Smithsonian Institution

Smithsonian Online Conference Series Connects Curators with Educators and Students Everywhere

Case Study

INDUSTRY:

Museum

LEARNINGTIMES SERVICE:

Online Conference Production

ORGANIZATION:

Smithsonian Institution

PROGRAM SUMMARY:

Teachers and students across the country interact with Smithsonian experts – live and online.

The Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum complex and research organization, offers a wide range of programs and educational outreach initiatives originating from a host of different museum offices in the advancement of its mission: “increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Each year the Smithsonian hosts the highly successful “Teachers Night” in Washington D.C. to help educators learn about classroom-ready resources, meet Smithsonian educators, and attend demonstrations of school programs and materials.

Challenge

In 2009, the Smithsonian wanted to build on the success of the annual Teacher’s Night and find a way to engage all of its 19 museums, all while continuing to offer live interaction with museum curators and reaching a larger audience than could be hosted in a single venue.

Solution: Online Conference Series

LearningTimes, in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, produce an ongoing free series of Online Education Conferences. Topics have included Abraham Lincoln, Climate Change, and in-depth look at problem solving through the eyes of Smithsonian curators and researchers.

LearningTimes leads the “end-to-end” production of Smithsonian Online Conferences. Our team is involved in the program design, hosts each session, and functions as executive producer. We collaborate with subject matter experts from each of the 19 Smithsonian museums to design each conference component, plan speaker content, and craft engagement activities to connect with teachers, students and members of the larger international scholarly community.

Our team builds the conference exhibit halls complete with virtual booths and teacher resource areas, including a series of podcasts about the use of related teacher materials. LearningTimes augments the Smithsonian’s marketing and outreach efforts to their network of educational organizations. The conference websites include live virtual conference rooms, discussion forums, and areas to post follow-up questions, related resources, and speaker archives.

Outcomes

The three online conferences to date have exceeded expectations set by the Smithsonian. As of September 2010 over 20,000 people participated in the online conferences from over 130 countries. The LearningTimes online conference design approach is successful in connecting a diverse audience with the Smithsonian experts. Conference satisfaction scores top 95%.