Jo Rice is Head of Learning at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, interested in so many things at the moment: imaginative and creative learning, playfulness in museums, museums as social spaces, museums and well-being, social and cultural prescribing, reinterpreting collections, co production… and much more! Jo is also a trustee for a small multi-academy trust in rural South Warwickshire.
Live Streamed Learning Sessions at the Ashmolean: Creating and broadcasting from our kitchen tables, lofts and spare bedrooms
Long, long, ago in a time before Covid the idea of creating online learning sessions and then broadcasting them live and direct to schools, colleges, residential homes and living rooms wasn’t something we were doing, planning or had even thought possible.
Our pre-Covid programme was on-site delivery with some in-person outreach work. Our digital learning offer was content available on our website – zoomable images, teachers notes, game, jigsaws, films and audio.
When Covid hit, like all museums we had to adapt and respond. Initially most of the learning team were furloughed so we weren’t doing any development or delivery in the first few months, but during furlough people were continuing to attend training and were independently researching and learning about the things colleagues in the sector were doing so we were in a good position to move quickly when people returned.
Doing live online broadcasts was something we decided we wanted to do and we knew was possible but it was daunting, particularly as we were working from kitchen tables, lofts and spare bedrooms with a random selection of IT equipment and variable home wifi.
We had lots of questions about how we could do it, what platforms we should use, what kit we’d need and what if it goes wrong? There was an understandable nervousness about the technology as no IT back up in your spare bedroom… None us were digital learning specialists and at that time had zero knowledge or experience on Zoom, Teams or Google Classrooms. We did lots of research and the generosity of colleagues in other museums and cultural venues was invaluable, we couldn’t had done what we did without that collaborative support, BUT…..in the end there was only so much research we could do and we just needed to do it and see what happened. The brave soul from our team was Clare Coleman, learning officer for Early years to Key Stage 2 who did a live-streamed session with a primary school. It worked and after that we were off! Our programmes rapidly developed and evolved with new sessions for primary, secondary, families, adult groups as well as a public programmes of talks and workshops being created and launched.
We had a responsive model with programmes for schools, and adult groups created in response to requests from groups rather than creating sessions and hoping that groups would book. This worked well as all sessions had a guaranteed audience as they had been requested. We then added to the list of ‘of-the shelf’ sessions available. That being said, most of our programmes have been bespoke and designed specifically to meet the needs of the group.
Online live sessions worked well. There is an audience for online even with a steady return to onsite visits. Live streamed sessions kept us connected with our existing partners and networks but also allowed us to work differently, with new audiences and with the capacity to work with larger groups. We have worked with schools across the country who would never be able to visit in person and we’ve been part of programmes that would be unlikely to take place on site, for example, contributing to a 6th form lunchtime creative writing group. Online has offered many new opportunities and greater access to many of our audiences. We will be retaining online live programmes as part of our core offer alongside the onsite programme.
Delivering from home worked but is not a sustainable long term model. We have made the case for investment in digital delivery and content creation including the creation of an onsite broadcast studio so we can deliver live streamed sessions from a dedicated space in the museum without the anxieties of variable home wifi sets up and ageing computers.
Key learning points:
- Talk to people & don’t be afraid to ask for help – it’s a really supportive sector, people are happy to share ideas and experiences
- Try Things– what’s the worst that could happen?
- Work with what you have
- Don’t assume everyone else has is sussed and knows what they’re doing… we’re all learning
- Online is different to in person – don’t try and duplicate your onsite offer in an online session
- Online is sociable
- Online can be interactive and mutisensory
- Investment is needed to grow and develop
Links to info on Ashmolean website
You can take a look at Jo’s slide deck here.
Watch Jo’s presentation from the day on the DLNET YouTube channel below: