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July 2, 2014  |  Learning and Engagement, Tech
Five Steps to Making the Art & Activity MOOC
The video crew captures Lisa leading a teacher professional development session in MoMA's fourth-floor Painting and Sculpture Galleries. Photo: Stephanie Pau

The video crew captures Lisa leading a teacher professional development session in MoMA’s fourth-floor Painting and Sculpture Galleries. Photo: Stephanie Pau

On July 7, we launch Art & Activity: Interactive Strategies for Engaging with Art, a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). The course is part of an ongoing partnership with MOOC provider Coursera, to provide free professional development opportunities for K–12 teachers worldwide. Developing the course over the past nine months has been a labor of love. As with our first MOOC, we are still experimenting; adding new kinds of content, playing around with video formats, and exploring how to make the course as interactive as possible. As we are about to launch Art & Activity, we thought we might take this opportunity to share a behind-the-scenes look at our process for creating the MOOC, from start to finish.

Screen shot of the Art & Activity course landing page

Screen shot of the Art & Activity course landing page

1. Brainstorming

Between them, course instructors Jessica Baldenhofer, Stephanie Pau, and Lisa Mazzola have over 45 years of experience working as museum educators, with different approaches to engaging learners with art. So our first, and perhaps most daunting, challenge was to distill all of this collective knowledge into a series of concise video lectures, which make up the heart of the course content.

Lisa, Stephanie, and Jessica brainstorm activities to highlight in the course. Photo: Stephanie Pau

Lisa, Stephanie, and Jessica brainstorm activities to highlight in the course. Photo: Stephanie Pau

To be sure, we weren’t going into this process alone. We had the support of MoMA’s crack Digital Learning team, as well as survey feedback from participants of our first MOOC. That course, Art & Inquiry, was pulled together on a short timeline and with minimal resources, an approach made possible by repurposing a lot of existing media. While many of our 17,000 students took a lot away from Art & Inquiry, we knew that with the luxury of more lead time, our second MOOC could be much more ambitious. We would create all-new media, provide more readings and resources, and use the power of video to demonstrate more of the methods that we use everyday at MoMA.

Our first MOOC focused squarely on inquiry- or discussion-based methods, but we wanted to take it a step further by sharing methods that engage the entire body. Thus the concept for Art & Activity was born. Armed with giant stickies, Post-its, Sharpies, caffeine, and untold numbers of cookies from the MoMA staff cafeteria, the three of us met over several weeks to map out a structure for the course. We began by writing down every activity-based method we’d used to engage people of all ages with works of art—one activity per Post-it. We then winnowed down these hundreds of activities into a handful that we felt were not only most successful, but had the potential to translate well to video. We looked for patterns in our Post-its, and categorized (and re-categorized) our shortlist of activities by the types of skills they helped students explore. In the end, these patterns framed the week-by-week structure of our course.

Detail of the many Post-its sacrificed to our brainstorming process. Photo: Jessica Baldenhofer

Detail of the many Post-its sacrificed to our brainstorming process. Photo: Jessica Baldenhofer

2. Scripting

Armed with a basic framework for the course, we took several weeks to divide and conquer the process of scripting. Eventually, our words would become 19 brand-new videos, ranging in length from two to 10 minutes.

We pored over every word in weekly salon-style script read-throughs, scrutinizing our own ideas, fact-checking, and paring away the inessentials. In the end, we collectively wrote and reviewed over 50 single-spaced pages of fresh content, and were ready for our screen tests!

3. Lights, Camera, Action!

Working with an outside film crew the MOOC team got ready for their close-ups. The film crew worked tirelessly to ensure they could get the best “look” for the shot, which sometimes involved using clothespins and bulldog clips to hold dresses and stray hairs in place.

In addition to filming us, the instructors, we spent hours filming ourselves and other educators guiding students through activities in the galleries. Spending time documenting for the course was a great reminder of all the amazing work being done by on a daily basis by MoMA educators.

4. Storytelling by Design

Given the interactive nature of our content, we all agreed that we had to make the videos as visually dynamic as possible. We collaborated closely with our Graphic Design colleagues Greg Hathaway and Tida Tep, who helped us create compelling graphics that were later animated with a program called After Effects. In our demonstrations of specific activities, we wove in images of MoMA collection artworks. The added imagery and illustrations really help bring the content to life, especially for more visual learners.

Screen shot from Stephanie's video on how to design engaging activities

Screen shot from Stephanie’s video on how to design engaging activities

5. Teamwork

Stephanie, Lisa, and Jessica all worked together to develop the course content. But MoMA’s amazing Digital Learning team—Deborah Howes, Allegra Smith, and Cindy Yeh—were integral in bringing our vision to life. They worked tirelessly to manage the video production, and helped to secure the rights for crucial artworks and readings. J6 Media shot and edited all the videos, helping us to tell our story.

The crew and talent in between takes. Photo: Stephanie Pau

The crew and talent in between takes. Photo: Stephanie Pau

Nothing we’ve done up until now will mean anything until the teachers and participants begin interacting with the content. As students watch the videos, pore through the readings, take the quizzes, and share ideas with each other in the course discussion forum, we will be watching the course truly come to life. We’ve compiled a great deal of our knowledge into Art & Activity, but now the really fun part begins, as we can start learning from all of you.

Art & Activity: Interactive Strategies for Engaging with Art begins on July 7. Sign up and start learning!

Comments

Congratulation to all the team that have worked in this proyect. I live in Mexico city and i am going to take this course. I´m happy for that and am waiting anxiusly. I wish yo all the best success.
Yara Guerrero

We look forward to your participation Yara!

Congratulations. So excited for this launch, and so proud of you, my incredible MoMA colleagues! – Larissa

Congratulations for your efforts and amazing work. I was one of the students in ‘Art & Inquiry’ last March and I enjoyed it a lot. I’m looking forward to learning more from next week.

19 videos! I like the addition of animation. Great idea. Well done team!

I\’m in! Looking forward to starting!

I’m really looking forward to learning more from trying out my first MOOC. Thanks MoMA educators and digital learning team.

Thanks for your comments Larissa, Atilio, Emily and Caterina! We look forward to your participation in the course.

Thank you for all the effort with this course. I am originally from NY but now living/teaching in Laos. This is an amazing course to be able to take.. I am already into week 1. Thank you so much! (I may be slow about videos, internet in Laos is horrendous..but.. hopefully it’s all ok.)

Thank you for this course. I am originally from NY but now living/teaching in Laos, this course is a perfect offering…. I am very excited to join.

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