Do richer media mean better learning? A framework for evaluating learning experiences in museum web site design
This paper is significant because it challenges two orthodoxies of current museum web design practice. Firstly that use of richer multimedia results in more powerful visitor learning experiences; secondly that models and theories of learning developed in the formal education sector are not relevant or applicable to informal learning in heritage institutions. Building on previous research demonstrating a trend towards use of richer multimedia in museum websites, and the significance of award-winning Web sites as benchmarks for standards in museum Web design, it uses content analysis methods to compare different designs. The analytical approach adopted is derived from well established theories and models of learning, eg. Bloom’s taxonomy of learning objectives, conversational theory and more recently Laurillard’s taxonomy of learning activities, as developed in formal learning contexts. Using this framework the paper demonstrates how apparently different media approaches exemplified by an award-winning site map to a single low level learning outcome and it contrasts these with the results of a field evaluation of a different site with similar goals but explicitly based on a rich mix of different types of specified learning outcomes. This approach is original within the museums, libraries and archives world which currently believes that models and theories of learning developed in the formal education sector are not relevant or applicable to informal learning in heritage institutions. In particular the sector has rejected the concept of specified learning outcomes in favour of the notion of “Generic Learning Outcomes” as reified through best practice guidelines promoted by the UK Inspiring Learning for All framework and supported by the the Museums and Libraries Archive Council (MLA). I challenge this view, and cast doubts on the value of the metrics adopted by the DCMS to evaluate the contribution of museums to important social goals such as inclusiveness and lifelong learning.
Citation : Brown, S.C. (2006) Do richer media mean better Learning? : A framework for evaluating learning experiences in museum web site design. International Journal of Heritage Studies, (12) 5, pp. 412-426.
ISSN : 1470-3610
Research Group : Photographic Studies and Creative Imaging
- Leicester Media School