July 8, 2013  |  Learning and Engagement
To MOOC or Not to MOOC? MoMA Says YES

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been loudly heralded in the news as being either the savior or the destroyer of education’s future. MOOCs are being created by the hundreds every year and attended by thousands per course. Why? Apparently everyone is eager to engage in high quality educational programs taught by world experts for free. I have enrolled in some terrific MOOCs and some terrible ones, seen great student interaction in the discussion boards and some unfortunate exchanges of misinformation. MOOC student interaction often gets tricky and frequently overwhelming, but it’s always amazing to be in a class with thousands of students from all over the world, all communicating with each other on a single topic of interest. It is exhilarating to experience global, intellectual connectivity.

Coursera website

Screenshot of MoMA’s “Art and Inquiry” course page on the Coursera website

As you may remember from my previous blog post, MoMA already offers a robust program of online courses that are NOT MOOCs because: 1. The “instructor-led” course attendance is limited to under 45 students (35 students is the cap for studio courses)—definitely NOT “massive”—and 2. Students pay a fee for the MoMA online course service, so they are not “open” in the same way as a free MOOC. However, earlier this year one of the largest MOOC providers Coursera, asked us to contribute to a new venture: creating MOOCs for primary and secondary school teachers looking for professional development opportunities. After a quick check-in with Lisa Mazzola, MoMA’s assistant director in charge of School and Teacher Programs, we agreed to join Coursera in this important work.

Why? Teachers are such an important audience for MoMA, and not just art teachers. Teachers of all kinds use our new MoMA Learning website that is chock full of in-depth and ready-to-use information, including slide sets, videos, and images. But teachers also need modeling and mentoring on how to use museum materials and teaching methods effectively. We offer some on-the-ground teacher workshops on this subject, but we never have enough space or time to accommodate the large number of teachers who request help. We want to experiment with MOOCs as a platform to build teachers’ skills in inquiry-based learning techniques while also engaging them in peer-to-peer learning strategies. We think teachers will love collaborating on the coursework and exchanging ideas about their practice with peers from all over the world. And we know they will appreciate the price of admission: free!

Our first MOOC, “Art and Inquiry,” begins July 29 and as of this post, there are over 8,000 enrolled. You can learn more about the course on Coursera’s website, and keep an eye out for Lisa Mazzola’s forthcoming blog post about creating MoMA’s first MOOC.