Visitor Experiences

Code: AHVS488Y
Apply this course towards: Visitor and Community Engagement, Cultural Resource Management, Collections Management

Course description

This course explores the evolving concept and implications of an holistic approach to visitor engagement in museums and other cultural heritage institutions. Topics include:

  • museums’ relationships with their publics
  • museums’ capacity to serve as social spaces
  • strategies for audience research
  • the characteristics of visitors
  • communications
  • exhibitions
  • formal and informal learning activities
  • evaluation strategies

Learning objectives

  1. Summarize what is meant by 'the visitor experience' (e.g.; what it involves, when it is relevant, who is responsible for planning and implementing) and why it matters to the institution today and in the future.
  2. Discuss some of the literature and thinking that has been integral to justifying the shift towards visitor-centered experiences in museums.
  3. Articulate and discuss what is known about museum visitors such as trends in museum visitation (who visits), motivations (why visitors come/stay away), and visitor satisfaction (what visitors need to have a positive experience).
  4. Describe the value and basic tenets of conducting visitor studies/audience research to informally conduct small studies and advocate for its broader use in assessing and improving the visitor experience.
  5. Predict and identify the elements of museum infrastructure (physical space and organizational systems) and hospitality that will best support the optimal visitor experience.
  6. Identify and analyze the various communication strategies for conveying information to visitors at an institution (Marketing, Orientation/Wayfinding, Interpretation, Education) and recommend additions or modifications to those strategies that will improve the visitor experience at a given site.
  7. Discuss the role and necessary qualities of public programming (activities, events, etc.) to build community and connection with visitors.
  8. Apply lessons and discussions from course to advocate for, and holistically assess, the effectiveness of the visitor experience based on current practices in visitor-centered design of infrastructure, hospitality, information delivery, and programming.



  1. All participants are encouraged to have a professional or voluntary role in a museum or cultural organization, which may serve as their ‘partner organization’ for completion of course assignments. If you have any questions about your suitability for this course, please ask us how to contact the course instructor directly before the course start date.
  2. Regular access to a computer with a reliable internet connection.
  3. University-level research, writing and critical thinking skills.



Mary Kay Cunningham

What participants are saying

"The course is very well laid out in that each week I feel I am getting a deeper understanding of Visitor Experience and my knowledge is really building."

"Each activity is applicable to what I am doing now and what I want to do in the future. Also the weekly discussion are a great way to discover different perspectives from people who have many different work/volunteer experiences."

"The course design was excellent. Each section built knowledge and skill on the previous information. The instructor provided thoughtful comments to move the class forward."


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 the 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.

PLEASE NOTE: If you have not already been admitted to UVic, you cannot take this course(s) for credit. Program Application Deadlines are as follows:

September entry:  July 1
January entry:  November 1
May entry: March 1

However, if you had applied to the program before the application deadline, you will be permitted to register in the course(s).

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