University collections and object-based pedagogies

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Engagement with objects, either directly or through digital media, has long been recognized as a viable, constructivist pedagogy, capable of mediating significant meaning and context. The increasing uptake of digital technologies in university learning and teaching programs provides a timely opportunity for integrating museum and collection data and metadata in these programs. This project looked at the use of university museum and collection objects in teaching programs through a controlled experiment. A group of students were exposed directly to collection objects while another group was exposed to their digital surrogate. Students were then tested at later stages concerning their recall of didactic information. Results clearly show that students exposed to the original object had far better didactic recall over a longer time period than students exposed to their digital surrogates. This has implications for the development and rapid expansion of online education delivery in the tertiary education sector and elsewhere and the role university collections can play.

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