George Washington University (GW), where I teach in the Museum Studies Program, recently decided to move all of its courses online this fall. To prepare, I completed an intensive three-day course to create effective online courses, which introduced the latest research on the factors that make online courses effective and wide (and overwhelming) range of teaching tools that are available.
I’m incredibly fortunate that GW is supporting the faculty with lots of resources and training this summer, which required the Libraries and Academic Innovation staff to move quickly to prepare videos, workshops, and materials faster than I ever would for a student course. Many of the ideas that I gathered could easily be adapted by museums and historic sites as they shift their programming, so I wanted to share them with you. Some don’t require any costly software applications or learning management systems, but just some new planning approaches:
Teaching with Technology Matrix. Skip to page two of this handout for a chart listing the many ways to engage with students (or visitors). There are references to Blackboard, which is GW’s learning management system, so either ignore them or switch to an alternative that you use (e.g. “Blackboard Collaborate” for “Zoom”).
Flexible Course Planning Map. Although designed for the fall semester at a university, the form can be easily modified to help a museum or historic site plan an online experience. Getting all the moving parts in order is a complex puzzle, but this will help. Indeed, I take the format of the Course Plan and convert it to sticky notes on my office wall so I can more easily see things at a glance and move them around.
Digital Accessibility Checklist. If your museum or historic site wants to be more equitable and accessible online, this is a handy resource (did you know that Microsoft Word has an Accessibility Checker? I didn’t). The handout is designed for teaching different learners in different situations at GW, but again, easily adapted for history organizations. The first page has a checklist of ideas and the pages that follow provide more details and instructions. Again, skip or substitute the references to Blackboard.
I’ll be using these resources as I plan my courses for the fall, along with videos and materials I’m finding at other schools around the country (teachers are sharing lots of clever tools and techniques on YouTube). If you found other resources that are helping you develop online programs at your museum or historic site, please share them in the comments below. We’re going to be in this boat for a while.