June 3, 2015

Why eLearning is the Future of Museums

Photo credit: Dickens’ Dark London App from the Museum of London

Believe it or not, the Museum of London created a staff position three years ago to focus exclusively on creating content for digital learners. While smaller museums may not have the resources to focus so extensively on elearning opportunities, there is much that any museum can learn from their approach.

According to MuseumiD, the eLearning Officer at the Museum of London focuses on two areas:

  • Web-based learning. These programs are aimed primarily at schools, and started with packets of downloadable information that teachers could use to prepare students for visits to the museum. Over time, programs developed to create resources that worked exclusively online, rather than supplementing or preparing for a museum visit.
  • Blended learning. This involves the creation of a web-based learning studio housed within the museum and provides learners with the chance to connect certain objects in the museum’s displays with further technology-based learning experiences. Unlike the web-based learning, which involved minimal investment in hardware, this environment required a significant hardware investment to outfit the learning studio with computers. They are now exploring the use of tags and cell phones to provide the same interactive displays with minimal hardware investment.

The Museum’s eLearning Officer concluded the article by commenting on the importance of making certain that technology was not being used gratuitously, but truly adding to the learning experience of students. The good news is that 96% of surveyed participants found that technology had enhanced their museum experience. The Museum of London has even gone on to create an app for iPhone and iPad that experiences ‘Dickens’ Dark London.’ 

What does this all mean for you? Well, first of all, it reinforces the fact that elearning for museums is here to stay, and museums must find a way to embrace the technology that is quickly consuming all aspects of modern culture. The good news, however, seems to be that people are as happy using their own technological devices (cell phones, home, office or library computers) as they are using computers provided by museums themselves, so this doesn’t mean you need to make a major investment in hardware. Mounting an iPad at each of your major exhibits, for example, would cost far less than bespoke learning tablets.


Examples of Museums Using Interactive Media for eLearning

To start thinking about how your museum can use eLearning to become an education resource outside of your local area, take a look at how some of these museums are embracing the possibilities that technology offers:

Anne Frank House – In this interactive piece, website visitors can take an interactive tour of the secret annex.

Canadian Museum of Civilization – Explore an online exhibit! This one is called ‘Canada at Play: An online exhibition of toys and games.’

Benjamin Franklin Travelling Exhibition – This interactive timeline lets students experience history at their fingertips.

Of course, these are just a few of the many interactive exhibits that museums, art galleries, libraries and other cultural institutions are hosting online. You’ll find many more as you explore the web.

Want to find out how your museum could add interactive exhibits to your website? Contact us for a consultation on how elearning initiatives can advance your museum’s relevance in this technological age.