Community Engagement and Social Change

Code: AHVS488W
Apply this course towards: Visitor and Community Engagement, Cultural Resource Management, Collections Management

Course description

Museums and other cultural heritage organizations have the capacity to serve as dynamic social spaces for community engagement and action. This course explores the profound social changes that are reshaping the nature and purposes of museums in a pluralistic society and considers the implications for all aspects of their specialized functions. Participants utilize a group of core resources to assist their learning about how the museum and cultural field has evolved, why social and community engagement is a critical foundation for all other professional practices, and how other organizations have begun their journeys towards engagement. The course introduces participants to a series of skills and practices to initiate, facilitate, and support community engagement and embed them in organizational life. Participants complete either a community engagement assessment of a museum or cultural heritage organization utilizing a number of assessment tools or a community engagement plan, with components on strategy, participants, proposed engagement process / steps, and follow up activities to embed community engagement into ongoing practice.

Learning objectives

  1. Describe the broad paradigm shifts and multiple forces for change that are shaping current and future values and practice in museums
  2. Distinguish what community engagement is and is not, and differentiate between audience development and community engagement.
  3. Articulate why social and community engagement is a critical foundation for museums and cultural organizations
  4. Articulate the criteria for choosing community representatives to participate in a community gathering and the components of an effective selection process
  5. Utilize some basic skills and processes to initiate, plan, and facilitate an engagement process with community leaders and representatives
  6. Describe the components of effective community partnerships and collaborations and explore some tools for evaluating engagement processes
  7. Compare how community engagement has initiated a journey towards relevance and sustainability for other museums and cultural organizations and understand the benefits of learning from case studies
  8. Describe how community engagement has transformed a number of museums
  9. Explore some organizational change and transformation processes necessary to implement engagement strategies in museums
  10. Complete an engagement assessment of an organization OR develop and implement an engagement plan that incorporates practical guidelines, steps, and skills to initiate, facilitate, support and evaluate community engagement processes


  1. A current professional or volunteer role in a museum or cultural-sector organization in order to succeed in the course and undertake a range of assignments and discussion with reference to the organization’s mission, values, planning, communities, programs, exhibitions, collections or management structures. It is the responsibility of the participant to ensure they can complete all course assignments and contribute meaningfully to all course discussions by drawing from their role or experience. Please contact the program office if you have questions.
  2. Access to a computer with a reliable internet connection.
  3. University-level research, writing, and critical thinking skills.


Candace Tangorra Matelic

What participants are saying

"It is a great course with a very relevant and important topic."

"It's very satisfying to see how the lessons are playing out in my day to day life at the museum. They are coming at exactly the right time - and because they make so much sense I can easily incorporate them immediately and as part of a larger plan for the museum."

"The activities are very useful and help show me what I am actually retaining and using in my work."

"The assignments have been gratifying to complete and I'm more motivated every time I complete one."


Online format using the learning management system (LMS), Brightspace, over a 14-week period, requiring approximately 12-14 rigorous hours of coursework per week.

Students login to the course and communicate with the instructor and fellow students via the Brightspace course site. This course follows an asynchronous delivery model.

This course will use online text-based notes and/or PowerPoint presentations, forum-based discussions, individual and individual assignments, and print and online readings/resources. In addition to completing assignments and activities, participants are expected to contribute meaningfully and frequently to forum-based discussions weekly. The mode of contact with the course instructor is via email or online forums.

Attendance, participation and decorum

Whether registered as a credit or non-credit participant, you will be expected to:

  • login to the course website on a regular basis throughout each week
  • participate in class activities, and thoughtfully and articulately contribute to course forum discussions by reflecting upon assigned readings and professional experiences
  • submit course assignments on scheduled course deadline dates
  • notify course instructors of any personal leaves throughout the term that will affect class participation well in advance
  • notify the instructor of any situation that will compromise the timely submission of an assignment or activity to work out alternate arrangements well in advance of due date
  • provide work throughout the course that is effectively organized and researched, professionally presented, and well-written
  • interact with colleagues, program staff, and course instructors in a respectful and positive manner at all times

Note: if a student has not signed into the course site by 100% tuition refund drop date, the Program Office reserves the right to withdraw the student from the course. Participation in online courses is mandatory and online interactions are the most important part of the course learning experience. As such, “catching up” at such a late date without prior approval—and make-up scheduling by the instructor and/or program—is impossible.

Privacy Considerations

In some cases, participants and the course instructor may discuss examples that reflect an actual situation, institution, or community. In order to create an environment where all feel free to discuss and learn from situational issues, it is asked that everyone respect the confidential nature of the institutions and communities being discussed.

While the site is password protected, note that email and course discussion forum groups are never entirely confidential and are subject to freedom of information and privacy legislation. Your use of these communication tools should reflect the public nature of the media.

We ask that you respect the copyright of any and all course materials and note that these are circulated and shared for the purposes of this course only. Further reproduction is strictly prohibited.

Personal information at the University is protected by the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the University’s Protection of Privacy Policy.

Disclosure of personal information to vendors, systems or services storing or accessing that information outside of Canada is restricted by s.30.1 of FIPPA.

Instructors may use a variety of educational technology in a course including internet-based technologies, or web-based applications, cloud services and social media. The use of technology is intended to enhance and/or deliver students’ education and is part of a students’ engagement at the University. Some of these technologies may collect, use, disclose, and store student and instructor personal information outside of Canada.

In some courses, instructors may require students to use educational technology and social media which stores personal information outside of Canada, in such cases, instructors will try to provide options (such as using an alias to register).

If students do not want their personal information stored or accessed outside of Canada, in certain rare instances, courses may not be available to them. If the course is required for the completion of a degree, alternatives will be provided.

Course Credit

1.5 units at UVic or may be taken on a non-credit basis.

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Info you should know:

Continuing Studies statement on use of educational technology

This course will require the use of Zoom and may use other education technology such as internet-based applications, cloud services, or social media. In order to complete this course you will be required to either consent to the disclosure of your personal information outside of Canada to enable use of these technologies, or work with the Division of Continuing Studies to explore other privacy protective options (such as using an alias or nickname).