Title:Beyond the Virtual Field Trip: The Online Museum Classroom
Authors:Anne Kraybill, David Fredrick, Kirsten Peterson
Publication:MW2015: Museums and the Web 2015

Museums have traditionally attempted to engage virtually with students and teachers through the use of video or Web-based conferencing services. These programs typically emulate an on-site single or multiple field-trip experience. They are often synchronous, with a museum facilitator on one end and learners at the other. However, museums have the opportunity to be front and center in reaching students in ways that go far beyond the traditional virtual field-trip and Web-based activities.

In an effort to increase its reach, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has developed a for-credit online course for high school students. The course, "Museum Mash Up: American Identity Through the Arts," explores American history through the visual arts. As students progress through the course, they learn about the curatorial, creative, and educational processes necessary to develop an exhibition. The course culminates with a student-curated exhibition in a virtual gallery space developed in the Unity Game Engine. Designed by the Tesseract Studio for Game Design and Immersive Environments at the University of Arkansas, the gallery is a virtual replication of the architecture of Crystal Bridges' 20th Century Gallery. Unity is a next-generation game engine widely used in independent game development and visualization applications in engineering, architecture, and medicine. It allows for accurate representation of terrain and structures while providing sophisticated control over textures and lighting. Because Unity publishes to the Web and mobile devices, it has tremendous potential for immersive, interactive museum applications and distance education. This demonstration will highlight unique aspects of the course and provide insights into the potential and pitfalls of developing a museum-based online course and increasing scale.