This past year, many of our customers began offering distance learning programs and adopted our Live Stream and Gated Content features to serve their teachers and students. Get the scoop from two customers who launched virtual education experiences on the CultureConnect platform: the Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society in Easton, PA and at the Fairfield Museum & History Center in Fairfield, Connecticut.

 

Our goal was to create a new, virtual field trip experience that could be used while students are remote or hybrid learning, but also as a supplement to in person field trips.

– Holly Houser, Education Program Coordinator, Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society

Q&A with Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society

What was the biggest education challenge you were trying to solve?

Our single biggest problem was the inability for students to visit the museum in person during the COVID-19 Pandemic. While we do have resources available for teachers to use in the classroom and for online learning, none of them were nearly as robust as an in-person field trip. Our goal was to create a new, virtual field trip experience that could be used while students are remote or hybrid learning, but also as a supplement to in person field trips. A benefit of the virtual field trip creation also addressed another of our goals – the ability to reach a greater number of students in our region.  Many schools who can’t visit us in person due to budget, travel time, etc. will now have access to our field trip and we can’t wait to connect with these virtual visitors!

Was there any special process or approach you took in terms of content development? For example, trying to convert in-person experiences to virtual experiences?

When it came to content development, we used our field trip lesson plans (which include our state’s education standards) and docent manual as our touchstones. Since our program is for schools, we started with text and then made a list of media to support it.  A wonderful benefit of the digital experience is that we were able to use artifacts, images, letters, etc. that are not in display in the gallery but are extremely valuable in sharing our learning goals. Content development felt overwhelming at first, but our regular check-ins with (Emily, our project lead at CultureConnect) really helped us to understand what would work well in this new platform, how to arrange it, and what to edit out.

Are you planning to use the Gated Content or Live stream tools? If yes, how do you imagine deploying them?

We do plan on using both! Field Trips are a major part of our revenue, so the ability to gate field trip content allows us to keep that stream flowing, even when schools aren’t visiting in person. We will still have free resources available for educators and we appreciate the flexibility CultureConnect gives us to do so. We are excited about the prospect of offering live stream talks with our educators and curator as an option for schools – the ability to have a live presence makes it feel a bit more like “normal.”

What does success look like to you?

I think we’ll be happy to see new schools and a broader age range of students engaging with the museum because of our new virtual programs. But really, as with any of our interactions with kids, success looks like smiling faces; it sounds like thoughtful questions and observations; it feels like a spark of curiosity and connection… success is an experience the kids won’t soon forget.

Any other insights you’d like to share?

Thank you so much to Emily and CultureConnect for this wonderful platform! We are so excited to be using it and can’t wait to expand and grow our digital presence!

For next academic year (2021-22), we plan to gate all access to the virtual platform as well as to the Live Stream.

– - Tara Tomaselli, School Programs Manager, Fairfield History Museum

Q&A with Fairfield Museum and History Center

What was the biggest education problem you were trying to solve?

The biggest education challenge we have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to offer high-quality, impactful programming to all audiences, especially schools. One of the lessons our staff learned quickly was that accessibility is key. Adapting in-person interactive learning experiences onto a digital platform – while acknowledging that not all schools and/or students have the same access to online resources – is difficult. We practically needed to start from square one.

Was there any special process or approach you took in terms of content development? For example, trying to convert in-person experiences to virtual experiences?

Our approach to content development evolved and changed throughout the year as we learned from this process, gathered feedback from educators, and through user testing. At first we were trying to replicate in-person content and experiences, which did not translate well to an online platform. Then we began to look at different approaches to structure-related content, while making it clear and age-appropriate, visually interesting, and simple enough for students to navigate on their own.

It was critical to have input from teachers and school administrators to be certain the content we developed would align with their curriculum, meet the learning needs of all students, and present a more inclusive narrative. In addition, we wanted to ensure that this new content would not replace future in-person museum visits, but serve as a resource to enhance and complement student learning in the classroom.

Are you planning to use the Gated Content or Live stream tools? If yes, how do you imagine deploying them?

We plan to offer free access to the virtual platform this spring. We do plan to gate and charge a minimal fee for the live stream opportunity with museum educators. Depending on teacher/school preferences, we will need to engage classes either through the Live stream option via YouTube or through Zoom. For next academic year (2021-22), we plan to gate all access to the virtual platform as well as to the Live stream.

What does success look like to you?

Success achieved through these virtual programs would be when students gain new knowledge about local history, while enjoying the learning experience. We want to support teachers’ curriculum goals, while providing age-appropriate, inclusive, and accessible content for all of their students. These goals are similar to our in-person programs. The online platform offers more opportunities to assess student learning through the mini-quizzes and behind-the-scenes analytics.

Anything else you’d like to share?

This virtual platform offers a lot of possibilities for future programming and content development that supports both Education and Exhibition goals.