COVES Blog Post: ASTC 2017 Reflection and Wrap-Up

By Michelle Kenner

COVES has seen a lot of changes in 2017. As we near the end of the year, here is a recap of where COVES has been, and how science centers and museums around the country have been shaping the future of visitor experience studies.

Looking Back

Since October 2016, COVES participants have collected more than 6,000 visitor surveys. In July, COVES welcomed six new science centers and museums into the collaboration, for a total of 19 participating institutions around the United States. Participants have made the COVES instrument their own, adding items to the survey that are specific to their needs, and providing feedback on the online data dashboard reporting tool.


As part of our initiative to establish a sustainable, responsive program supporting science museums of all sizes in ongoing visitor experience studies, COVES authored several resources designed to build the internal evaluation capacity of science centers and museums; survey walk-throughs, data collection protocols, and a suite of training videos took shape between January and October, and the COVES team delivered onsite trainings to over 60 science center professionals around the country. COVES also hosted data discussions with participants, guiding them through the analysis of the first six months of their data.


“Participating in COVES has encouraged us to up our game, working hard to get information from all of our visitors. We have used some of the ideas we have gotten from participation to create surveys for our other programs, like field trips and camps.”— Megan Pratt, Executive Director, Pensacola MESS Hall


Looking Forward

The COVES family is growing! The team plans to onboard two new institutions in December for a January 1, 2018 data collection start date. COVES is currently disseminating individual and aggregate data to all participating institutions via an online data dashboard, and we are developing new reporting mechanisms that will provide a snapshot of the aggregate data and emerging trends in the field. COVES is also exploring a piloting procedure for introducing new questions to the survey. As more science centers and museums join, the survey will continue to be adapted to meet the evolving needs of the field. How can we continue to improve our questions and measures? What procedures should be in place to pilot new questions?

By fall of 2018, COVES will adopt a not-for-profit business model as it transitions from IMLS funding to a self-sustaining entity. While the details of this transition are still being discussed, we are excited for this next step in continuing to serve science centers and museums, and their visitors.

Here’s to 2017; see you in 2018!