Thursday, May 2, 2013

MOOCs and the Museum

Are you paying attention to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)? You should be. These courses, offering free education on an enormous scale, are a bright spot in the dark landscape of rising educational debt. While they are still very early in the process of maturation (grappling with finding business models to support free or low cost learning, debating appropriate goals for completion rates, arguing about the effectiveness of online instruction) MOOCs have the potential to be a transformational force in the future of learning.

So I’m pumped that Coursera has announced the launch of professional development courses to facilitate lifelong learning for teachers, and to support this new curriculum, a new set of partners that includes three museums: The American Museum of Natural History, the Exploratorium, and the Museum of Modern Art. These are the first “informal education” providers to join Coursera’s long and illustrious list of content providers. (Note the page that lists these museums is titled “universities.”) 

This development is a significant signal of potential futures in the ecology of learning. Coursera, which launched only last year, already has 62 partner organizations, offers over 100 courses, enrolled over a million students across 196 countries, and is working with the American Council on Education to offer transferable college credit for its offerings.

Reasons this is news is important for museums:

  • MOOCs can accelerate the mainstreaming of museum content into education
  • Partnering with Coursera, along side universities such as Brown, Columbia, Duke and Stanford, raises the profile of our education work
  • MOOCs provide a way to scale up the impact museums have on education overall

Here are videos introducing courses from each of the new museum Coursera partners. Take a look,  and please let me know if your museum intends to foray into the MOOC arena.

American Museum of Natural History
Genetics and Society: A Course for Educators
This video features museum staffer Rob DeSalle summarizing the biotechnologies and ethics issues that will be covered in the course.  This is one of three teacher training courses AMNH is currently offering through Coursera.




Exploratorium
Integrating Engineering Into Your Science Classroom
The video below is about the on-site teacher training, and notes that in the past they had to turn away 2 out of 3 teacher applicants, but that in their new site they will be able to triple the number of teachers they train. How will offering this content through Coursera increase their reach, and will it have comparable impact?


Museum of Modern Art
Art and Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies for Your Classroom
This video previews the online format and the kind of videos that will be presented in the course, and tells teacher-learners what to expect from the experience.

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