Past Topics

VSA offers opportunities for professionals and students to further hone their skills through webinars, web chats, book clubs, and virtual networking. Virtual learning offerings address a variety of topics in our field and provide helpful resources and strategies relevant to a wide range of practitioners. These offerings provide opportunities for audience engagement, and provide time for participants to ask questions. Members of VSA receive discounted registration to these events, so consider joining!

If you have ideas or suggestions for future PD events, please let us know at [email protected].

We appreciate your continued support of VSA. Consider making a donation to VSA's Annual Fund which helps us continue to offer these enriching programs.

VSA offers a variety of Professional Development opportunities, including the webchats and webinars highlighted below, as well as regular Community Support Groups, Networking Game Night Sessions, Book Clubs, and Watch Parties.


Lessons Learned About In-person Data Collection During the Pandemic
Recorded Live on February 25, 2021

Nearly one year into the pandemic, evaluators have been adapting tried-and-true in-person data collection methods to work with COVID-19 restrictions across the country. In this session, you will learn about in-person methods and protocols that are working, what has not worked as well, and worries that turned out to be non-issues. If you are getting ready to embark on in-person data collection, bring your questions!

Presenters:

  • Claire Thoma Emmons is the Research and Evaluation Associate at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Despite initial concerns about conducting any face-to-face data collection during the COVID-19 pandemic, evaluators and exhibit developers have now successfully completed several front-end, prototyping, and user-testing studies on the museum floor. She will discuss the methods chosen or adapted for each of these studies as well as strategies and tips for recruiting visitors from the floor.
  • Kari Ross Nelson is the Research and Evaluation Associate at Thanksgiving Point Institute, a Farm, Garden, and Museum complex in Lehi, Utah. In efforts to help understand visitor experiences as museums reopen with health and safety protocols in place, she has conducted short interviews and timing and tracking in multiple venues. Kari will share what we did and what we learned from these evaluation activities.
  • Meghan Kroning is the Project Coordinator and Jenn Shepard is the Project Evaluator for Visitor Research and Evaluation at the Exploratorium. While the Exploratorium closed to the public in March 2020, the museum’s new exhibit development continued. To evaluate exhibit usability while meeting regional COVID-19 health and safety regulations, Megan and Jenn piloted a new method of outdoor-only, socially distant exhibit testing. They will share the planning and logistics behind this method, as well as lessons learned along the way.

A recording of this webinar can be purchased here. $10 for VSA Members, $20 for Non-Members


The State of DEAI in Museums and What it Means for Visitor Studies
Recorded Live on February 10, 2021

A national landscape study from the Cultural Competence Learning Institute (CCLI), published in 2020, was the first comprehensive, multi-sector study to examine the state of DEAI efforts in U.S. museums. Led by Dr. Cecilia Garibay and Jeanne Marie Olson, this seminal work, which included survey responses from 580 museums and informal learning organizations, has significant implications for the visitor studies and museum evaluation fields. According to study results, most museums (89%) have not established metrics around DEAI to track progress; only about a quarter of museums reported that they gather demographic data from visitors, and only one-third collect data from those who do not currently visit (Garibay and Olson, 2020).

Join us for a conversation with Dr. Cecilia Garibay to collectively reflect on the study’s findings and their implications for the visitor studies field. A panel of evaluators and practitioners from a variety of museum settings will share thoughts on how the study resonates with their experience, ways in which they’ve worked to address the data gap to support DEAI efforts, and reflections on what this means for the visitor studies field. Guest speakers include Dr. Rabiah Mayas (Museum of Science and Industry), Ken Morris (Detroit Institute of the Arts), Elizabeth Bolander (Cleveland Museum of Art), and Sena Dawes (Feeding America).

Though an interactive dialogue, we will focus on such questions as:

  • How do the study’s findings resonate with your own experiences at the institutions you work with?
  • What is the “call to action” for visitor studies professionals, for VSA, and for the field as a whole?
  • What specific examples and practices exist that can help address some of the data gaps identified in the study?
  • What is needed to shift institutional practice around gathering data to inform DEAI efforts and/or establishing clear metrics to track DEAI progress, and how can we be more effective in supporting these efforts?
  • What do you need from VSA to better support change within your own practice or advocacy at the institutional level?
  • What are the key barriers and how can we individually and collectively address them?

Please come with your ideas and questions related to the CCLI National Landscape Study, hear examples and resources from peers, and help determine how VSA and the visitor studies field might play a stronger role in supporting DEAI efforts and organizational change within museums and other informal learning institutions.

A few items noted in the presentation: Cultural Competence Learning Institute (CCLI) and CCLI Landscape Study Report.

A recording of this web chat can be found here and a copy of the slide presentation can be viewed here.


Google Analytics 201: Behaviors and Data Visualization
Recorded Live on January 12, 2021

Ready to try some new things in Google Analytics? Using case studies from the Cleveland Museum of Art, Elizabeth Bolander, Senior Director of Philanthropy and External Relations, and Jim Reynolds, Patron Information Data Analyst, will share a few tips and tricks in this workshop. Panelists will share examples of how to look more closely at website and app user behavior and how Google Data Studio can be used to analyze and visualize Google Analytics data. During an extended q&a session, participants will have a chance to bring ideas and issues from their organizations to the panelists and other participants.

A recording of this webinar can be purchased here. $10 for VSA Members, $20 for Non-Members


Lightning Tool Share: The Social Distance and Civic Activism Version
Recorded Live on December 9, 2020

In 2019, we hosted a lightning tool share to help us work more effectively and efficiently. Given the challenges of 2020, this year’s lightning tool share is focused on two things:

  1. Social Distance: What tools have you found useful in helping you collect data while social distancing?  For example, are you using new technologies, implementing specific cleaning protocols, using different methodologies to help you practice social distancing?

  2. Civic Activism: What tools have you found useful in helping you engage in civic activism through visitor studies?  For example, are you asking different questions, engaging audiences in different ways, presenting results to stakeholders differently?

Our hosts will kick us off with some of their own tips and resources, and then we’ll turn it over to you. Each participant is strongly encouraged to bring one thing to share, whether it’s an instrument, software, an app, a data viz technique, a trick in Excel, or anything that has helped you in your work as related to social distancing and civic activism. 

Participants will be asked to briefly describe their tool and take a few questions before it’s on to the next one. By the end of the hour, everyone should have a wealth of new ideas and an expanded toolkit. A complete list of resources shared will be sent out to participants following the chat. To keep the conversation flowing we will not enable screen sharing during the chat. Instead, feel free to bring links that can be quickly pasted in the chat box so that participants can explore the tools on their own while you talk.

A recording of this web chat can be found here and the Lightning Tool Share Resource List can be found here.


You Can Do This! Submitting a VSA Session Proposal
Recorded Live on December 2, 2020

Thinking about submitting a proposal for VSA 2021? You can do it!
 

New to the field? This webinar is for you! Experienced presenter? It's for you too! We'll walk through the proposal process - including articulating a topic, finding co-presenters, and writing a motivating narrative - and share feedback from reviewers about what makes a strong proposal.

A recording of this web chat can be found here.


Transferring Skills: Connecting Visitor Studies to Other Fields
Recorded Live on November 18, 2020

Throughout the pandemic Museums, Zoos, Aquariums, and other cultural centers have continued to be impacted by closures, loss of revenue, and staffing reductions. Many VSA members and other research and evaluation staff have found themselves laid-off, furloughed, or otherwise without work. In these uncertain times it can be difficult to find new, exciting, and rewarding positions within the museum field. Join VSA for a 1 hour webchat with a panel of researchers and evaluators as they discuss their experience transferring visitor studies skills into different industries and fields.

Topics to look forward to include:

  • Articulating your why for moving to a new field.
  • Resume verbiage and helpful tips for drawing comparisons to visitors studies and other fields.
  • Identifying opportunities to build your portfolio.
  • Retaining a sense of self and passion for the field while operating outside of it.

Presenters:

  • Taline Kuyumjian | Kuyumjian Consulting
  • Ivel Gontan | Association of Science-Technology Centers
  • Sara Davis | Centene Corporation
  • Michelle Nguyen | HubSpot
  • Julia Miller | Outreach

A recording of this presentation is available to VSA members, please email association headquarters to receive access.


Witnessing Visitor Experience: First Person Video Technology for Museum Research
Recorded Live on November 10, 2020

In recent years, numerous research teams have experimented with using video research methodologies to understand visitor experiences in museum settings. Bringing together researchers with recent publications in this area, this webinar will focus on how these researchers used video technology in innovative ways to record minute visitor experiences and the major benefits and limitations of video-based data sets. Our hope is this webinar will inspire others to consider video methodologies for their own visitor research interests.

Our presenters are:

  • Alice Anderson - Minneapolis Institute of Art
    Used wearable Go Pros to record maker activities on a museum floor from the childs view.
  • Dr. Michael Garbutt - University of New South Wales
    Captured visitor gaze with Mobile Eye Tracking technology in an art exhibition.
  • Dr. Ben Rydal Shapiro - Georgia State University
    Utilizes video to capture the collaborative and geographic nature of learning in museums

A recording of this webinar can be purchased here. $10 for VSA Members, $20 for Non-Members


Share your Voice! Town Hall on VSA’s DEAI Priorities and Action Steps
Recorded Live on October 14, 2020

As VSA continues its work to center diversity, equity, access, and inclusion (DEAI) in its organizational practices and policies, outreach and membership offerings, and leadership in the visitor studies and informal learning fields, we want to make sure that the voices of members and professionals in our community are engaged and included in the process. As part of our quarterly DEAI Webchat series, we invite you to a free web chat designed to:

  • Gather feedback and input on a draft of VSA’s DEAI Priorities and Action Steps document, based on our work to date
  • Better understand the implications and needs surrounding these priorities for members and professionals in our field
  • Refine and strengthen the priorities and action steps
  • Create opportunities for involvement in multiple DEAI efforts

The DEAI Task Force invites you to join us for a participatory dialogue to help inform VSA’s DEAI initiatives, share knowledge and insights, and help shape the next steps along this pathway. Please come with your ideas and questions related to the VSA's DEAI Priorities and Action Steps document.

A recording of this web chat can be found here.


Evaluation Goals, Methods, and Ongoing Insights for Widening Access and Relevance in the Smithsonian’s Fossil Hall
Recorded Live on September 30, 2020

Members of the team tasked with renovating the Smithsonian’s Hall of Fossils – Deep Time exhibition share the struggles, lessons learned, and findings from their seven-year mammoth project. Topics include key takeaways from audience research, communication of challenging topics like climate change and evolution, and keys to broadening accessibility and inclusion. The group will also share methodological considerations and lessons learned from the exhibition, audience research program, and accessibility project.

A recording of this web chat can be found here.


Culture Track: A Two Part Series

In this time of upheaval, museums, zoos, aquariums, and cultural organizations have wondered how they can best support and remain relevant to their communities. Join VSA's two-part series on Culture Track: a national study led by LaPlaca Cohen and Slover Linett to uncover how organizations can be responsive to and benefit their communities while grappling with adjustments in light of COVID-19.

Culture Track Part 1: Findings and Methodologies for Culture and Community in a Time of Crisis
Recorded Live on September 9, 2020

Members of the Slover Linett and LaPlaca Cohen teams provide an overview of key takeaways for organizations looking to better understand and connect with their audiences as well as the general public during Covid-19. The group will also share methodological considerations and lessons learned from designing, coordinating, analyzing, and reporting on a field-wide initiative that scaled from an initial expected 10,000 responses to over 120,000.

Panelists include:

Jen Benoit-Bryan, Slover Linett
Madeline Smith, Slover Linett
Kriti Mira Adhikari, LaPlaca Cohen

A recording of this web chat can be found here.


Culture Track Part 2: Interpreting and Implementing Culture and Community in a Time of Crisis
Recorded Live on September 16, 2020

A panel of cultural industry professionals discuss how their organizations have used the Culture Track study to inform decisions during Covid, and how findings fit with other research studies undertaken during Covid-19.

Panelists include:
Caroline Goeser, Museum of Fine Art, Houston
Lindsay Maldonado, Shedd Aquarium
Sunil Iyengar, National Endowment for the Arts
Jen Benoit-Bryan, Slover Linett

A recording of this web chat can be found here.

VSA’s Zoo & Aquarium Focus Interest Group (ZAFIG) Virtual Mini Conference!
Recorded Live on August 26, 2020

While we can't meet in person this year, VSA’s Zoo and Aquarium Focused Interest Group (ZAFIG) wanted to provide a virtual opportunity for our community to present work being done in zoos and aquariums from the past year. Focusing on hot topics in the zoo-aquarium field, this conference-like web chat will include 5 mini-sessions that allow for sharing, learning, and dialogue. Our exciting slate of presentations includes:

  • The Impact of Human-animal Imagery on Public Attitudes Towards Zoos and Wildlife- Meghan Shaw, Zoos Victoria and Deakin University
  • Community Co-Design of Educational Programming with an Undeveloped Zoological Park- Amy Niedbalski, Saint Louis Zoo, Director, Conservation Audience Research & Evaluation (CARE)
  • Exploring the Relationship Between Empathy for Animals and Environmental Self-Efficacy in Zoo and Aquarium Visitors, Linnea Johnson, M.A. Museology and Emerging Zoo & Aquarium Evaluator and Communicator
  • Community Engagement through Facebook Live During a Worldwide Pandemic- Nichole Nageotte, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Conservation Education Researcher
  • Cracking Open Old Reports: Revisiting Past Data to Guide Future Directions-Emily O’Hara, Detroit Zoological Society, Curator of Exhibit Design
A recording of this presentation is available to VSA members, please email association headquarters to receive access.

Conducting Community-Based Research: What We Learned as Beginners
Recorded Live on August 19, 2020

In this convening, community partners and Exploratorium researchers will describe an NSF-funded exhibition and research project, called Middle Ground. The Middle Ground experience is facilitated by community partners and includes exhibits that support exploration of social science research into bias and stereotyping, humor and generosity, how we work together, and how we pull apart into tribes.

Audience researcher and consultant Cecilia Garibay will describe key principles for conducting community-based research and evaluation that attends to and incorporates community context while a panel of presenters will share examples of implementing these principles in practice. We will conclude by sharing challenges and insights from this approach.

A recording of this web chat can be found here.


Reflections on “Racism, Unrest, and the Role of the Museum Field”
Recorded Live on July 29, 2020

In the midst of global anti-racism protests and civil unrest, many museums and informal learning institutions have publicly committed to supporting racial justice and rejected the idea of returning to “business as usual” as they begin to reopen. Inspired by the recent AAM panel, “Racism, Unrest, and the Role of Museums” (Lonnie Bunch, Johnetta Cole, and Lori Fogerty), this web chat will focus on questions around the role of visitor studies and evaluation in supporting transformational change in the museum field, such as:

  • What is the nature of conversations in your institution around racism and social justice?
  • To what extent are museums addressing racial inequity within the organization and supporting racial justice movements in the broader community, and how can visitor studies and audience research inform these efforts?
  • How can evaluators help to hold our informal learning institutions accountable for anti-racist statements and commitments?
  • Finally, as Dr. Lonnie Bunch asks of museums, how should the visitor studies field respond to these social crises and what should be our role in the struggle against systemic racism?

A recording of this web chat can be found here.


Conducting Focus Groups In-Person and Online
Recorded Live on July 8, 2020

Focus groups are a key visitor studies methodology, although they can be costly. In this web chat, presenters will provide tips for budget-friendly focus group approaches that can be employed both in-person and online. The goals for the web chat are to:

  • Share examples of how internal evaluators have executed focus groups in a budget-friendly manner
  • Provide tips for effectively conducting focus groups in-person and online
  • Discuss challenges, opportunities, and ways participants have been adapting focus group methodologies with respect to the current environment of reduced budgets and social distancing

A recording of this webinar can be purchased here. $10 for VSA Members, $20 for Non-Members.


Remote Formative Evaluation
Recorded Live on June 10, 2020

Pre-COVID-19, formative evaluation often involved in-person data collection with visitors recruited on the museum’s floor. Evaluators would guide visitors through testing out manipulative prototypes and/or responding to design materials for an exhibition or program. Given the pandemic, formative evaluation has had to be rethought.
A recording of this web chat can be found here.

Google Analytics 101: Understanding Your Visitors’ Behavior Online
Recorded Live on May 21, 2020

Learn ways that Google Analytics can help you uncover insights into your website visitors and app users. Presenters will share examples of how they use it to understand visitor behavior online.

Presenters:

  • Elizabeth Bolander, Cleveland Museum of Art
  • Sewon Barrera, Exploratorium
  • Sandra Kaiser, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

 Overview

  • Elizabeth will start by sharing a step-by-step look at some of the most popular and basic Google Analytics features that the Cleveland Museum of Art team utilizes in their work monitoring websites and the ArtLens App.
  • Sewon will share key Google Analytics tips to analyze and curate visitor experience on a museum website.
  • Sandra will discuss a case study of how analytics has guided content and production work for online resources at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  • Participants will also have a chance to swap ideas for other potential Google Analytics uses to inform visitor studies and ask questions of the panelists.
A recording of this webinar can be purchased here. $10 for VSA Members, $20 for Non-Members.

Attending to Diversity, Equity, Access and Inclusion in the Time of Coronavirus
Recorded Live on April 29, 2020

Featuring Dr. Cecilia Garibay (The Garibay Group).

During this web convening, we discussed the following:
• Support conversation and dialogue around DEAI efforts in the time of Coronavirus
• Share challenges and reflect on strategies for focusing attention on DEAI at the institutional level
• Envision the role that visitor studies professionals can play in advocating for or supporting DEAI efforts during this time and into the future, as museums and other informal learning institutions begin to redefine who they are and how they serve communities

A recording of this web chat can be found here.


Culturally Responsive Visitor Studies: An Interactive Workshop with Dr. Katrina Bledsoe
Recorded Live on February 12, 2020

Join the Visitor Studies Association (VSA) for an interactive webinar focusing on the considerations and potential challenges relating to cultural responsiveness within the evaluation process. Dr. Katrina L. Bledsoe, a leader and expert on issues surrounding cultural responsiveness and equity-focused evaluation, will present this virtual workshop, providing examples from her professional experience. Participants will work together to think about how evaluators and informal learning professionals can identify and address the culture and context that exist within the evaluation process. Participants will also have the opportunity to think about how they can integrate cultural responsiveness into evaluation practice. The webinar will utilize presentation, large group discussion, and breakout rooms to:

  • Discuss the terminology, definitions, and personal perspectives surrounding Culturally Responsive Evaluation
  • Examine a case study evaluation project from a cultural responsiveness lens
  • Develop an evaluation plan that considers the needs and perspectives of various stakeholders
  • Share and compare ideas from small group discussions
  • Reflect on the case study as a whole, paying attention to how culture, context, and equity are addressed

A recording of this webinar can be purchased here. $10 for VSA Members, $15 for Non-Members


Looking for something more historical? Email association headquarters for assistance.