“When asked, 31% of museums admitted they had no digital strategy . . .”[i]
“We are in a community each time we find a place where we belong.”[ii]
Keywords: Future of Science Museums, Science Museum Funding, Digital STEM/STEAM, Digital Science Museums, Science Museum Digital Memberships
What is Re-balance?
Re-balance (working title) is an online science platform similar to Master Class that;
1. Creates digital science content that is equal to or greater than the in-person local science museum experience;
2. Re-balances the inequities of all community member participation (similar to the way MOOCs re-balance inequities);
3. A monetization and fundraising platform the creates opportunities for museums and community members as content producers (co-production companies).
The regular science museum business model is built on in-person visitation. Everything flows from the in-person visitation. Websites are built to drive people to the in-person experience; grants / unearned income is based on in-person visitation. The idea of Re-balance is to flip the business model to be more like MOOCs based on digital visitation, with in-person visitation designed to drive online use. The business model now becomes inclusive in a similar way as Coursera or Edx.
In a nutshell, Re-balance is an on-demand subscription-based digital content platform that drives people to science museums. It has a complex program, and it involves the following:
- A strategic plan for all science museums.
- A methodology to increase science museum DEAI (similar to MOOCs).
- A unifying concept for science museums.
- A platform for science content.
- A fundraising platform.
Though there are approximately 350 science museums in the United States,[iii] there is no clear, comprehensive vision for how these museums serve the public. There is also a lack of sufficient reliable funding and a failure to present consistent reasons why policymakers and donors should contribute to science museum funding.
Another important fact is that museums are the most trusted source for information in the United States. Therefore, museums need to continue promoting high-quality science content. In addition, over 850 million people visit museums every year, more than all sporting events combined.[iv] Those two statistics, indicating the trust and the breadth of reach, uniquely position museums for funding and content creation.
There has been a visible decline in STEM knowledge among people, especially youth and adolescents, both in the USA and other countries. A team of researchers launched a synergies project to help overcome this issue. In this longitudinal study, young adolescents were investigated to observe their increasing or decreasing interest in STEM learning. They found out that youth with an age range of 10 to 12 years have some interest in various dimensions. However, they are not active enough to participate in various STEM activities and exhibitions. Science was seen as the most interesting dimension among the participants. The research is considered a pathway for more considerations for STEM learning (in-person and online) among people in the future.[v]
Another research project was conducted by Shaby, Staus, Dierking, and Falk[vi] to observe the constituents that lead to a decrease or increase in STEM knowledge among the youth with limited or no resources. The resources available in the STEM learning ecosystem, and the way the youth with interest in STEM perceive them, are the most important in learning. To navigate the ecosystem around them, participants were observed dependent upon the factors like the availability of resources related to their interest and emotional and financial support from the people around them. These factors have a relatively more significant impact on developing interest in STEM learning.
Despite popular beliefs, the truth is that ninety-five percent of learning happens outside the classroom.[vii] The shift to a digital-first strategy for science museums will move science education beyond the classroom, creating lifelong experiences. It will also give underserved members of the national (and global) community access to science-related content. As a result, science museums need to rethink how they conceptualize “community;” to view community as any place where people feel they belong, including but not limited to the physical location.
A conference paper by Ludden and Russick[viii] discussed the process of transforming the museums into digital platforms, like all other institutions in the US. The authors stressed the number of museums that have not implemented such strategies that enhance their digital transformation to attract more audience. They affirmed that the audience should be prioritized first to have an effective user experience (UX). For any institution to become digital-first, a more dynamic and systematic approach is required that involves collaboration from each side. Innovation and digital transformation always work parallel as the leading resource of the museum’s audiences.
Re-balance Five-Year Strategic Plan
- Proof of concept case study
- Adopt a Re-balance strategy for Science Museums of the United States.
- Create a unified advertising campaign for approximately 350 science museums in the United States.
- Develop a countrywide funding model with online science programming.
- Develop a national website for science museum digital memberships.
- Monitor the success through KPIs and metrics.
Master Class – $800M valuation,
In 2017, a source reported that Master Class teachers get at least $100,000 per course plus a 30% revenue cut.[ix]
Crash Course / PBS – PBS expands Crash Course
CS50 – David Malan
[iii] Around one percent of the 35,000 museums in the United States. https://web.archive.org/web/20190517135241if_/https://www.imls.gov/assets/1/AssetManager/MUDF_TypeDist_2014q3.pdf
[v] Falk, J., H., Staus, N., Dierking, L., D., Penuel, W., Wyld, J., & Bailey, D. (2015). Understanding youth STEM interest pathways within a single community: the Synergies project. International Journal of Science Education, Part B. DOI:10.1080/21548455.2015.1093670
[vi] Shaby, N., Staus, N., Dierking, L., D., & Falk, J., H. (2021). Pathways of interest and participation: How STEM-interested youth navigate a learning ecosystem. Science Education.
[viii] Ludden, J., & Russick, J. (2020). Digital Transformation: It’s a Process and You Can Start Now. MW20: MW 2020. Published January 21, 2020.