MOOCs & studios

Make Art Dammit!

This morning, AK’s post about MOOCs and the Art Studio caught my attention.
He discusses a chapter of the same name from Macro-Level Learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Strategies and Predictions for the Future. I have some experience with studio art courses from the days when I tried to be an artist, and some experience with online art-related courses, like ds106 and some of Berklee’s MOOCs. In ds106 we make art (dammit), but it’s hardly a studio art course. I don’t know if Introduction to Guitar or Songwriting would be technically considered studio art, but it works for me. The chapter’s authors, Errey and McPherson, identify four features of studio pedagogy: “project-based work, learning through praxis, learning through workshop and learning through first hand materiality.” I see that happening in the music courses, so the shoe fits.

The chapter points to a perceived problem with studio courses: cost. Studio classes are typically small, in order to build a mentor relationship between students and teacher, and to foster discussion around individuals’ works. I don’t know if it’s possible, or desirable, to scale that up. But in a large open community it might be possible to crowd-source mentoring, if it draws individuals ranging from novice to expert.

It makes me think of FAWM and 50/90. These are not intended to be courses in any way, but rather communities. However, the social aspect allows for questions, comments, critique, and collaboration. Commenting and collaboration are explicitly encouraged. Song submissions with no comments, called zongs, are automatically tagged and highlighted, and the system tracks the number of zongs each participant has “busted.” There is no leader or instructor-figure as one would find in a class, but there are some instructional materials and creative challenges to help people along. These are analogous to readings and assignments. The learning comes from doing, making and sharing, and from watching (listening to) what others do, make and share. I typically submitted songs with brief reflections, which helped my thinking and learning, and gave commenters a little context. The community ranged people who were novices, like me who had never attempted to write a song previously, to professional musicians and songwriters. In my experience, everyone was very positive and supportive. If I needed more critical comments, I’m sure I could have solicited them.

It definitely was an online learning experience. One could argue either way about it being massive and open. I think the model of learning through making, learning in the open, and learning in community has value and can be applied beyond arts courses. I don’t get the impression that that model is being widely embraced though.



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