Making a MOOC

One of the most exciting aspects of bringing the DeVos Institute of Arts Management to the University of Maryland is to have access to a range of technical assets and expertise that most arts institutions can only dream about -- from web design to sophisticated communications options to virtual reality.

Particularly exciting to me is the way these resources are used to create new approaches to education. The DeVos Institute is devoted to training arts managers and board member across the globe about the techniques required to build and maintain healthy arts institutions. But a relatively small faculty cannot keep pace with huge demand throughout the United States and around the world. We currently teach in Croatia and England and Vietnam, not to mention San Jose and Portland and Grand Rapids.

But we have also received requests for new programs on every continent except Antarctica and simply cannot meet all of this demand.

Here is where University of Maryland expertise is so helpful; the Provost of the University, Mary Ann Rankin, a member of the DeVos Institute Advisory Board, suggested we consider creating a MOOC.

To be honest, I did not know what a MOOC was. But I quickly learned.

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. It allows a teacher to have access to an unlimited number of students who participate in online training; the students watch videos, read assignments and take exams.

There are MOOCs available on a wide range of subjects; one course on entrepreneurism offered by the University of Maryland has more than 100,000 students!

For the DeVos Institute, a MOOC is an ideal tool to provide introductory training to students across a very broad geography without having to travel to every country. It allows those interested in a career in arts management to explore the field before making a major commitment to a degree program. And it provides board members with an opportunity to learn what makes an arts institution successful at their own pace and on their own time.

But simply having access to technology is not enough. The staff of the University, led by Professor Ben Bederson, also know how to use this technology to create the best educational experience for the students. For example, we learned that many short videos are far better for most students than one longer video.

The University has asked us to create a MOOC based on our theory of The Cycle--our fundamental framework for creating success in the arts. Our MOOC, which should debut next autumn, will review the basics of The Cycle, include interviews with arts managers and board members from the U.S. and abroad, and provide practical tools for creating successful artistic plans, marketing campaigns, boards and fundraising efforts.

Certainly, no MOOC replaces an in-depth, in-person, education. But it seems the perfect new tool to introduce thousands of arts managers to basic concepts and approaches.

Best of all, all MOOCs are offered without charge, ensuring that everyone has equal access to arts management training--from Mali to Miami.