ncmateensContinuing with our ‘sharing of social media and other online activities’ to engage Teens and Young People, Michelle H. Harrell,, Coordinator of Teen and College Programs at North Carolina Museum of Art shares their online courses available in North Carolina.

If you’re reading this blog, you may already know the challenge museums face reaching local teens. When given the challenge of reaching teens across a state spanning 560 miles (900 km), the issues are challenging. Our museum has discovered how online courses can offer a tool to connect teens to their state art museum in rich and meaningful ways.

As a statemuseum, the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA has initiated a variety of concept-driven programs for teachers and schools across the state. Through a grant-funded collaboration with the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS), we have created a series of online high school credit courses at no cost to students enrolled in a public school in NC. Rather than offering traditional art history courses, we offer a variety of popular subjects, such as game design, videography, fashion, advertising, and photography. Visit to learn more about each course.

These online courses combine object-based approaches in the galleries with project-based applications. Works of art are used as catalysts for learning. Each course meets the following goals. Students will…

  • Build learning and innovation skills while increasing media and technology skills.
  • Engage with the art collections of the NCMA regardless of their geographic location across NC.
  • Participate in educational programming at the NCMA, both during and after enrollment in the courses.


Videos of artists and curators combined with exciting projects and discussion forums create authentic experiences for students to construct meaningful connections to the work. Each week, students learn new concepts, connect these concepts to a work of art, and then create original work that synthesizes what they have learned. For instance, in our “Art of Photography” course, students master technical agility of photographic processes while developing aesthetic perception and creativity. In the first module of the course, students learn about artist intent while understanding how a camera’s lens operates. Students watch this video featuring Chris Drury’s Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky to hear his artistic approach and watch a timelapse of how the small aperture projects the outside of the park to the walls of the sculpture.

Enrollment in these courses has doubled each year. The pilot course offered in Fall 2010 had only 60 students, but the current semester has over 300 students enrolled. By the end of next school year, we expect the enrollment to exceed 500 students each semester. In only three years of offering these online courses, over half of NC’s school systems have had at least one student enrolled in our program.

ElizabethMOn-site educational programming draws upon the themes of these courses. From symposia, residencies, field trips, and events, students have multiple entry points to engage with our museum. We just celebrated the debut of the Art of Photography course with ArtScene, which is our teen event  held each spring at the NCMA. Students enjoyed photography activities, a polaroid photo booth, live entertainment, and a student exhibition from the course.

As our program grows, we are interested in collaborating with other museums to contribute to the field of online learning. How has your museum incorporated online learning to connect to teens? What other museums can be used as examples to engage teens through distance learning? Join the conversation by adding comments below or contacting me directly (

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