familiarity with professional standards and best practices; and use of appropriate research methodologies and technological solutions.
  2. Selection, Appraisal, and Acquisition: The theory, policies, and procedures that archivists use to identify, evaluate, acquire, accession, and authenticate archival materials, in all forms.
  3. Arrangement and Description: The intellectual and physical organization or verification of archival materials in all forms, and the development of descriptive tools and systems that provide both control of and access to collections.
  4. Preservation: The strategy, practice, and administration of physical and intellectual protection of materials in all forms, in order to ensure their continued accessibility. This includes environmental controls, material stabilization, storage and housing, handling and security, reformatting, and migration.
  5. Reference and Access: The practices and policies guiding the contextualization, evaluation, and/or use of archival resources to serve the information needs of various user groups.
  6. Outreach, Instruction, and Advocacy: The theories and practices that archivists implement to identify needs and to develop programs that promote the value and/or use of archives by individuals and communities. These activities facilitate comprehension of archival materials and archival work, increased use and primary source literacy, expanded resources, improved and new community relationships, visibility, and support.
  7. Management and Administration: The principles and practices archivists use to facilitate all aspects of archival work through careful planning and administration of the repository, unit, or program, its institutional resources, and its policy making practices.
  8. Ethical and Legal Responsibilities: The laws, regulations, institutional policies, and professional standards that apply to the archival community and its users, including intellectual property, sensitivities, and privacy concerns.

Specialized Courses

Courses that address specialized topics such as formats, allied functions, or repository type are also appropriate. These can be specialized courses or part of courses addressing the above areas of archival knowledge. Such topics may include:

  1. Digital Materials: Methods to manage born-digital records and digital surrogates, including means to address the specific nature, issues, and preservation challenges of digital archives.
  2. Collaboration with Allied Professionals: Methods to work with creators and managers of information, including records managers, rare book librarians, cultural heritage workers, conservators, information technologists, museum professionals, oral historians, public historians, educators, and social and community organization professionals.
  3. Innovative Areas: Archival practice is informed by and informs a range of influences, including interdisciplinary approaches to research; new and emerging theories, practices, and technologies; and subject specialization.

Delivery Options, Courses, Evaluation

Different instructional format and venue options exist. Matching the needs of participants and topics being taught with the optimum format and venue is important. Courses may include, but are not limited to, workshops, seminars, institutes, in-house training programs, and professional association meetings, as well as emerging distance and online educational delivery mechanisms.  Providing low cost, widely available continuing education should be the primary goal.

Course information and materials must be appropriate to the intended subject, duration, delivery mechanism, and audience.[3] Course developers will create learning materials based on identified needs and will incorporate and assess learning outcomes using recognized assessment methods and formal evaluation instruments.  Instructors should be qualified in their fields.[4]

Providers must consider accessibility when developing and offering courses and make efforts to meet the needs of persons with disabilities. Providers must have a policy for handling ADA-related requests. Any materials promoting and advertising CE courses should contain information about how participants may request reasonable accommodations to address their special needs. Instructors and students should evaluate specific continuing education courses.  Developers and providers of individual courses and multi-class programs should evaluate the total range of courses offered over time to avoid needless duplication or competition.[5]

Appended to these guidelines are materials intended to serve as a general “toolkit” to aid continuing education providers and users in developing and preparing to attend continuing education offerings:

Appendix 1: Evolution of the ACE Guidelines
Appendix 2: Recommended Guidelines for Evaluating Instructor Qualifications
Appendix 3: Effective Delivery Formats
Appendix 4: Guidelines for Evaluating Continuing Education Programs

Appendix 5: Guidelines for an Ideal Course and Curriculum Development


[1] ACE "courses" is a generic term that includes workshops, seminars, clinics, institutes, short courses, e-learning, recorded programs, and webinars.  See Appendix 3: Effective Delivery Formats.

[2] The Areas of Archival Knowledge list is taken directly from GPAS and informed by the ACA General Knowledge Statements.

[3] See Appendix 5: Guidelines for an Ideal Course and Curriculum Development

[4] See Appendix 2: Recommended Guidelines for Evaluating Instructor Qualifications.

[5] See Appendix 4: Guidelines for Evaluating Continuing Education Programs and sample evaluation forms.



Appendix 1: Evolution of the ACE Guidelines

A field as complex and rapidly changing as the archival profession requires effective continuing education and training. In 1997, SAA adopted “Guidelines for the Development of Post-Appointment and Continuing Education and Training Programs” (PACE) which had as its basis the Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies (GPAS) guidelines. The ACE Guidelines resulted from a scheduled review and revision of PACE in 2005 – 2006. The ACE Guidelines adopted by the SAA Council in 2006 incorporate information from SAA’s 2002 GPAS guidelines and the Academy of Certified Archivists’ 2003 Role Delineation Statement Revision.

In 2017, the Committee on Education revised the ACE Guidelines to be in better accordance with a 2016 revision of the Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies. During the 2017 ACE revision, an appendix referencing the 2004-2005 A*CENSUS was removed due to concerns about the census being outdated.


See the previous version of the ACE Guidelines (2006, 2010)

Appendix 2: Recommended Guidelines for Evaluating Instructor Qualifications

Instructors should be experts in their field. 

This expertise may be indicated by an appropriate combination of elements such as:

Instructors should demonstrate an ability or a strong potential to teach effectively. This could be confirmed by a successful teaching record (based on student, peer, or reviewer evaluations), completion of instructor training geared toward adult education, or review by Committee on Education members or the Education Director.

Another measure of instructor qualification is completion of instructor training geared toward adult education. When evaluating this qualification in an instructor, the provider should consider the wide range of venues and structures that are appropriate for such education. Adult education teaching skills include the ability to conceptualize and deliver course content in person or via distance education and to research and write a formal manual.

Appendix 3: Effective Delivery Formats

There are a variety of face-to-face and online delivery formats within continuing education. The below provides some examples of these formats and their advantages and limitations.

Face-to-Face Delivery Formats

Course (W):  A relatively short-term, intensive, problem-focused learning experience that actively involves participants in the identification and analysis of problems and in the development and evaluation of solutions.

Seminar (S):  A session or series of sessions in which a group of experienced people meet with one or more knowledgeable resource persons to discuss a given content area.

Institute (I):  A short-term, often residential program that fosters intensive learning on a well-defined topic.  New material is presented to add to the knowledge which the participants already have on the subject.

Clinic (C):  A short-term program that emphasizes diagnosis and treatment of problems that participants bring to the session.  Experts available at the clinic, rather than participants themselves, have primary responsibility for diagnosing problems and prescribing treatment.

Short course (SC):  An abbreviated, more focused version of the class typically found in colleges and universities.  Designed to update or deepen the knowledge of those in a particular field, the expert dominates the sessions because it focuses on communication and on acquisition of information within a short time.

Advantages of Each Format

Limitations of Each Format

Criteria for Selecting a Format 

Online Learning Formats

Online or distance learning is training that takes place virtually with registrants and instructors separated by geographic regions.  Registrants may receive materials and participate in learning activities for an online course via their computer or email and may be asked to complete a series of activities in a particular order, pass assessments, or submit an assignment to an instructor for review.

Distance learning may be delivered using many techniques and technologies. These include the following:

Online Learning or “eLearning” is delivered via computers using internet technology and software programs that allow registrants to interact with the course materials, each other, and the instructor via discussion boards learning management systems, video conferencing platforms, etc., both synchronously and asynchronously.  This is a fast-moving field with new products and techniques coming online in rapid succession.

On-Demand or Pre-Recorded programming uses a series of pre-recorded programs designed to convey information.  Delivery via webcast, video, podcast or other digital recordings is most common. Recordings may be hosted in Learning Management Systems, clouds or on websites.  In some cases the recorded programming includes an assessment. Live broadcasts (webcasts, podcasts) may offer the opportunity for webcam sharing, screen sharing, live chat, Q&A and polling.

Advantages of the Distance Learning Format

Limitations of the Distance Learning Format

Criteria for Selecting the Distance Learning Format

Appendix 4: Guidelines for Evaluating Continuing Education Programs

Feedback from participants, peers, reviewers, and instructors is essential to assess the quality and relevance of individual courses and programs of continuing education courses.

Use the course evaluation forms that follow or construct your own to assist the instructor in refining/tweaking the content and presentation. Lengthy evaluation forms typically defeat the purpose as participants are eager to leave – one sheet of paper with questions on both sides appears to yield the greatest results. Include succinct questions and request answers based on a scale of one to five as well as open ended questions encouraging comprehensive responses.  Allowing participants to complete evaluations at home and/or online after the program concludes results in a significant decrease in evaluations submitted.

Ask participants about the complete education experience including:

Evaluations allow instructors and education providers to pin point areas for improvement in course content, presentation, and materials. Both entities should study the numbers, comments, and suggestions/complaints to resolve issues. Pay particular attention to negative comments, even if there are few. Assess their legitimacy and attempt to address the concerns they raise even while keeping positive comments in mind.


Appendix 5: Guidelines for an Ideal Course and Curriculum Development

As an archival continuing education provider, you have decided on the topic for your course or program based on research and feedback from various sources that point to the need for a presentation on this topic.

In the case of an individual instructor proposing a course, a good first step is to contact the provider and ensure that the course idea is a good fit for the provider, in terms of content, delivery format, audience, and development timeline.

Consider listing the following for the single course or multi-course curriculum: