There are plenty of fascinating things about museums. And one of the most intriguing is that during the 20th century anyway, museums have been one of the few places where adults (and children) could experience informal or free-choice learning. During that century, the educational mandate rose to become one of the primary goals of most museums.
In spite of the speed with which museums embraced the world wide web, few of them seem to have become equally enthusiastic about the prospect of expanding their on-site educational activities into the online environment. Meanwhile, the rest of the world, including most of the mainstream educational institutions are taking up online learning, or E-Learning in a big way. The internet has meant that the potential museum visitor today has many options for free-choice learning.
I’m a big fan both of museums and e-learning. Combining the two seems to me like a natural extension of the visitor experience for museums. The museum visitor who has enjoyed an online learning offering before arriving at the museum will not only come armed with a pre-ignited enthusiasm for seeing the actual artifacts, but can also spend more time examining and appreciating those artifacts and less time reading the wall-mounted didactics.
The museum visitor who delves into online learning after the visit can re-kindle the excitement of the museum experience and be more highly motivated to undertake additional museum visits in the future.
So why are more museums not exploring the potential for delivering leading-edge e-learning?
I hope to explore answers to this question during participation in my first MOOC, E-learning and Digital Cultures, offered by the University of Edinburgh (https://www.coursera.org/#course/edc). Supposedly some 36,000 participants are signed up, with lots of emphasis on networking via social media. Should be mind-blowing. #edcmooc
[Photo by Mark, GNUFD License, Creative Commons]