Fairfield Museum and History Center
Launching Virtual Learning
Fairfield Museum and History Center is a museum and library located in Fairfield, Connecticut. Established in 2007 by the 103-year-old Fairfield Historical Society, the Fairfield Museum’s vision is to use history to strengthen community and to shape its future.
The museum currently serves 25,000 visitors annually, 4,000 of whom are K12 students. When COVID-19 forced the museum to close its doors, the museum team had to rethink approaches to serving the public and their educational programs. Rather than replicate the in-person experience, the museum team decided to create a long-term distance learning strategy that could withstand the pandemic and continue to thrive beyond the crisis.
The Fairfield History application offers full interactive learning modules for 3rd and 5th graders. It was developed, reviewed and tested fall 2020 through early spring 2021, with an official launch in May 2021. The experience features pre-recorded videos with educators, interactive games for younger audiences, and a ticketing system — which allows Fairfield to monetize this tool.
- Project Engagement
- Early Access Program
- Distance Learning
- Live Stream
- Gated Content
New Content Approaches
Like many of the museum teams launching Distance Learning applications on the CultureConnect platform in 2020 and 2021, the initial challenge for the Fairfield Museum team was reimagining their educational content and communication styles for a virtual context.
Historically, educational programming happens in-person. This face-to-face dialogue offers museum educators the opportunity to evaluate the learning experience in real time, tailor their approach, and respond. Responding to student questions and asking follow-up questions aids in a student’s ability to learn and make personal connections to historical events.
Without in-person learning available, the Fairfield Museum’s first priority was to identify their new content and distance learning goals and identify solutions that existed in the CultureConnect platform.
- Provide educational content and resource materials that serve educators and students, at home and in the classroom
- Meet the needs of all types of learners
- Offer a variety of activities or interactive experiences
- Make the content engaging
- Prioritize ease of use and user friendly design
- Test early and iterate
Phase 1: Testing in the Classroom and at Home
The Fairfield Museum team initially launched with two experiences: The Burning of Fairfield and Creating Community. The distance learning application supported the 3rd and 5th grade Social Studies curriculum for Fairfield Schools. It was also designed to support any other school interested in teaching the related material. The Burning of Fairfield spotlights an important local historical event and its impact on the American Revolution. Creating Community complements their current permanent exhibition and offers additional materials and content beyond what’s available during an onsite visit to the exhibition.
The Fairfield History application was distributed to teachers and students who had returned to in-person instruction at school, as well as those continuing to work remotely. In-classroom, the application was launched on large touchscreen smart boards for the educator to lead the content exploration and discussion. These in-classroom learning experiences were designed so teachers could fold the application into their units on the American Revolution, local history and/or communities.
A Teacher Guide, available in-app for both experiences, helped the educator prepare for the lesson. Downloadable PDFs include: An Introduction, Timeline & Quiz, Glossary, and deeper content. The teacher also has the opportunity to rate their experience once they’ve finished the lesson plan.
Students at home were free to browse the content on their laptops and tablets. However, without a teacher guiding their learning experience and often without a parent to directly assist, it was essential to offer assistance to students who may be struggling but also, create interactive opportunities like quizzes, voting modules, and more to help the student stay engaged.
Phase 2: Teacher Feedback and Iteration
When Fairfield first engaged CultureConnect to discuss their distance learning program, they emphasized the importance of being able to iterate upon teacher and student feedback. They wanted the program to evolve based on their audience’s feedback in order to continually enhance the virtual learning program.
Their teacher and student feedback proved to be invaluable. Upon testing with local school districts, they received clear and consistent feedback which included:
- Teachers wanted a list of activities available as PDF downloads in each content section
- Teachers requested audio components on every single content page. These audio experiences could help guide at-home learners struggling with reading or coming to the content as English Language Learners
- Expand quiz experiences and results
- Include multiple perspectives and points of view to help students connect to these local histories
- Create more connections between past and present
The Fairfield Museum team immediately took action by crafting audio recordings of every content page, creating downloadable PDFs of activities, expanding the interactive modules and quizzes, and expanding the content to include more stories from a diverse range of historical figures.
Live Stream: Engaging Audiences in Real Time
The Fairfield Museum team was keen to launch CultureConnect’s live stream feature to serve teachers and students live within the Fairfield History distance learning application. The live stream feature is enabled through YouTube live and makes it easy to present live within an app where your audience can chat with each other, post questions, and freely navigate through the content without losing access to the live stream video.
The museum team initially planned to use live stream as a replacement for their in-person discussions however, in testing, they discovered that much like their content, trying to replicate the in-person experience in a digital environment is not the best way to maximize the digital environment. At present, the museum team is testing new approaches to live streaming to see which experiences serve their teachers and students best.
Making a Fun Learning Tool for Students
Creating engaging content, offering activities and interactive experiences, and offering user friendly design were key goals for the Fairfield Museum team when developing content for the app. No place in the app better showcases this commitment than their carefully developed interactive modules.
The most straightforward interactive experiences include CultureConnect’s rating module. By voting 1-5, teachers can share their opinion of the application directly with the museum staff.
Students discover if they’re a Loyalist, Patriot or somewhere in the middle by taking a short personality quiz. The quiz module offers students a fun and engaging way to better understand how former Fairfield residents felt about the American Revolution and what motivated their choices. Similar quizzes test students’ ability to read maps and make connections between Fairfield today and the Fairfield of the American Revolution.
Simple image driven voting modules give students a voice in voting for their favorite artifacts.
Supporting Programs through Ticketed Content
In the last 6 weeks of the school year, Fairfield Museum and History Center’s distance learning application served about 1,300 students. The museum will use additional feedback to make revisions over the summer in preparation for a larger release in fall 2021. In addition to testing content and the user experience, the museum is testing Gated Content.
Gated Content controls help the museum block public access to the application and track which teachers and students have access. Testing transactions, access token distribution, and ongoing maintenance now will help the museum team establish a new revenue stream in the 2021-2022 school year.
The Future of Fairfield Online
Summer 2021 will be used to further refine content, gated content access, and pricing structures for school district access in 2021-2022. Currently, the application is available for free so school districts can contribute their feedback and help ensure the app meets their educational needs early so that school districts can invest in a subscription model assured the Fairfield Museum and History Center has a comprehensive in-person and virtual learning program.
Learn more about Distance Learning