Museums and E-Learning (#edcmooc)

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.

Vatican Map Gallery

Visitors to the Map Gallery at the Vatican Museum.

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 movie Hotel Transylvania 2

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 ( 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]


Museums and E-Learning (#edcmooc) — 5 Comments

  1. Hi Dave. Your post raises some interesting questions for me. If museums were once one of only a few places where people could experience informal learning, and now information and the possibility of learning is effectively everywhere, should museums continue to have this as their central raison d’ĂȘtre, or should their reason for existing shift further? While I agree that capitalising upon the opportunities that elearning can provide makes sense if museums can and should be seeking to fulfill the same purpose that they once did, when there were few alternatives, I actually wonder whether the shift in the fundamental conditions might prompt greater consideration about the purpose of museums, and how they might fulfill that purpose.

  2. Hi Suse,

    I think any time is a good time for museums to review their purpose. But I suspect that such a review would tend to come back to artifacts and the unique properties of artifacts. Only artifacts, it seems, can establish that human emotional contact with other cultures, other times. If e-learning were adopted as an aspect of an expanded understanding of museum learning, I personally would hope that it still converted participants eventually into visitors. For me, only visitors can really experience the unique treasures that museums possess. So I see museums as continuing to have a unique educational role, just one where the ways and means should evolve with time.

  3. Thanks, Zerah. I had missed that. I’ll try to head on over and catch up with y’all. -Dave

  4. Pingback: Why Not MOOseums? | INNO/Genesis