The Digital Learning Network shares ideas and good practice in using digital
technology to support learning in the Cultural Heritage sector.


News blog

Working remotely in Learning Teams: DLNETChat April 2021

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Lisa Peter

Last week, we had a lively discussion on Twitter about how Learning Teams up and down the country have tackled the challenges of remote working. We covered topics from using individual tools to improving collaborative work to management techniques that might help to keep team members motivated and help to fight the isolation some of us might feel while working from home.

Lots of people shared their experiences as well as quite a few tips, so here’s a summary of the things people were talking about.





Perhaps unsurprisingly, people chatted about collaborative tools that can support project work and ideation, for example,  Google documents and sheets, which can be worked on in real time while on meeting calls, even without the need for screen sharing. For looser formats such as brainstorming, Padlet was mentioned (which some also use for teaching support in live sessions, as it’s very popular with teachers). For teams who create a lot of online content and need to ensure consistency in design, check out the online tool Canva to share design templates within teams. 






Another question we asked was around the challenges for teams that come with working from home. For teams that normally work closely with collections and historical properties, not being anywhere near the physical objects they use as source material for learning activity, feels odd, to say the least. 



But which other challenges were identified? Looking back over the conversation, they can probably be summed up as 

  • appropriate levels of communication, 
  • making space for the social side of work, and 
  • sense of achievement.

With team members still on furlough or on flexi furlough schemes, and without the usual ‘soft touch’ means of finding out what is going on otherwise in team members’ lives, it’s tricky to assess whether they have any capacity at that moment in time. Making a conscious effort to find out, and keeping calendars up to date with current work hours and time away from the computer can help to communicate quickly to others whether to expect a reply soon or in a few days’ time.



Getting the amount of communication needed just right seems to be challenging quite generally. Whether working closely with people on a shared project, or trying to stay in touch with quieter team members, chat participants were talking about the usefulness of keeping a number of channels running in addition to emails: chats, DMs, or even an open call in the background while working on things together.



If comms about work are already tricky to get right, then creating the ‘water cooler’ moments remotely seems to be an ongoing headache, especially for more volunteer-driven organisations where the social aspect of volunteering is often as important and integral to the experience as the actual work carried out. 




I think it became clear that we are all grappling with this, and that nobody in the conversation had already found or developed a ‘golden approach’ to this in particular, so if you know of any techniques or examples of ‘creating the space for social’ while avoiding the awkward, let us know!

And finally, staff and team wellbeing emerged as another challenge. Interestingly enough, the culture around being measured along key performance indicators, such as sessions delivered, people engaged with, etc, might contribute to teams not feeling that they achieved very much in the last year, even though they are exhausted.



However, there’s been so much learning this year that has happened behind the scenes, and so much change that wouldn’t be visible in terms of ‘outputs’. These are very real achievements though, that deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated.




Things people wished they’d known a year ago

We finally wanted to know what the 2021 version of us would have liked the 2020 version to know, and it looks like managing expectations and acknowledging the sheer amount of change that is happening at the moment are quite high on the list. It will be interesting to see whether compassionate leadership will turn into a much hotter topic over the coming months and years than we have previously seen.



A big thank you to all the participants who shared their experiences on the day! The next DLNET chat will be on May 7 at 1pm – watch this space for the topic announcement! In case you want to read up on the April chat on twitter, we collated a Twitter Moment with all the tweets.

Next DLNET Chat: Working remotely in Learning Teams

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Lisa Peter

Join us on Friday 9th April, 1-2pm, to talk about working remotely using the hashtag #DLNETChat

With most learning and participation teams throughout the cultural heritage sector shifting to almost exclusive online engagements, many of us have focused on tools, platforms and online delivery skills to get to grips quickly with the world we’re in at the moment. It’s been quite a ride for team leaders as well as colleagues, who not only had to get their heads around how to create online content for their different audiences, but who also needed to create new work patterns, communication channels and workflows in an immensely short period of time.

We therefore wanted to use our DLNET chat in April to take a look at the ‘backstage stuff’ that comes with working remotely, i.e. all the things that are not visible to the public but that are so central to keeping teams going. 

  • What have you learned about your own working styles and patterns as a team since the UK went into its first lockdown this time last year?
  • How have teams managed to pivot to working remotely, often working collaboratively with colleagues across their organisation?
  • Have you come across particularly useful ways of working together on a project, or on resources and other content, while working from home?
  • Have you discovered particularly useful tools for collaborative remote working?
  • Did you and your team develop any strategies to keep those crucial social interactions going that keep teams motivated and can fight any sense of isolation?
  • Was there something you have found out about remote team work that you wish you had known this time last year?

Watch out for the pre-chat poll on the DLNET twitter account next Wednesday, along with emails to the JISCMAIL lists. Join in with the voting to kick off April’s DLNET Chat, and share what worked and what continues to be challenging while many of us are still working from home!

Next DLNET Chat: Home learning 

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Anne-Marie Langford

 Join us on Friday 5th March, 1-2pm, to talk about home learning using the hashtag #DLNETChat

This month’s DLNET chat is about home learning. As schools get ready to welcome back most students from 8th March, this is an opportunity to take stock and look at the exciting practice that cultural organisations have delivered during this difficult time. Many museums and heritage organisations have created resources and offered activities online to support families in home learning. Examples are wide ranging and include virtual tours, early years story time, puzzle sheets, crafting sessions and so much more. As the sector brings its creativity and ingenuity to support learners in the current crisis. We thought it would be a great opportunity to share and reflect and what has been learnt.

What have you developed for home learners?

Who is using it? (parents, teachers, families)

How is it being used? (at home or in the classroom)

How has it changed and developed as it has been used?

What have we learned along the way?

Will we keep doing it?

How will it be funded?

Post Covid, how will it be integrated into our existing learning programmes?

A pre-chat poll will go out next Wednesday, along with emails to the JISCMAIL lists, to get you thinking.


Case Study: Home Educators Online

While we are thinking about home learning as a reaction to the pandemic, it’s easy to forget that home education has always been around, and will continue to be so when the majority of children are back in school. Read about how the National Museum of Computing works with home educators and the lessons they have learnt.

What happened?

Prior to the pandemic, the National Museum of Computing established an event day for home educators.  The purpose of the event was to enable home educators to access sessions and resources that are made available during school visits in a format that suits the varied skills, abilities and characteristics of home educated students.  During an event day we offer guided tours, handling sessions and workshops at different times of the day.  Participants then choose which sessions they wish to attend.

In the autumn term, the museum was keen to continue engaging with our home educator audience online. We decided to bring our home educators day online using the same timetable but delivered using Zoom, online emulators, our 360 degree museum model and sharing platforms (Cospaces, Socrative and Google Drive).

What have we learnt?

The main difference between delivering the remote sessions for home educators and school groups is that there is more interaction on the chat. Students needed more support and explanation but seemed more actively engaged and involved. Students were free to come and go during the session, although in practice most stayed for all the sessions. We felt that offering back-to-back sessions over 4 hours was a big mental commitment for both presenters and participants. If it was to be offered again it would be better to offer it a bite-sized pieces, although getting the numbers to make this financially viable is challenging.

Monetising Online Content: DLNETChat February 2021

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Sian Shaw

To quote ABBA “Money, money, money, must be funny, in a rich man’s world” – and we can all agree that the heritage sector is not rich. So this month, we asked DLNET followers what they thought about monetising online content.

First things first, initial reactions from the community confirmed original suspicions: monetising online content isn’t a straightforward yes or no. 

The lack of a clear-cut answer led to some fascinating Twitter conversations. Here are three key takeaways when thinking about whether to monetise online content:

The “what” makes all the difference

It was quickly apparent that the “perhaps, but not always” response was more linked to the type of content than the organisation it was coming from. There seemed to be a distinction between the more passive, downloadable content and the more active, live experience, with the latter being seen as more likely to be monetised. Unusually, quantity was brought up as a reason for charging, such as for longer, curated learning experiences. As one contributor put it, this allows audiences to “get a better sense of what they’re getting for their money”. Interestingly, a lack of quantity was given as a reason not to charge. Repeatedly, it seemed to be a balancing act, in that if you are charging for some digital learning content, you should make sure that parts of your digital learning offer are free.

As always, audience matters 

It’s easy to think of digital learning as just for schools, but of course it spans all ages ranges who want to access formal or informal learning. The success of adult course and workshops in the last year was highlighted (with mentions of the V&A, Tate and Wallace Museum) as adults appear more eager to pay for a virtual experience, both buying tickets and in pay-what-you-can models. For schools, the ever-changing landscape of fully onsite, blended, and mainly offsite (aside from keyworkers’ children) cannot be ignored when considering appetite. As one contributor said, “Might it be that ‘online museum visits’ are just too much of a luxury right now?” While we know school budgets are tight, for many who may be doing this instead of a school trip, the appetite is growing. There are examples are success in the sector, such as the Jewish Museum London, leaders in the creation of Virtual Classrooms, sharing positive news.

Sector self-doubt still exists

Progress in digital learning across the sector in the last year is undeniable, but conversations remind us that moving forwards doesn’t mean we are completely ready for the shift.  Even if we feel more confident as a sector, we still seem to be doubting ourselves; whether that is not trusting the technology, concerned about how to trouble shoot when things go wrong or confidence in our ability to deliver virtually. All of which hold us back when considering adding a charge. For many organisations, digital learning has been reactionary rather than strategic, which means a lack of training and often the wrong kit. As one contributor shared, “We prioritise practice for technical confidence.” We have to ask, when digital learning is tackled in a more strategic way, will we feel more confident charging?

To sum up

Ultimately, monetising online content will only be successful if the market is willing to pay. The ability to access similar digital learning content or experiences for free was seen as the biggest barrier to generating revenue, but wasn’t deemed as the end of the conversation. When making a charge or no charge decision, two things stood out. Firstly, be consistent with your existing onsite offer – so if schools usually attend for free, the online “visit” should remain free. And secondly, communicate clearly why some things are free and some charged-for. As one contributor mentioned, “Paid-for content also supports organisations to keep offering free things”. We all know that’s not a new message for cultural audiences.

Further reading

Next #DLNET Chat

Join us on Twitter on Friday 5th March 1-2pm, where we are thinking about home learning.  Follow @DLNET and remember to use the hashtag #DLNETChat

Guest blog: How I learned to love digital

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Sian Shaw

Zahra Dhalla, a Community Learning Officer at Westminster Abbey, shares her three key takeaways from delivering digital learning for families from scratch during the pandemic, and looks forward to what the future holds.

On 18th March, I began my new job at Westminster Abbey as a Community Learning Officer. This was also the last day we had in the office due to the pandemic. I cried in the office infront of my colleagues. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t the start I was hoping for. The concept of doing this onsite, delivery-focused role from home felt overwhelming — digital learning might have been somebody’s strong suit, but it certainly wasn’t mine. 

Now it’s been 6 months of working from home. Having delivered a busy families programme over Easter, May half term and the summer, running virtual tours and digital workshops on Zoom and developing complementary Facebook Lives, I’ve learnt a lot and come away smiling. 

Here are my three key takeaways:

Use what you’ve got 

When you work somewhere like Westminster Abbey, there’s no doubt about it, the building is the star of the show. So our challenge throughout this time has been: How can we bring the Abbey’s story and the magic of the Abbey to families? Well, we had to use what we’ve got. For us, this meant using high quality images and screen recordings from our website’s virtual tours to build our sessions.

You can build relationships with families online

At the start of all this, I made the assumption that building relationships with families online would be close to impossible. The magic of being in the space together would be taken away and any chance of developing a rapport would go with it. In reality, it’s been so different. With family learning, we’re often trying to connect spaces, objects, the stories we’re telling, with families’ daily lives and at home those connections are easier to make. We’ve also found that children who might not feel as confident sharing their ideas and thoughts face to face, are often more outspoken and forthcoming in online sessions. 

Virtual collaboration is possible and brilliant 

I’m most proud of our Virtual Family Days, I would have never have believed that this sort of collaboration could be achieved virtually. Hosted on Zoom, we ran themed family days in which families could take part in a carousel of virtual activities over an hour through making use of the Breakout Rooms function. Each activity was hosted by a different partner organisation. It’s been a great way to support each other in this difficult time, to introduce families to new faces and spaces and to learn from each other. 

At the end of the day, what most of us need and want in our lives is connection. To know that we have value, that we matter, that we have a voice and that someone wants to listen to it. It is totally possible to make children feel heard and that they matter online. If that’s at the heart of what you do, if you are able to maximise the resources you’ve already got and ask the right questions of yourself, you’re there. 

Looking to the future

By investing time and energy— and you’ll notice I didn’t say money here — in creating high quality resources, you can make something that lasts and that has value now and in the future.

Once onsite activities resume, we’re not going to leave digital learning behind. We’re going to make use of what it does best for us. We’ll have a blended programme and our audience will have more options. In time, we’ll be able to enhance, grow, repurpose and maybe even re-design the digital resources we’ve developed alongside our onsite programme. 

Now in September, the teary-eyed woman who left London in March is no longer — the new me has longer hair, an increased appreciation for leggings and wants to champion digital learning. I think that says it all. 

POSTPONED. DLNET Conference: Digital ideas for learning, 23 March 2020

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The DLNET conference 23 March 2020 has been postponed

As a consequence of the Coronavirus situation, we are postponing the event planned for 23 March 2020 at RIBA.  We will be in touch again when we have a new date for this conference. 

Those who have already booked will receive refunds.    


Monday 23rd March 2020, 10.15 am to 3.30 pm

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), 66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD; Google map

What’s it all about?  
Engaging audiences with collections through digital technology and approaches

Who are we?
The Digital Learning Network shares ideas and good practice in using digital technology to support learning in the Cultural Heritage sector.

Full programme 

  • 10.15 am– 10.40 am: Registration and welcome

  • 10.40 am: Speed networking
    (Sian Shaw, Digital Learning Manager, Westminster Abbey)

  • 11.05 am : Update on recent digital initiatives
    (Alec Ward, Museum Development Officer, Digital and Communications, London Museum Development)

  • 11.30: BREAK
    (opportunity to input ideas for #DLNETChat)

  • 11.45 am: Virtual 3D reconstruction of objects from the Medicine Galleries
    (Emilia McKenzie, Digital Manager, Learning, Science Museum)

  • 12.10 pm: Live streaming for learning audiences
    (Ashley March, Digital Editor (Learning), Museum of London)

  • 12.35 pm: 3D printing in museum learning and outreach – Ideas and methods
    (Wilson Yau, Learning Manager, RIBA)

  • 1.00 pm: Lunch and VR exhibition exploration

  • 2.15 pm: Digital upskilling – Why it’s good to upskill across all staff, and an approach to doing this.
    (Izzy Bartley, Digital Learning Officer, Leeds Museums and Galleries) 

  • 2.40 pm: Session tbc

  • 3.00 pm: Final comments

  • 3.30 pm: Close

#DLNETchat and ThinkDrinks

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Martin Bazley

As well as our larger events, DLNET run a Twitter-based discussion, which is usually on the first Friday of each month. Use the hashtag #DLNETchat

There are also occasional ThinkDrinks:  informal gatherings for people interested in how digital can enhance learning within the cultural sector. Our next ThinkDrink is on 27 November 2019 from 6pm to 9pm, details here.


Using digital to support learning 15 July 2019

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Martin Bazley

A day of discovery and discussion for cultural professionals, examining the role of digital in supporting learning and engagement activities

Lunch and refreshments are included.  Day runs 0945 – 1630

Sessions include:

Alec Ward, London Museum Development:  Social Media and Creating Digital content : why and how to use it for your learning audiences

Wilson Yau, RIBA: Tablets as drawing tools, focusing on ‘observation’ and ‘making’

zzy Bartley, Leeds Museums and Galleries and Claire Duffield, Leeds Libraries: Microbits: hands on session with ideas for your organisation, with reference to the new computing curriculum 

Alec Ward, London Museum Development:  Digital storytelling: how and why to do it, with hands on practice using Twine


Evaluating Digital Projects… Or why we shouldn’t use social media to evaluate museum projects!

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Stuart Berry

Our recent ‘live’ Twitter chat, #DLNETChat on 3 March looked at the topic of evaluating digital projects, and it’s clear that there was a lot to be said on the subject.

We have done our best to compile a Storify of the conversations which took place on the subject – click here for more details.  However, here we are picking out some of the particular discussion points which may be of interest.

Our ice-breaker poll launched on Twitter before the chat started, and was contentious in the options which were conspicuously absent:

Some very good links were shared, even before the ‘live’ chat started…

Once things got going, John McMahon brought plenty of good advice…

Others contributed some good links too:

There were also some very interesting side discussions, including one about Sentiment Analysis (click here for a Wikipedia article), which is essentially a way of digitally analysing qualitative data including social media posts and comments…

And it very quickly transpired why this might particularly apply to museum audiences especially…

There were many other useful and interesting conversations, including links to case-studies, tools and methodologies in the chat, so please look at the Storify for the full run-down…

Don’t forget to look out for our next #DLNETChat on the first Friday of the month, and watch our Twitter account for further details!