“That’s Awesome!” — Art of the MOOC

Fresco on the National Palace in Mexico

Great Examples from Online Courses 

What It’s About

Art of the MOOC is a six week Coursera-hosted course on social art created by Pedro Lasch from Duke and Nato Thompson, the chief curator from Creative Time. The course explores a range of socially engaged art through many examples and more than two dozen great guest interviews. The creators invite students to participate in creating their own art projects every week.

Why It’s Awesome

MOOCs with peer-reviewed projects usually allow students one week to complete the project and one week to evaluate their peers’ work. Art of the MOOC aggressively reimagines this model by encouraging participants to create a project every week. Budding artists also have the unusual opportunity of choosing their preferred project area. Each week of the course offers both a ‘Social Method’ option and a ‘Flashmob’ option. Both are customized to the topic of the week. The ‘Social Method’ tends toward more solo work and the ‘Flashmob’ tends to encourage a group event or experience as the final goal.

Pedro Lasch conveys the first pair of project choices from the Durham Bulls baseball stadium.
Pedro Lasch conveys the first pair of project choices from the Durham Bulls baseball stadium.

Not only does Art of the MOOC change the customary frequency of projects, they also challenge norms in the ways students are encouraged to complete the work. One project asks students to submit a photo of their half finished artwork. The ‘evaluator’ gathers these photos as their three sources for the second half of the project, where the evaluator becomes a co-participant in completing the artwork. Each final artwork represents the joint effort of two participants, often from different countries. The top student and instructor reviewed projects were shared at an event at Creative Time while the course was in its third week, offering course participants an extraordinary opportunity to gain exposure for their work.


In a typical six week course, students would only get a chance to try two to three predetermined creative projects, at most. Art of the MOOC throws open the doors, offering 12 unique project prompts and more than 60 different ways for students to experience the course by selecting different combinations of projects. Furthermore, each of the projects in this course stretches the boundary of what the peer review experience can be in the Coursera platform. For all those reasons and more, Art of the MOOC is awesome!

Art of the MOOC is planned to run again on the Coursera platform this fall. Join us and experience the awesomeness firsthand!

Justin Johnsen

Author: Justin Johnsen

Justin supports Learning Innovation staff as they assist Duke faculty to develop massive open online courses (MOOCs). He maintains a deep knowledge of the features of the implemented platforms and can also offer suggestions on how to use online tools to achieve teaching goals. Justin is the primary technical liaison for Duke with the Coursera company, and he keeps up to date on the latest platform features and issues to share with our Learning Innovation staff and Duke faculty. He has previously worked closely on 'Introduction to Genetics and Evolution', 'Introduction to Astronomy', 'Medical Neuroscience', 'Understanding 9/11', 'Marine Megafauna | An Introduction to Marine Science and Conservation', and 'Tropical Parasitology' offered by Duke and Coursera.