Jeff Koons and Salman Rushdie Teach New Courses on Art, Creativity & Storytelling for MasterClass

If MasterClass comes calling, you know you’ve made it. In the five years since its launch, the online learning platform has brought on such instructors as Martin Scorsese, Helen Mirren, Steve Martin, Annie Leibovitz, and Malcolm Gladwell, all of whom bring not just knowledge and experience of a craft, but the glow of high-profile success as well. Though MasterClass’ lineup has expanded to include more writers, filmmakers, and performers (as well as chefs, designers, CEOs, and poker players) it’s long been light on visual artists. But it may signal a change that the site has just released a course taught by Jeff Koons, promoted by its trailer as the most original and controversial American artist — as well as the most expensive one.

Just last year, Koons’ sculpture Rabbit set a new record auction price for a work by a living artist: $91.1 million, which breaks the previous record of $58.4 million that happened to be held by another Koons, Balloon Dog (Orange). This came as the culmination of a career that began, writes critic Blake Gopnik, with “taking store-bought vacuum cleaners and presenting them as sculpture,” then creating  “full-size replicas of rubber dinghies and aqualungs, cast in Old Master-ish bronze” and later “giant hard-core photos of himself having sex with his wife, the famous Italian porn star known as La Cicciolina (“Chubby Chick”)” and “simulacra of shiny blow-up toys and Christmas ornaments and gems, enlarged to monumental size in gleaming stainless steel.”

With such work, Gopnik argues, Koons has “rewritten all the rules of art — all the traditions and conventions that usually give art order and meaning”; his elevation of kitsch allows us to “see our world, and art, as profoundly other than it usually is.” Not that the artist himself puts it in quite those words. In his well-known manner — “like a space alien who has spent long years studying how to be the perfect, harmless Earthling, but can’t quite get it right” — Koons uses his MasterClass to tell the story of his artistic development, which began in the showroom of his father’s Pennsylvania furniture store and continued into a reverence for the avant-garde in general and Salvador Dalí in particular. From his life he draws lessons on turning everyday objects into art, using size and scale, and living life with “the confidence in yourself to follow your interests.”

Also new for this holiday season is a MasterClass on storytelling and writing taught by no less renowned a storyteller and writer than Salman Rushdie. The author of Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses thus joins on the site a group of novelists as varied as Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, and Judy Blume, but he brings with him a much different body of work and life story. “I’ve been writing, now, for over 50 years,” he says in the course‘s trailer just above. “There’s all this stuff about three-act structure, exactly how you must allow a story to unfold. My view is it’s all nonsense.” Indeed, by this point in his celebrated career, Rushdie has narrowed the rules of his craft down to just one: Be interesting.

Easier said than done, of course, which is why Rushdie’s MasterClass comes structured in nineteen practically themed lessons. In these he deals with such lessons as building a story’s structure, opening with powerful lines, drawing from old storytelling traditions, and rewriting — which, he argues, all writing is. To make these fiction-writing concepts concrete, Rushdie offers exercises for you, the student, to work through, and he also takes a critical look back at the failed work he produced in his early twenties. But though his techniques and process have greatly improved since then, his resolve to create, and to do so using his own distinctive sets of interests and experiences, has wavered no less than Koons’. At the moment you can learn from both of them (and MasterClass’ 100+ other instructors) if you take advantage of MasterClass’ holiday 2-for-1 deal. For $180, you can buy an annual subscription for yourself, and give one to a friend/family member for free. Sign up here.

Note: If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the affiliate links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

A Free Online Course from Yale University Explains How the World Lapsed into the Politics of Fear & Resentment

“How did we get from the huge euphoria that followed the fall of communism in the early 1990s to our present politics of fear and resentment, and what are the prospects going forward?” These questions and more get answered in Yale’s free course, “Power and Politics in Today’s World.”  Taught by Professor of Political Science Ian Shapiro, the course “provides an examination of political dynamics and institutions over this past tumultuous quarter century, and the implications of these changes for what comes next. Among the topics covered are the decline of trade unions and the enlarged role of business as political forces, changing attitudes towards parties and other political institutions amidst the growth of inequality and middle-class insecurity, the emergence of new forms of authoritarianism, and the character and durability of the unipolar international order that replaced the Cold War.”

You can watch the lectures on Youtube, or stream them all above. The syllabus and reading list can be found here.

“Power and Politics in Today’s World” will be added to our meta collection, 1,500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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MIT’s Introduction to Deep Learning: A Free Online Course

MIT has posted online its introductory course on deep learning, which covers applications to computer vision, natural language processing, biology, and more. Students “will gain foundational knowledge of deep learning algorithms and get practical experience in building neural networks in TensorFlow.” Prerequisites assume calculus (i.e. taking derivatives) and linear algebra (i.e. matrix multiplication). Experience in Python is helpful but not necessary. The first lecture appears above. The rest of the course materials (videos & slides) can be found here.

Introduction to Deep Learning will be added to our list of Free Computer Science Courses, a subset of our larger meta collection, 1,500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.  You can also find Deep Learning courses on Coursera.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

Nikon Offers Free Online Photography Courses During the Holidays

A quick heads up. From November 23rd through December 31st, you can stream for free all classes offered by Nikon School Online. Normally priced at $15-$50 per course, this 10-course offering covers Fundamentals of Photography, Dynamic Landscape Photography, Macro Photography, Photographing Children and Pets, and more.

Finding the courses on the Nikon site is not very intuitive. To access the courses, click here and then scroll down the page until you see a yellow button that says “Watch Full Version.” From there you will get a prompt that allows you to sign up for the courses…

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

via PetaPixel

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A Free Stanford Course on How to Teach Online: Designed for Middle & High School Teachers

Update: You can find the video recording of the workshop here.

This past spring, teachers and students everywhere got an abrupt introduction to online learning. When classrooms moved online in March, many teachers experimented with online pedagogy for the first time, often without much training or support. To help ease this transition, the Stanford Online High School–an independent high school that operates entirely online–launched a free course designed to help teachers get comfortable teaching in this new medium. 7,000 teachers signed up. To continue providing support, an updated version of this free course will be offered again this weekend.

Teaching Your Class Online” will take place this Saturday (November 21) and Sunday (November 22),  and run from 9:00 am – 11:00 am Pacific time each day. (Update: The lectures are now available online.) Designed mainly for instructors teaching grades 7-12, the course can be helpful for elementary and college instructors as well. Topics covered will include “challenges [such] as student engagement and discussion (including for large groups, breakout rooms, and hybrid groups), effective communication with students and parents, assessment and curriculum adaptation for online pedagogy, and strategies for supporting both students and yourselves.”

Teaching Your Class Online” is supported by Stanford Online High School and Stanford Continuing Studies. You can enroll in the course on the Continuing Studies website here.

If you know any teachers who could benefit from this free course, please feel free to share this post with them.

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Dr. Fauci’s Lecture from MIT’s Free Course on COVID-19: It’s Now Online

Back in September, we gave you a heads up on MIT’s free course on COVID-19. As we mentioned, “COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 and the Pandemic” runs from September 1, 2020 through December 8, 2020. And it features a combination of MIT faculty and guest speakers, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, covering the science of the pandemic. Since our original post, Dr. Fauci’s presentation, “Insights from the COVID-19 pandemic,” has gone online. You can watch it above. Then find all of the other lectures here.

MIT’s course has been added to the Biology section of our meta collection, 1,500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

A Master List of 1,500 Free Courses From Top Universities: 50,000 Hours of Audio/Video Lectures to Enrich Your Mind


For the past 14 years, we’ve been busy rummaging around the internet and adding courses to an ever-growing list of Free Online Courses, which now features 1,500 courses from top universities. Let’s give you the quick overview: The list lets you download audio & video lectures from schools like Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, Harvard and many other institutions. Generally, the courses can be accessed via YouTube, iTunes or university web sites, and you can listen to the lectures anytime, anywhere, on your computer or smart phone. We haven’t done a precise calculation, but there’s about 50,000 hours of free audio & video lectures here. Enough to keep you busy for a very long time–something that’s useful during these socially distant times.

Right now you’ll find 200 free philosophy courses, 105 free history courses, 170 free computer science courses, 85 free physics courses and 55 Free Literature Courses in the collection, and that’s just beginning to scratch the surface. You can peruse sections covering Astronomy, Biology, BusinessChemistry, Economics, Engineering, Math, Political Science, Psychology and Religion.

Here are some highlights from the complete list of Free Online Courses. We’ve added a few unconventional/vintage courses in the mix just to keep things interesting.

The complete list of courses can be accessed here: 1,500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities. For more enriching material, see our other collections below.

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Blockbuster Courses on the U.S. Presidential Election Getting Started at Stanford Continuing Studies This Week


This fall, Stanford Continuing Studies presents 150+ courses in the Liberal Arts & Sciences, Creative Writing, and Professional Development, including two major courses on the U.S. presidential election. Taught by Pamela Karlan (Stanford law professor) and James Steyer (CEO, Common Sense Media), Election 2020: A Panoramic View of America’s Decisive Election will feature a lineup of distinguished guest speakers–from Bill Clinton and Kara Swisher, to Steve Schmidt, David Plouffe and Andrew Yang. The other course focuses on Technology and the 2020 Election: How Silicon Valley Technologies Impact Our Elections and Shape Our Democracy. Taught by professor Rob Reich and Dutch politician Marietje Schaake, the course will feature visits from Roger McNamee, (author of Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe), Alex Stamos (Former Chief Security Officer, Facebook), Shoshana Zuboff, (Harvard author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism), Michael McFaul (former ambassador to Russia), and more.

These live online courses are open to adults. Although the courses aren’t free, they’re timely and bound to engage. Election 2020 starts today. Technology and the 2020 Election starts on Wednesday. Explore the entire Continuing Studies catalogue here.

Note: High school students can also enroll in both of these election courses. To explore that opportunity, follow these links:

Election 2020: A Panoramic View of America’s Decisive Election

Technology and the 2020 Election: How Silicon Valley Technologies Impact Our Elections and Shape Our Democracy

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.