Online Course: Museum Education and Outreach

At their heart, regardless of type or size, museums are engaging, dynamic places of education. This AASLH online course, Museum Education and Outreach, is about how we can facilitate visitors’ meaningful and memorable experiences in the informal environments of museums.

COURSE DATES: October 8 - December 3, 2018

COST: $195 AASLH Members / $295 Nonmembers

OPEN REGISTRATION: August 8 - September 28, 2018; 30 Person Limit

Register Here

Course Logistics

FORMAT: Online, weekly-paced course

LENGTH: 8 Weeks

PARTICIPATION STYLE: Bi-weekly (every-other-week) real-time online chats; weekly assignments; final course assignment

MATERIALS: One required text

CREDIT: Successful completion of this course will earn one credit toward the Small Museum Pro! certificate from AASLH.

Description & Outcomes

This course requires regular check-ins, sharing and commenting on peer work, and participation in scheduled live chats. Various assignments are made throughout the course to allow for regular feedback and dialogue. While work can be done at your own pace, meeting deadlines is encouraged to maximize the experience.

At the end of this course you will be able to:

  • describe the characteristics and learning needs of various museum audiences
  • summarize what we know about learning in museums
  • assess the strengths and weaknesses of interpretive techniques and program approaches
  • utilize a system for planning, operating, and evaluating museum educational programs
  • access resources to assist you in future development of effective learning experiences

Sample Curriculum

  • Week 1: Defining the Museum / Museums and Memory
  • Week 2: Interpretation Strengths, Weaknesses, and Best Practices
  • Week 3: Audiences and Identifying Your Key Ones
  • Week 4: Education Program Planning, Management, and Evaluation
  • Week 5: Organizing of Museum Education and Outreach
  • Week 6: Community Partners and Funding
  • Week 7: Leading Staff and Volunteers
  • Week 8: Action Plan for Future Programming at your Museum

Texts Used


Anna Johnson, Kimberly A. Huber, Nancy Cutler, Melissa Bingmann and Tim Grove. The Museum Educator’s Manual: Educators Share Successful Techniques (2nd ed). The text is NOT INCLUDED with your registration. You must order the book separately from the book seller of your choice.

Who Should Attend this Online Course

This course is a beginning level course designed for professional staff and volunteers of historical organizations and libraries with historical collections who have little to no experience with developing education programs and goals for museums.

Register Here  


Tanya Brock is one who tends to take leaps and jumps rather than the straight path. Her career has spanned museum education, visitor services, exhibit planning, historical research, and community partner liaison. Whether teaching food preservation classes or designing and running the nation’s first functioning historical brewery or running a brewpub co-op, her passion has always been centered on food—its power to unite and act as a storyteller for communities.

Her education is a patchwork of cultural anthropology, food preservation, heritage interpretation, and museum administration. This background has built a foundation of various perspectives from which she draws from when designing programs. Over a 20-year period she has worked with audiences of all sizes, ages, and backgrounds yet believes at the end of the day, it is the guest who drives the conversation and the experience.


Trying New Ways to Reach Classrooms

Every summer we organize social studies based professional development opportunities for teachers.  These events are always very well attended, and we try to provide fun, engaging, and useful learning opportunities for teachers.  Usually this involves not only showing what we offer as an institution for teachers, but we often feature scholars to provide in-depth background on a particular topic and people involved in the education field to give practicle application advice for the teachers.   This gives us the opportunity to serve teachers directly in addition to serving their students with field trips.


Rachel McCreery, a staffer at the TSM, helps visitors make a Day of the Dead mask.
Rachel McCreery, a staffer at the TSM, helps visitors make a Day of the Dead mask.


Every year we ask those teachers, "What are other ways that we can help and support you in the classrooms?"  Generally the answers are the same.  "Provide primary source materials online." "Have a way to get these artifacts in the classroom." "Come to our school."  Quickly we realized that all of their suffestions had nothing to do with what we were doing on-site.  They weren't asking for new educational programming for field trips.  They weren't making suggestions for changing out our perminate exhibits to better reflect the educational standards.  They weren't even suggesting more kid friendly interactives at the museum.  Everything they wanted from us was to somehow bring the museum to the classroom.  Teachers need day to day support for their lessons.  They don't have time between lesson planning, grading, assessment designing, parent meetings, and, oh yeah, teaching to dig around in archives for primary sources.  Becoming an expert in every aspect of history that they are teaching isn't an option.  They needed us to be available to them in more ways than that one or two field trips a year.


So we got to work.  We developed a fairly comprehensive website that covers topics in our state's history in depth with scholarly articles that still atempt to be kid friendly.  We put images of many of our artifacts on the website as well.  Ideally, teachers that need to teach about early settlement of our state or how the Civil War affected locals will be able to jump online and get all of the background knowlegde they will need to teach their lessons.  They will even be able to pull off a few images to provide visuals for their class.


A 2013 Teacher Workshop at the Tennessee State Museum
A 2013 Teacher Workshop at the Tennessee State Museum


We even brushed off that old traveling trunk program idea and modernized it for today's classrooms.  With help from a huge grant we were able to create multiple trunks that cover multiple topics across our state's history that we can send out to classrooms.  These trunks contain lesson plans, images, primary sources, replicas, and, sometimes, even actual artifacts to bring history to life for students.  That program by itself serves about 35,000 students annually across the state and has become one of the most popular things that we offer.  We are currently looking at expanding the trunk program to try and meet the demand.


Now we are looking for where to go next.  Technology is offering us the ability to be more responsive and flexible than we have in the past.  We recently purchased some very basic camera equipment.  The goal is to create educational videos for teachers to use in the classroom.  Soon we hope to use the equipment to set up Skype in the Classroom to interact with classes that can't make it us.  But to do any of this we have to dedicate time, money, and staff (all scarce resources) to make it happen.  We may have to let something else go in order to make these things happen.  If we pull a staff person for a week to write a script, shoot a video, edit the video, and post it online, that is one person that can't be on the floor working with students.  We may have to turn a school away.  In an ideal world every time we wanted to do something new we could just hire more staff to speciallize in that new thing.  The question becomes, in our attempt to reach into the classrooms what is too far?  Is there a point that we are becoming detramental to the brick and morter museum and the actual artifacts?  Where do we draw that line?

As we are moving forward, I would love to hear the ways that you reach people that can't make it into your museum.


Remote Classroom!
Remote Classroom!