MOOCs

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Launches Free Course on Looking at Photographs as Art

in Art, MOOCs, Museums, Photography | February 15th, 2016

moma photography course

Not content with banning selfie sticks, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is bringing visual literacy to the masses via its first foray into the world of MOOCs (aka “massive open online courses”).

Curator Sarah Meister will be drawing on MoMA’s expansive photography collection for the free 6-session, self-paced Seeing Through Photographs class on Coursera.


You won’t learn how to make duck lips in a mirror, but by the course’s end, you should be able to cast a critical eye, with a new appreciation for the “diverse ideas, approaches, and technologies” that inform a photograph’s making.

The first week’s assignments include a video interview with Marvin Heiferman, author of Photography Changes Everything, below. Yes, there will be a quiz.

Expect assigned readings from John Szarkowski’s Introduction to The Photographer’s Eye, and MoMA’s Chief Curator of Photography, Quentin Bajac.

There’s a lot of ground to cover, obviously. Meister has lined up quite a hit parade: Ansel Adams, NASA’s moon photography, Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother,” Susan Meiselas’ “Carnival Strippers” project, Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills,” and Nicholas Nixon’s 40-year documentation of the Brown sisters.

Prove your knowledge at the end of the six weeks with a final 30-minute project in which you’ll select an image that would be a good addition to one of the course’s themes, below:

Seeing Through Photographs

One Subject, Many Perspectives

Documentary Photography

Pictures of People

Constructing Narratives and Challenging Histories

Ocean of Images: Photography and Contemporary Culture

Enroll in this fascinating free course here.

via Petapixel

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

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Take a Free Online Course on Making Comic Books, Compliments of the California College of the Arts

in Art, Comics/Cartoons, K-12, Literature, MOOCs | January 29th, 2016

Gather round, children and listen to Grandma reminiscin’ ‘bout the days when studying comics meant changing out of your pajamas and showing up at the bursar’s office, check in hand.

Actually, Grandma’s full of it. Graphic novels are enjoying unprecedented popularity and educators are turning to comics to reach reluctant readers, but as of this writing, there still aren’t that many programs for those interested in making a career of this art form.


The California College of the Arts is a notable exception. You can get your MFA in Comics there.

Even better, you need not enroll to sample the 5 week course, Comics: Art in Relationship, led by Comics MFA chair and Eisner Award-nominated author of The Homeless Channel, Matt Silady.

You might write the next Scott Pilgrim.

Or ink the next Fun Home.

At the very least, you’ll learn a thing or two about layout, the relationship of art to text, and using compression to denote the passage of time.

It’s the sort of nitty gritty training that would benefit both veterans and newbies alike.

Ready to sign up? The free course, which starts in February, will require approximately 10 hours per week. The syllabus is below.

Session 1: Defining Comics

Identify key relationships in sample texts & demonstrate the use of various camera angles on a comics page

Session 2: Comics Relationships

Create Text-Image and Image-Image Panels

Session 3: Time And Space

One Second, One Hour, One Day Comics Challenge

Session 4: Layout And Grid Design

Apply multiple panel grids to provided script

Session 5: Thumbnails

Create thumbnail sketches of a multipage scene

Enroll here.

via io9

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday

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125 MOOCs Getting Started in May: Enroll in One Today

in MOOCs | May 4th, 2015

Just a quick note to let you know that 125 MOOCS are getting started this month. You can find them all on our comprehensive list, curated with the help of our friends at Class Central. As always, the MOOCs cover many different topics — everything from Poetry in America: The Civil War and Its Aftermath, to World War 1: Trauma and Memory, to Women in Leadership: Inspiring Positive Change and Writing American Food — but the one I’m curious to check out is The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture, co-taught by Stan Lee. It starts on May 5th. You can enroll in the course today. Find more free May MOOCs here.

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The Keys to Happiness: The Emerging Science and the Upcoming MOOC by Raj Raghunathan

in Life, MOOCs, Online Courses, Psychology | March 15th, 2015

Psychology has made many advances in the past few decades, notably in cognitive science, neuroscience, and behavioral psychology. A major new focus area in psychology that draws upon these disciplines started in 1998 when Martin Seligman, then president of the American Psychological Association, called on his colleagues to start studying happiness, rather than illnesses, the traditional focus of psychology. The result was an explosion of research, academic departments, and popular books and the creation of a new field of ‘positive psychology’. It is this field that Dr. Raj Raghunathan studies, and he passionately teaches his students about the science of happiness at the McCombs School of Business  at the University of Texas at Austin. He also writes a blog column for Psychology Today. This summer, Raghunathan, who is currently visiting professor at the Indian School of Business, will be offering his MOOC, A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment, to the public on the Coursera platform.

It may be surprising that a course on happiness is being offered in business school, the supposed factory of budding ruthless capitalists. However, times are changing, and enlightened business schools can be a good setting to think about the social and economic means and ends in our current society. In fact, it was a business context which steered Raghunathan towards studying happiness in the first place:

When I visited India in 2007 I met up with my classmates from 15 years ago and I discovered two things. One, there’s very little correlation between academic success and career success. The people who were at the top weren’t necessarily the ones who were doing well in their careers, which is, of course, quite well known in the research. But second, there was an even smaller correlation between career success and life success. The guys who were really successful weren’t able to maintain a conversation with me and weren’t able to be present, they were constantly distracted. They had bags under their eyes, had put on weight, and it was clear that they weren’t very happy.

Fast forward and you find Raghunathan, after obtaining a PhD at New York University, a tenured faculty member at the McCombs School of Business, a top-20 U.S. business school, teaching students about happiness. There are only a few tenure-track professors in the country teaching a whole course on happiness in U.S. business schools, so Raghunathan has been a trailblazer. It is also a great testament to the Indian School of Business, a premier business program in a rapidly industrializing country, that this subject was chosen to be their first MOOC offering in its new partnership with Coursera.

Happiness Science vs. the Wisdom Literature

As people have been concerned with happiness from before the dawn of civilization, we’ve had many sources to turn to with regard to happiness: intuition, tradition, reason, but mostly, religious and spiritual wisdom. Now science has recently added a new dimension to our understanding. We can see, for example, which parts of the brain are active during different emotional states, and understand better the role of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. One very convenient, practical result for psychology is that these changes in brain states are largely correlated with self-reported answers of how happy people feel—so happiness is fairly straightforward to measure (you can take a 20-minute happiness test here if you are interested). So what have we found out about happiness? It turns out that many of the findings support the religious/spiritual viewpoints. For example:

  • Money cannot buy you happiness, unless you’re poor. Robust surveys among a broad array of people across countries indicate that beyond a certain threshold, people do not report being happier. Specifically, in the U.S., Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton found through a robust survey of 450,000 Americans that once people reach an income threshold of around $75,000 per year, they tend not to be any happier.
  •  Caring for others is one of the most important things you can do. Another specific finding that the science brings us is the value of altruism. Studies have shown, for example, that when given a small sum of money, the people who give it to others, rather than spending it on themselves, actually report being happier. Raghunathan also adds that being altruistic doesn’t have to mean being boring, and he has his classes experiment with fun ways to be altruistic.

These findings are similar to the teachings of many wisdom traditions, but they also give more specifics and provide insight into the underlying mechanisms involved. These can result in practical suggestions and tips for managing ourselves better through setting up helpful habits, mindsets, and triggers. But a puzzling question has emerged: why do we often not pursue what we supposedly want?

The Fundamental Happiness Paradox

There is a phenomenon that most of us will probably recognize, which Raghunathan calls the Fundamental Happiness Paradox: we want to achieve happiness, but often pursue things that clearly don’t lead to it. Raghunathan elaborates:

On the one hand people think happiness is very, very important to them, so therefore you would think that they ought to be making decisions are consistent with that, but when we observe their decisions, a good 50-60 percent of the time they are sacrificing happiness for the sake of other things as they go about their daily lives, in little small ways, and even in big ways.

The problem is that we pursue happiness through various means, such as money, status, esteem, or health, but we sometimes overly fixate on these means rather than the ends. As a society we do recognize this on some level—think of all the movies and television shows that end with the protagonists realizing what’s really important to them. Yet, it tells you something if we keep having to remind ourselves about this constantly and repetitively in our cultural stories. Psychology has already explained why we eat the last few Cheetos in a bowl, and in the future may help explain this mystery of why we don’t pursue our happiness as directly as we could.

Happiness Comes in Threes

The Three Pillars of Happiness

So what should we do to pursue happiness? Raghunathan groups the research findings into three main pillars:

  1. Pursue meaningful work – Try to spend your energy in ways that are meaningful to you, at work or at home. Mihaly Csikszentmihaly has popularized the notion of “flow”, those times when we are doing something that so fully absorbs our attention that we lose track of time (I guess I must be in “flow” whenever I’m watching Grey’s Anatomy…). From a career standpoint, Raghunathan recommends making passion a criterion for choosing your work: “you spend so much time at work you might as well make that a meaningful thing that you are doing in your life”. Perhaps this is not feasible for everyone at every point in their career, but it is surely a sound guiding principle, as it has been echoed by Steve Jobs, Thoreau, Gloria Estefan, and others.
  2. Maintain close relationships – Most people, upon reflection, consider the relationships they’ve developed with family, friends, colleagues, and others to be the most meaningful part of their lives. However, we often don’t place a high priority on building or maintaining these. Relationships are like investments that require time and attention, and they are bonds that represent commitments and expectations, yet we are quick to downplay or dismiss them. Social science offers tips and practical suggestions for improving relationships, such as: giving your brain a cooling off period when you are angry, seeing forgiveness as an integral part of freeing up your own mind, and cultivating face-to-face time in our mobile connected world.
  3. Have a spiritual attitude – A strong sense of spirituality, whether religiously or otherwise sourced, has been associated with reduced stress levels, and we know we can’t be happy when we are over-stressed. There is also growing evidence that meditation practices have beneficial effects. In fact, in the MOOC, Raghunathan will have a couple of experts leading participants through the steps of the meditation process.

Do these three pillars reveal any shocking surprises? No, and thankfully not–otherwise it would be a declaration that previous generations had missed the boat on understanding happiness (though Raghunathan points out that few spiritual traditions emphasize the first pillar –pursuing meaningful work). Rather, the contribution of science is in the details. We start to see what cognitive drivers and barriers to happiness are. From this understanding comes evidence-based techniques and frameworks we can use to help ourselves construct happier lives.

There is some serious research on happiness, and it has the potential to directly impact our lives. Whether you are in business school or high school, on the farm or in city hall, in a cubicle or at a retirement home—why wouldn’t you want to know more about what makes us happy? And you have the opportunity to be guided by Dr. Raghunathan by signing up for his free MOOC: A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment, which starts this summer.

Charlie Chung is passionate about the intersection of learning and technology. He is Chief Editor at Class Central, a MOOC search engine and reviews site. Special thanks to Raj Raghunathan, who agreed to be interviewed for this article, the Indian School of Business, and Coursera.

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Kapow! Stan Lee Is Co-Teaching a Free Comic Book MOOC, and You Can Enroll for Free

in Comics/Cartoons, MOOCs | March 12th, 2015

“Why did superheroes first arise in 1938 and experience what we refer to as their ‘Golden Age’ during World War II?” “How have comic books, published weekly since the mid-1930’s, mirrored a changing American society, reflecting our mores, slang, fads, biases and prejudices?” “Why was the comic book industry nearly shut down in the McCarthy Era of the 1950’s?” And “When and how did comic book artwork become accepted as a true American art form as indigenous to this country as jazz?”

All of these questions … and more … will be explored in an upcoming MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) co-taught by the legendary comic book artist, Stan Lee. He will be joined by experts from the Smithsonian, and Michael Uslan, the producer of the Batman movies who’s also considered the first instructor to have taught an accredited course on comic book folklore at any university.

The course called The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture will be offered through edX, starting on May 5th. You can enroll in the course for free today.

Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

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190 MOOCs Getting Started in March: Enroll in One Today

in MOOCs | March 4th, 2015

Just a quick note to let you know that 190 MOOCS are getting started this month. You can find them all on our comprehensive list, curated with the help of our friends at Class Central. As always, the MOOCs cover many different topics — everything from Kierkegaard and World War 1, to American Capitalism and The Divine Comedy — but the one I’m curious to check out is How Writers Write Poetry, from The University of Iowa. As mentioned in the video above, the course will feature video lessons from seasoned poets. Plus the course moderators are all graduates of the esteemed Iowa Writers’ Workshop. You can enroll in the Poetry course here. (It begins on March 23.) Find more free March MOOCs here.

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200+ MOOCs Getting Started in February: Enroll in One Today

in MOOCs | February 4th, 2015

A quick note: MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) aren’t getting the same media hype that they got a year ago. But they’re still going strong. This month, roughly 220 MOOCS will be getting underway. Given some free time (something that’s in short supply these days), I might enroll in the courses I’ve listed below. But maybe you’ve got a taste for something else. So visit our complete list of February MOOCS and see what piques your interest. Our list was assembled with the kind help of Class-Central.com, who has also published a list of the 10 most popular MOOCs of the month.

Again, you can explore the complete list of MOOCs here.

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260 MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) Getting Started in January

in MOOCs | January 2nd, 2015

Yesterday, Josh Jones revisited Marilyn Monroe’s ambitious list of New Year’s Resolutions from 1955. Turning back the clock, we find Marilyn, already a big movie star, setting a lot of educational goals:

  • go to class – my own always – without fail
  • work whenever possible – on class assignments
  • start attending Clurman lectures – also Lee Strassberg’s directors lectures at theater wing
  • if possible – take at least one class at university – in literature –

Hopefully classes — lots of them — figure into your 2015 plans. And if we’ve got you pegged right, you’ll want to spend time perusing our comprehensive list of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which we curated this month with the generous help of ClassCentral.com. 260 MOOCs will be getting underway in January alone. While we encourage you to find the courses that particularly appeal to you, we’ve listed a few intriguing ones below. You can also scan ClassCentral’s list of the 10 Most Popular MOOCs in January 2015 for a few ideas.

Visit our complete list of MOOCS here.

Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

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100 MOOCs in November

in MOOCs | November 10th, 2014

A quick note: 100 MOOCS are getting underway this November, and you can peruse the many different free educational opportunities by visiting our comprehensive list of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which we curated this month with the generous help of ClassCentral.com. Here’s a quick sample of what’s on tap:

If you’re watching how MOOCs are playing out, you might want to read the New Yorker’s recent article, Will MOOCs Be Flukes?. It documents how “enthusiasm for MOOCs has waned in the past year.” The problem lies in MOOCs very design. By their very nature, MOOCs are “massive and open, which means that it can be easy to get lost in them.” As a result, MOOC “completion rates are abysmal.” Although some well-educated, self-motivated students have succeeded in completing these courses, MOOCs have not been “effective at serving the students who needed educational resources the most.” The financially and geographically disadvantaged. In other words, the very people MOOCs were supposed to help. Click here to read the New Yorker piece and its suggestion for getting the MOOC project back on track.

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60 Massive Open Online Courses Getting Started in May: Enroll in a MOOC Today

in MOOCs | May 1st, 2014

We’re seeing about 60 MOOCs getting started in May. Quite a bit fewer than the 180 that got underway in January. Or the 80 in April. But still not bad. You can visit our comprehensive list of MOOCs here and find a course that speaks to you. Some of the ones that caught our eye include:

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