By Henry Blue and Win Smith, Co-Founders of Alchemy Learning

Cultural institutions, or those organizations that engage in the cultural, intellectual, scientific, environmental, educational or artistic enrichment, such as museums, historical societies, science centers and nature centers, zoos and aquariums, are entering an era of education initiatives defined by new possibilities and benefits.  Cultural institutions have long maintained a critical relationship with K-12 education with 55 million school visits per year to U.S. museums alone and there is little debating the revered place they hold in teachers’ hearts and minds.  However, changes in technology and regulatory policy are significantly altering the traditional educational landscape, bringing new challenges, yet also significant opportunities, for cultural institutions to address and capitalize on by digitally extending their educational endeavors.

Amongst the most disruptive forces in education are the much debated state adoption of Common Core Standards for curriculum and the accompanying high-stakes end-of-year assessments such as PARCC.  The pressures placed on teachers and school leaders to adopt new standards and prepare students for accompanying assessments threaten to compromise the budgetary justification for fields trips to theaters, museums, and science centers and other activities deemed “non-standards aligned.”  Encouragingly, though, as an increasing number of districts and schools “go digital” with wireless connectivity and student devices and laptops in the classroom, there is growing opportunity for Cultural Institutions to not only expand their existing onsite educational offerings into standards-aligned blended-learning experiences, but also to emerge as national curricular thought leaders.  In order to accomplish this, digital education will play a core role in these organizations’ programming, allowing them to build their brand, increase funding, and grow revenue in previously unavailable ways:

  • Brand Building is no longer constrained to a local community.  Cultural institutions with a domain expertise have an opportunity to publish branded and standards aligned lessons and resources that are search engine optimized and discoverable by teachers seeking new content.  Lessons tweeted, emailed or posted on social sites can also help promote new exhibits or important themes such that patrons are engaging with branded educational material at home with their families.
  • Funding can also see a direct improvement as digital lessons can be tracked in ways traditional learning or basic PDF lesson plans cannot.  Directors of Education can show their board and benefactors where, when, how often and with what impact their digital lessons are being used.  A grant effort as well, can be improved with pre and post assessment that shows clear student mastery improvements that will help secure further funding.
  • Revenue increases can even be directly impacted.  Institutions who have a unique expertise (which is most!) can establish marketable curriculum for schools.  Even without directly sold curriculum, revenue-generating onsite experiences can be transformed into fully standards aligned learning experiences with pre and post lessons that will attract the current K-12 budgets.

With the K-12 disruption coming from new standards frameworks and massive learner connectivity, Cultural Institutions find themselves with a fantastic opportunity to expand their education missions through adoption of digital education practices.  For those wanting to find out how they can do more, contact the team at Alchemy Learning.

Alchemy Learning, founded in 2012 in Baltimore, MD, provides cloud-based curriculum creation, management, and dissemination tools for cultural institutions, teachers, and schools.  To find out how your organization can do more with digital education, Contact us today at

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