Unique and enriching professional development opportunities for professionals based in zoos, museums, parks, cultural centers or other public settings.

Designed For
Staff and volunteers at museums, zoos, aquariums, science centers, cultural and natural history museums, nature centers and nonprofits focusing on public education, as well as other professionals conducting science-based outreach at universities, community colleges and other learning centers.
Examining the Learner's Own Ideas: Personal Dimensions of Free-Choice / Informal Learning
September 23 - November 10, 2019
Understanding Cultural Influence: Sociocultural Dimensions of Free-Choice / Informal Learning
January 6 - February 23, 2020
Developing STEM / STEAM Curriculum
January 6 - February 23, 2020
Designing Learning Environments: Physical Dimensions of Free-Choice / Informal Learning
March 30 – May 17, 2020
Developing Effective Evaluation Studies​
March 30 – May 17, 2020
Online | Instructor-led
Full Certificate: $1,515 (+ $60 registration fee, per course) ($390 saving)
Individual Courses: $390 - $425 (+ $60 registration fee, per course)
Each course takes seven weeks to complete
Plan for 5 hours of work per week

What is Informal Learning?

Informal learning is all about deciding what, where and how we want to learn over the course of our lifetimes. It's the learning that takes place all the time, outside of the classroom, no matter how young or old you are.

Informal Learning in Museums Professional Certificate is an innovative program that immerses museum, zoo, aquarium and science outreach professionals and volunteers in informal and free-choice learning theories. Participants will work with some of the field’s leading researchers in museum studies programs and you will learn how to apply informal learning environments theories in real-world educational settings.

Study Learning in Museums and Real World Settings

Participants can earn the Informal Learning in Museums Professional Certificate by completing each required course as well as one elective course:

Core Informal Learning Courses:

Elective Courses:

Informal Learning in Museums Information Session

For more information on this certificate program, please watch the following recorded information session.


College Partners

This course is a collaboration between Oregon State University College of Education and Oregon State University Professional and Continuing Education.


Proud Partners

Oregon State University Informal Learning in Museums Professional Certificate is proud to partner with Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) specializing in Education & Interpretation.




  • Personal, socio-cultural and physical dimensions of free-choice learning and informal learning theory.
  • Learn from Oregon State University scholars leading the field of free-choice learning research.
  • Valuable professional development by enrolling in the full professional certificate program or a single course.
  • Erin Hicks, M.A.

    Erin is a museum professional with over 10 years of experience working on the design and development of art and history museum exhibits. Erin expanded that experience to include museum education theory and practice as she earned a masters degree in museum studies, specifically following a learning track of visitor experience and education. Her coursework and research focused on interpreting and exhibiting art collections, art education in museums, and administrative topics such as museum planning and the economics of arts and culture. While attending Buffalo State, SUNY, located in Buffalo, New York, Erin was introduced to the study of creativity and the impact that creative problem solving methods could have on critical museum issues by completing coursework at the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) also located at Buffalo State. Erin's academic and professional work in the field culminated into a research project entitled Second Nature: An exploration in planning and design concepts for a place- and community-based museum process.

  • John H. Falk, Ph.D.

    Instructor John H. Falk

    Sea Grant Professor, Museum and Free-Choice Learning / Information Education Course Advisor

  • Lynn Dierking, Ph.D.

    Instructor Lynn Dierking

    Sea Grant Professor, Museum and Free-Choice Learning / Information Education Course Advisor

  • Shawn Rowe, Ph.D.

    Instrucor Shawn Rowe

    As a marine education learning specialist, Dr. Rowe engages in research on free-choice learning - the kind that people do outside classrooms and other formal education settings. He uses the Visitor Center as a laboratory to study learning behavior. He is wrapping up a five-year, $2.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support the creation of a free-choice learning lab at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, and works closely with graduate students in OSU's Free-Choice Science Learning Ph.D. and M.S. programs, as well as in the Environmental Sciences and Marine Resource Management programs at OSU.

    Dr. Rowe has a background in applied linguistics (studying how people learn language) and developmental psychology in education, and holds a Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis.