Learning Under Lockdown: Creating a digital offer

Chi Onuora and Ruth Boley tell us how Royal Museums Greenwich have adapted their work to provide a digital learning offer

8 September 2021

Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) is a campus of four sites located in the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site comprising the National Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House, Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory. We also have publicly accessible collections and a conservation centre in Kidbrooke. Together, we’re dedicated to enriching people’s understanding of the sea, the exploration of space, and Britain's role in world history.

Our collections-focused schools programmes cover a broad range of subjects and topics at all Key Stages, with a dedicated programme for SEND learners. We have onsite and digital sessions and schools resources that link to topics in Art, History, English, Citizenship and more! You can find out more on our website.

How lockdown impacted our work

Lockdown and social distancing brought big changes with many teams working from home and, like many people across the country, we had to figure out how to use remote desktops and apps such as Zoom and Teams that we’d only just heard of! For the Learning Team at RMG it also gave us the chance to be creative with the new tools we were presented with; to reflect on the needs and changing priorities of teachers and schools and adapt to new ways of working.

We have definitely made friends with our web team and developed our skills in web content management! We’ve worked on some great resources over the past year and have lots of ideas for more.

Creating a digital offer

In the 2020/21 academic year we created a digital offer for schools based on live link-ups with facilitators via Zoom or Teams. Each of the sessions centred on the collections as a starting point for investigation, discussion, and creative tasks. Through testing and feedback from peers and teachers, we learned that short-focussed tasks worked best, and that there were still lots of ways to incorporate physical responses from pupils through drawing, voting, or even moving around the classroom.

For the coming 2021/22 academic year, we are offering a blended programme of onsite and digital school sessions. Our digital offer mirrors the themes of our onsite sessions but the content is designed specifically to make the most of digital platforms. We've kept the themes the same for both digital and onsite so we are able to 'flip' to a totally digital offer in the event of further lockdowns – but we're hoping this doesn't happen!

We have also taken the opportunity to review and develop our schools offer to include more underrepresented histories. This has also been the focus for all the new resources for schools we have developed over the past year. This schools programme combines the best bits of our digital and onsite sessions, and we want to continue to work with schools and teachers to ensure we are meeting their changing priorities.

Tips for cultural organisations adapting to a digital offer

  • Be flexible
  • Talk to teachers
  • Digital is different to real life so the offers should be different. Start again rather than try to adapt an existing onsite plan to a digital offer.
  • Make the most of collections that are not on display. You could also story telling techniques and blend digital and paper-based activities (supply print-out of objects in advance)

Future work with schools

We are piloting a partner school programme with Mulgrave Primary school this year which allows us to work more closely with teachers over a sustained period of time to co-create schools resources and displays. We’ve also got a CPD event coming up on teaching inclusive histories on 04 November 2021 which is an opportunity to hear from teachers sharing good practice, discussing approaches and highlighting useful tools and resources.

Ruth Boley is Senior Manager: Learning, and Chi Onuora is former Formal Learning Programmes Producer at Royal Museums Greenwich.

Where next?

More learning under lockdown blogs

Reset – our pandemic response programme

Our work with the cultural sector

Image credit: Royal Museums Greenwich