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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!