The relationship between museums and the internet is one area that is only beginning to be explored by museums (Chadwick, 2003; Haley Goldman & Haley Goldman, 2005; Haley Goldman & Wadman, 2002; Witcomb, 2003). The internet is becoming increasingly available to a wide range of users. In Australia, for example, there has been a 40% increase over a six year period in access to and use of the internet with the most current available figures showing over half of the population having access in 2004-05 and continually rising (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006).
The role the internet plays in museum learning is being recognised across the sector, yet little work has been undertaken into the needs of users, especially teachers and students. The Australian Museum’s website monthly vis itation regularly exceeds 1.5 million, and the use of the internet by students, teachers and the general population has dramatically increased over the recent years. For example, in the Museum’s 2004 online survey 63% of respondents described themselves as “educational visitors”. Additionally, many websites are integrating new forms of media and technology to provide unique learning experiences for visitors. These issues prompted a study to gain a better understanding of how emerging internet technologies are affecting the learning environment, with a specific focus on teachers and high-school students.
The overall objective of the research project was to provide the Australian Museum with guidance on how to best develop a website that meets the needs of students and teachers in the primary and secondary levels across a range of curriculum areas. General objectives were to gain insights into how students and teachers are using the internet and what they are looking for when they access websites.
This paper reports on the method used and the findings from the study that have broad applicability across the museum sector—how teachers and students use the internet and what would make a great educational website from their perspectives.