Building Skills in Museum Education through Online Courses

February 6, 2020

One of the ways all professionals, especially museum education professionals, should take advantage of professional development opportunities is taking courses that will develop skills we use in our professions. Sometimes it is more convenient to take online courses that allow museum professionals to schedule their coursework around their available time. Online courses provide opportunities to connect with other individuals when one is not able to get that experience in a regular course. There are many options to explore for online courses especially for museum education courses.

The most recent example of options I came across is from MuseumDev, which offers 4-week courses for museum professionals taught by subject experts with specialized skills and practical experience. MuseumDev courses are offered to those who are currently employed in a museum and want to broaden their skill set, on the job market for museum positions and want to gain a competitive advantage, considering a career in museums or a museum studies degree and want to investigate the field more, and in allied professions and think these courses would benefit their career (such as collectors, dealers, artists, educators, and technologists). These pass/fail courses expect students to spend about 16 hours on coursework, and they are taught asynchronously which means students can complete assignments as well as participate in discussions on their own time.

One of the classes MuseumDev offers is on inquiry-based and museum education which offers a collaborative atmosphere to explore key ideas through discussions, small group work, and independent research such as theories of learning, motivation and flow experiences, and the role of questions and information. When students take this course, they will hopefully gain confidence in contemporary museum education practice, build practical skills in teaching with objects, improve group facilitation skills, and become familiar with trends and issues impacting the field.

Also, the American Association for State and Local History offers online courses that usually last between four and six weeks. The courses offer each students a change to engage deeply with subject material over an extended period of time, all at their own pace. During each course, students can keep track with regular chats and other interactions with the accessible faculty, and discuss the course material with classmates in online forums. I took a course from AASLH on Museum Education and Outreach which is about how we can facilitate visitors’ meaningful and memorable experiences in the informal environments of museums. The program looks at the larger umbrella of programming at sites and explores the large concept of who our audiences are, how best to connect with them, and what is needed to develop various methods.

In the Museum Education and Outreach course, the assignments are made weekly to allow for regular feedback and dialogue. While work can be done at one’s own pace, meeting deadlines is encouraged to maximize the experience. Throughout the course students develop a toolkit of strategies, policies, and documents ready for immediate implementation. When I took this course, I developed my own toolkit that I hope to be able to adapt for future projects and fully enjoyed interacting with colleagues from around the country as well as learning from them about other things that will help with museum education programming.

I am also familiar with Museum Study which according to their website build courses with three goals in mind: quality of material covered, engagement of the teacher, and interaction among students. Each course consists of lessons developed by the instructor, readings to supplement your knowledge and address your particular situation, and activities to reinforce understanding and generate discussion about the challenges we face in our institutions. Museum Study also hosts AASLH courses and their Steps program to aid students in fulfilling institutional goals.

Another example of online classes comes from Museum Classes, which is a pioneering training site from the Northern States Conservation Center. I noticed that the course list has varied topics on museums including but not limited to collections care, collections management, security, interpretation, care of paintings, and education in museums. The NSCC not only offers classes but they also have a certification program with some focuses on Museum Administration & Management, Museum Facilities Management, Exhibit Practices & Public Programs, Certificates in Museum Studies, and Collections Management & Care. There are two levels for each certificate program, and the Certificates in Museum Studies program is considered to be a level one program which provides students a basic understanding of many different facets of museums; the rest of the programs are level two programs that provides in-depth knowledge of one area in museums. According to their website, the requirements for the certificate program is to complete ten full courses and two short courses, attend one statewide, regional or national multi-day museum conference, complete a final project (which can be in the form of an exhibition, a paper, a conference presentation, or other format approved by NSCC), and attend a final chat session with instructors online to answer specific questions that test knowledge of the museum topics studied.

Since there are so many options for online courses, it is important to do the research on courses and see what is right for your needs. I included a list of links of courses I referenced in this post as well as additional ones I came across.

What courses, whether or not they are museum related, have you taken or are considered taking?

Links:

https://museumdev.com/

https://museumclasses.org/

Northern States Conservation Center: https://www.collectioncare.org/

https://www.moma.org/research-and-learning/classes

https://www.coursera.org/courses?query=museum

http://www.museumstudy.com/courses/

https://www.edx.org/school/smithsonianx

4 thoughts on “Building Skills in Museum Education through Online Courses”

  1. I have to recommend FutureLearn. Courses are free but you can pay for permanent access or certification. I have now completed several Museum and heritage related modules and it reinforces and grows my learning in the sector. Courses are from recognised universities and museums around the world. Some examples – Behind the scenes at the 21st Century Museum, Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime, The Museum as a Site and Source for Learning, confronting Captain Cook: Memorialisation in Museums and Public Spaces. I’ve done at least 12! https://www.futurelearn.com/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lindsey, thank you for including Museum Study in your article. Museum Study courses are what we like to call instructor led self-study. Each week typically includes one or more lessons or slide shows from the instructor, supplemental readings, which might include a text book, and various activities that could include a quiz, assignments, discussions, and a live chat. The only thing that is scheduled and live is the once a week live chat and those are archived so if you miss one you can go back and read the discussion. We usually wait until the beginning of the course to schedule the chat time so we can accommodate everyone’s location and schedule. The rest of the work can be done any time that is convenient for you. You can expect to spend 6 – 10 hours a week on the course. Currently all of our courses are 4 weeks long.

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