Distance Learning in Museums: A Review of the Literature


  • Megan Ennes University of Florida
  • Imani Lee University of Florida




museums, online learning, distance learning, literature review


Distance learning has become an important tool in many fields of education. Museums, like other educational institutions, have been offering distance learning programs to their audiences for more than 30 years. This scoping study examined the published literature related to distance learning programs in museums to inform future research in this field. Searches were conducted in three academic databases in addition to journal hand searches. This resulted in 954 unique citations associated with distance learning in museums. Of these, 17 articles met the criteria for inclusion in the study. Forwards and backwards searches resulted in the addition of two books. A search of the research hosted by the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education resulted in one additional study for a total of 20 manuscripts. Upon analysis, four major themes were identified. These included benefits and barriers related to distance learning programs in museums, partnerships, and educators’ changing roles as they relate to distance learning programs. Each of these themes is described and areas for future research are identified. Future work should move beyond the predominately evaluative case studies and pursue larger questions about how future research might support museums as they continue to design and implement online programming. This may include exploring best practices in museum-based distance learning and how to develop effective professional development opportunities for the educators engaged in these programs. Such research will enhance museum-based distance learning programs so that they can continue to support global learners.


Adelstein, D., & Barbour, M. K. (2017). Improving the K–12 online course design review process: Experts weigh in on iNACOL National Standards for Quality Online Courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(3). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i3.2800

Alexander, P. A. (2020). Methodological guidance paper: The art and science of quality systematic reviews. Review of Educational Research, 90(1), 6–23. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654319854352

American Alliance of Museums. (2021). Museums and P–12 education. https://www.aam-us.org/programs/museums-and-p-12-education/

Arghode, V., Brieger, E. W., & McLean, G. N. (2017). Adult learning theories: Implications for online instruction. European Journal of Training and Development, 41(7). https://doi.org/10.1108/EJTD-02-2017-0014

Arksey, H., & O’Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: Towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), 19–32. https://doi.org/10.1080/1364557032000119616

Asera, R., Gabriner, R., & Hemphill, D. (2017). Starting and sustaining educational partnerships. College Futures Foundation.

Barshinger, T., & Ray, A. (1998). From volcanoes to virtual tours: Bringing museums to students through videoconferencing technology. In Distance Learning'98. Proceedings of the Annual Conference on Distance Teaching & Learning (14th, Madison, Wisconsin, August 5-7, 1998). Wisconsin University, Madison. 1998-00-00 (p. 49). https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED422841.pdf

Bell, J., Chesebrough, D., Cryan, J., & Koster, E. (2016). Museum-university partnerships as a new platform for public engagement with scientific research. Journal of Museum Education, 41(4), 293–306. https://doi.org/10.1080/10598650.2016.1228302

Bevan, B., & Xanthoudaki, M. (2008). Professional development for museum educators: Underpinning the underpinnings. Journal of Museum Education, 33(2), 107–119. https://doi.org/10.1080/10598650.2008.11510592

Boelens, R., De Wever, B., & Voet, M. (2017). Four key challenges to the design of blended learning: A systematic literature review. Educational Research Review, 22, 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2017.06.001

Bowen, J. (2017). Planetariums without walls: Adding distance learning to domes. Planetarian. 46(1), 86–89. https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.ips-planetarium.org/resource/resmgr/planetarian/201703planetarian.pdf

Bradford, B., & Rice, D. (1996). And now, the virtual field trip. Museum News, 75(5), 30.

Butcher, J. (2020, March 25). Public-private virtual-school partnerships and federal flexibility for schools during COVID-19. Special Edition Policy Brief. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3564504

Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education. (n.d.). About CAISE. https://www.informalscience.org/about-caise

Coquillon, N., & Staples, J. (2015). Webcasting for secondary students: Notes from the field. Journal of Museum Education, 40(2), 110–118. https://doi.org/10.1179/1059865015Z.00000000087

Crow, W. B., & Din, H. (2009). Unbound by place or time: Museums and online learning. AAM Press.

Crow, W. B., & Din, H. (2010). The educational and economic value of online learning for museums. Journal of Museum Education, 35(2), 161–172. https://doi.org/10.1080/10598650.2010.11510662

Crow, W. B., & Din, H. (2011). All together now: Museums and online collaborative learning. AAM Press.

Dilenschneider, C. (2019, July 31). Admission fees aren’t what keep millennials from visiting cultural organizations. Know Your Own Bone. https://www.colleendilen.com/2019/07/31/admission-fee-isnt-what-keeps-millennials-away-from-cultural-organizations-data/

Din, H. (2015). Pedagogy and practice in museum online learning. Journal of Museum Education, 40(2), 102–109. https://doi.org/10.1179/1059865015Z.00000000086

Emde, R. J., Doherty, E. K., & Flynt, D. (2020). Relationships in online learning experiences: Identifying and creating positive relationships in online learning. In Handbook of research on creating meaningful experiences in online courses (pp. 140–152). IGI Global.

Engelke, L. S. (2015). Engaging students online with the Smithsonian: A case study. Journal of Museum Education, 40(2), 131–140. https://doi.org/10.1179/1059865015Z.00000000089

Ennes, M. (2015). Distance learning, aquariums, and the learning sciences. Unpublished manuscript.

Ennes, M. (2021). Museum-based distance learning programs: Current practices and future research opportunities. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 22(2), 242-260. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v22i2.5225

Ennes, M., Jones, M. G., & Chesnutt, K. (2020). Evaluation of educator self-efficacy in informal Science Centers. Journal of Museum Education, 45(3), 327-339. https://doi.org/10.1080/10598650.2020.1771993

Esteban-Navarro, M. Á., García-Madurga, M. Á., Morte-Nadal, T., & Nogales-Bocio, A. I. (2020). The rural digital divide in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe: Recommendations from a scoping review. Informatics, 7(4), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.3390/informatics7040054

Fadde, P. J., & Vu, P. (2014). Blended online learning: Benefits, challenges, and misconceptions. In P. R., Lowenthal, C. S. York, J. C. Richardson, A. M. Hodge, B. Love, N. Grandgenett & A. Swift (Eds.), Online learning: Common misconceptions, benefits and challenges (pp. 33–48). Nova Science Publishing.

Gaylord-Opalewski, K., & O’Leary, L. (2019). Defining interactive virtual learning in museum education: A shared perspective. Journal of Museum Education, 44(3), 229–241. https://doi.org/10.1080/10598650.2019.1621634

Gusenbauer, M., & Haddaway, N. R. (2020). Which academic search systems are suitable for systematic reviews or meta‐analyses? Evaluating retrieval qualities of Google Scholar, PubMed, and 26 other resources. Research Synthesis Methods, 11(2), 181–217. https://doi.org/10.1002/jrsm.1378

Hardee, C., & Duffin, M. (2015). Digital programming in informal science learning settings: Current trends and practices. Peer Associates. https://www.informalscience.org/sites/default/files/WCS%20Digital%20Programming%20Eval%20Findings%202015.pdf

Harrell, M. H., & Kotecki, E. (2015). The flipped museum: Leveraging technology to deepen learning. Journal of Museum Education, 40(2), 119–130. https://doi.org/10.1179/1059865015Z.00000000088

Herodotou, C., Rienties, B., Hlosta, M., Boroowa, A., Mangafa, C., & Zdrahal, Z. (2020). The scalable implementation of predictive learning analytics at a distance learning university: Insights from a longitudinal case study. The Internet and Higher Education, 45, 100725. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2020.100725

Hilton, D., Levine, A., & Zanetis, J. (2019). Don’t lose the connection: Virtual visits for older adults. Journal of Museum Education, 44(3), 253–263. https://doi.org/10.1080/10598650.2019.1625015

Jan, S. K., Vlachopoulos, P., & Parsell, M. (2018). Social network analysis and learning communities in higher education online learning: A systematic literature review. Learning, 23(1), 249–264. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v23i1.1398

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2016). Higher education and the digital revolution: About MOOCs, SPOCs, social media, and the Cookie Monster. Business Horizons, 59(4), 441–450. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bushor.2016.03.008

Kenna, J. L., & Potter, S. (2018). Experiencing the world from inside the classroom: Using virtual field trips to enhance social studies instruction. The Social Studies, 109(5), 265–275. https://doi.org/10.1080/00377996.2018.1515719

Kraybill, A. (2015). Going the distance: online learning and the museum. Journal of Museum Education, 40(2), 97-101. https://doi.org/10.1179/1059865015Z.00000000085

Kraybill, A., & Din, H. (2015). Building capacity and sustaining endeavors. Journal of Museum Education, 40(2), 171–179. https://doi.org/10.1179/1059865015Z.00000000093

Lai, J., & Widmar, N. O. (2021). Revisiting the digital divide in the COVID‐19 era. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 43(1), 458-464. https://doi.org/10.1002/aepp.13104

Lederman, N. G., & Lederman, J. S. (2015). What is a theoretical framework? A practical answer. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 26, 593–597. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10972-015-9443-2

Mazzola, L. (2015). MOOCs and museums: Not such strange bedfellows. Journal of Museum Education, 40(2), 159–170. https://doi.org/10.1179/1059865015Z.00000000092

Mitchell, A., Linn, S., & Yoshida, H. (2019). A tale of technology and collaboration: Preparing for 21st-century museum visitors. Journal of Museum Education, 44(3), 242–252. https://doi.org/10.1080/10598650.2019.1621141

Mohr, S. C., & Shelton, K. (2017). Best practices framework for online faculty professional development: A Delphi study. Online Learning Journal, 21(4). https://www.learntechlib.org/p/183780/

Moore, J. L., Dickson-Deane, C., & Galyen, K. (2011). e-Learning, online learning, and distance learning environments: Are they the same? The Internet and Higher Education, 14(2), 129–135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2010.10.001

Moore-Adams, B. L., Jones, W. M., & Cohen, J. (2016). Learning to teach online: A systematic review of the literature on K–12 teacher preparation for teaching online. Distance Education, 37(3), 333–348. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2016.1232158

National Research Council. 2009. Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/12190

Nortvig, A. M., Petersen, A. K., & Balle, S. H. (2018). A literature review of the factors influencing e-learning and blended learning in relation to learning outcome, student satisfaction and engagement. Electronic Journal of E-learning, 16(1), 46–55. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1175336

O’Leary, L. (2011). Insights on a museum’s distance learning program. The Journal of Museum Education, 36(3). 241–247 https://doi.org/10.1080/10598650.2011.11510705

Page, M. J., McKenzie, J. E., Bossuyt, P. M., Boutron, I., Hoffmann, T. C., Mulrow, C. D., ... & Moher, D. (2021). The PRISMA 2020 statement: an updated guideline for reporting systematic reviews. BMJ, 372, 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n71

Peters, M., Godfrey, C., McInerney, P., Soares, C. B., Khalil, H., & Parker, D. (2015). Methodology for JBI scoping reviews. In The Joanna Briggs Institute Reviewers Manual 2015 (pp. 3–24). The Joanna Briggs Institute.

Piqueras, J., & Achiam, M. (2019). Science museum educators’ professional growth: Dynamics of changes in research-practitioner collaboration. Science Education, 103(2), 389–417. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21495

Pulham, E., & Graham, C. R. (2018). Comparing K–12 online and blended teaching competencies: a literature review. Distance Education, 39(3), 411–432. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2018.1476840

Rajabalee, Y. B., Santally, M. I., & Rennie, F. (2019). The use of learning analytics to improve online learning outcomes: A systematic literature review [Working paper]. Ninth Pan-Commonwealth Forum, Edinburgh, UK. http://hdl.handle.net/11599/3275

Rasheed, R. A., Kamsin, A., & Abdullah, N. A. (2020). Challenges in the online component of blended learning: A systematic review. Computers & Education, 144, 103701. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2019.103701

Sanger, E., Silverman, S., & Kraybill, A. (2015). Developing a model for technology-based museum school partnerships, Journal of Museum Education, 40(2), 147–158, https://doi.org/10.1179/1059865015Z.00000000091

Schmidt, E. (1997). Learning from electronic field trips. Journal of Museum Education, 22(1), 10–12. https://doi.org/10.1080/10598650.1997.11510341

Schweibenz, W. (2004). Virtual museums: The development of virtual museums. ICOM News Magazine, 3, 3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/240296250_The_Development_of_Virtual_Museums

Singh, R. N., & Hurley, D. (2017). The effectiveness of teaching and learning process in online education as perceived by university faculty and instructional technology professionals. Journal of Teaching and Learning with Technology, 6(1), 65–75. https://doi.org/10.14434/jotlt.v6.n1.19528

Thomas, D. R. (2006). A general inductive approach for analyzing qualitative evaluation data. American Journal of Evaluation, 27(2), 237–246. https://doi.org/10.1177/1098214005283748

Watts, L. (2016). Synchronous and asynchronous communication in distance learning: A review of the literature. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 17(1), 23. https://search.proquest.com/docview/1794526758

Xiao, Y., & Watson, M. (2019). Guidance on conducting a systematic literature review. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 39(1), 93–112. https://doi.org/10.1177/0739456X17723971

Zanetis, J. (2010). The beginner’s guide to interactive virtual field trips. Learning & Leading with Technology, 37(6), 20–23. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ886387

Zawacki-Richter, O., & Anderson, T. (Eds.). (2014). Online distance education: Towards a research agenda. Athabasca University Press. http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/ books/120233



How to Cite

Ennes, M., & Lee, I. (2021). Distance Learning in Museums: A Review of the Literature. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 22(3), 162–187. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v21i3.5387



Literature Reviews