Blended learning: using digital engagement

Blended, or hybrid, learning between the real and digital worlds may be a way forward for school, family and community work. This might be especially relevant if we are in and out of lockdown (locally or nationally), or if our audiences can’t, or are uncomfortable to, visit in person.

Consider the following:

  • Local or national guidance for audiences, such as DfE or local authority guidance on school trips, or for audiences with specific needs or risks. When are the likely timescales for revisiting? DfE are now allowing schools in England to visit in autumn 2020, but local authorities or academy chains may have different regulations or guidance. School insurance may also prevent them from visiting.
  • Talking to audiences about their comfort levels around returning, and how they might want digital engagement in the short, medium and long term. This might include live broadcasts or films for school workshops in conjunction with loans boxes, setting live briefs, online discussions, book or art clubs. There is likely to be a deeper level of conversation with those with whom you have a pre-existing relationship.
  • Any training needs for staff. Do you know how to do the digital wizardry you want to be able to offer? Where can you find training or advice? This may have a cost implication.
  • Online safeguarding. Check, and update as necessary, your organisation’s online safeguarding policy and procedures, and implement enhanced Risk Assessments. Live broadcast, or anything involving chat, will have more safeguarding implications than filmed, or static resources. Be transparent. If there is a possibility of building a relationship, then there is the possibility of the channel being open to abuse and misuse.
  • Inclusion. Not everyone has access to digital means, and some digital methods may exclude those with additional needs. The DCN digital inclusion standards may help aid thinking.
  • Future-proofing the resources and programmes. How are you going to use the resources in the long term? Which resources, content or programming will have longevity beyond Covid-19?

Online safeguarding policies examples

Case studies

National Museum Wales Museum Sleepover: Dino Nights – AT HOME

National Museum Wales usually run a physical sleepover in National Museum Cardiff – where families get to exclusively see the Museum after hours, take part in themed activities, watch a film in the Reardon Smith Theatre, and then sleep under the dome in the grand hall. Obviously due to Covid-19, this hasn’t been possible and in March, they were faced with cancelling their planned summer sleepover. 

During the first Welsh lockdown, they decided to trial a free digital offer for families to take part in a sleepover from home.  Eventbrite was used as a platform to host this digital event – using the new online portal function as a ‘hub’ to house the pre recorded and live activities.  Activities included in their ‘at home’ sleepover event include:

  • A downloadable activity pack
  • Dino themed recipes for baking and craft activities
  • Quiz (using kahoot)
  • Den building
  • Storytelling
  • Virtual tour of the evolution of Wales gallery 
  • Dino themed yoga

Many elements of the programme have been pre-recorded at the museum.  The event also includes a live element with their regular sleepover contact Dino4Hire.  Families can join a live zoom call with Ranger Chris and Trixie the baby dinosaur.  Families navigated their way through the content structuring their experience to meet their needs. A private Facebook group runs alongside the eventbrite portal for families to share their pictures and videos.  This group is seen as the interactive/live element of the event and it establishes a community feel – something that’s difficult to foster in a digital environment.  697 families took part in their November sleepover.  

National Museum Wales school sessions

While National Museum Wales is currently unable to offer school workshops or group visits at its Museums, some of the learning sessions are now available virtually, making it possible for even more people to take part. Schools can connect with some of the Museum’s most popular workshops using Microsoft Teams. Each session lasts about 45 minutes and involves watching pre-recorded content and taking part in a live facilitated workshop. Digital resources complement each workshop and can be used either before or after the session.

The Jewish Museum London have shifted all their school workshops from physical to digital throughout lockdown using virtual classrooms, tours and talks.

The British Museum deliver an online schools workshop programme (pre-Covid), using the Samsung Digital Learning Centre (sponsorship). Film of staff talking about setting it up

Natural History Museum, London, have pivoted to digital engagement:

National Galleries of Scotland pivoted their family, adult and access learning programmes to create a series of online resources including:

All resources are available through the learning section.

Scarborough Museum Trust have been engaging primary age children through lockdown using a digital escape room game, Whispers from the Museum.  

Leeds Art Gallery Meet and Make is a physical adult group meeting monthly to craft. During COVID, the tutoring and activities have gone online, whilst also talking with participants about when a physical return might happen.

Arts Award have developed a way forward for remote delivery.

Arts Council England #GetCreativeAtHome encourages people to try new things. This year has focused on at home activity. Search the activity database to find good digital practice in your area, activities or organisations you could partner with, or ideas to ‘borrow’ (with credits!).

The Fitzwilliam, Cambridge worked with sheltered housing residents prior to Covid-19 to produce co-created films around wellbeing based on the art collections, which they promote as part of wellbeing at home.

The Birmingham Rep have begun REPurposed, a series of digital conversations around theatre and theatre making.

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art have been digitising their weekly, free, artist-led Meet&Make sessions for families since March. This will continue until 2021.

Cove Park have developed a series of downloadable sheets.

The Barber Institute (University of Birmingham) have delivered free weekly digital resources and events through their Barber Home programme.

The Museum of London adapted their school live stream about the Great Fire of London for a family audience learning from home during school closures. Also, their planned work experience programme was revised to an online offer.