An image of a building sitting on a green lawn under a blue sky behind a purple banner that reads “AASLH Online Course Museum and Education Outreach” with a white icon that reads “Small Museum Pro!”

Online Course: Museum Education and Outreach

Museum and Education Outreach

An AASLH Small Museum Pro! Online Course

Course Description

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.

This course requires regular check-ins, sharing and commenting on peer work, and participation in scheduled live chats. Participants will help shape the flow of the course in addition to providing resources and insights on each other’s work. Assignments are made weekly to allow for regular feedback and dialogue. While work can be done at your own pace, meeting deadlines is encouraged to maximize the experience. Throughout the course you will develop a toolkit of strategies, policies, and documents ready for immediate implementation.

Participant Outcomes

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.


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 (see below)

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


COURSE DATES: March 25 - May 17, 2019

COST: $195 AASLH Members / $295 Nonmembers

OPEN REGISTRATION: February 15 - March 20, 2019; 30 Participant limit




Who Should Take This 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. Successful participants should be ready to look past traditional methods and challenge themselves to work around site-specific hurdles.


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, educational program consultant, 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.

A Reader Born Every Flight

A few months ago, I read an article about a new marketing campaign from Qantas Airlines. The campaign, titled "Stories for Every Journey," commissioned a series of "custom books" that were the exact length of some of Qantas's most popular flight routes. I'm not sure why this article has stuck with me, but it has. Perhaps it's the idea that a marketing campaign resulted in the creation of new literary works? Or maybe thinking about the quantitative analysis that went into deciding exactly how long a book should be for a particular flight route or what subject matter it should have? Probably both of these. But most of all, I think I keep coming back to it because it makes me think about how museums create programs for particular audience demographics.

When we offer an "adult evening lecture" or a "drop-in family program" we have a particular image in mind of who we think this program would appeal to. But are we always right? I myself am an adult museum-goer who enjoys both attending lecture programs AND stopping in at family activities (with or without my family in tow). We've also all experienced adults who acted more like children and children who acted more like adults.

Even Texas educators try to become super at times. This is me at our Halloween Spooktacular in 2012.

How, then, do we decide what a program should look like? And how do we know the program has served its purpose once it's been run? Anybody who has the definitive answers to these questions should be named Super Museum Educator of the Century (some contenders: at the Jewish Museum in Maryland; at the KidSenses Children's InterACTIVE Museum in North Carolina; or even the picture at right). Until we find this person, I'll offer just two parts of the puzzle as seen in this example.

First, start with what you know. Qantas's marketing firm knew about how many words per minute the average person reads and they knew that they wanted to target their Platinum Flyers. They also extrapolated common flight behaviors--namely that someone on a short flight would be likely to read continuously while on a long flight they would take breaks for meals and/or sleeping.

Then, take the risk and jump. Commission some interesting art for the book covers, pick topics and go for it. We can only analyze our planning so much before we just need to act. Will it always work? Nope. But even if our main take away from a new program is a nearly empty room, we still have the chance to learn something about our audience and our institution. Who knows? Maybe the next thing we see is a return to free checked bags and more leg room. Stranger things have happened.