Reviewed December 2019
Andrew Wang, Instructional Design Librarian
Ringling College of Art + Design
Art & Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies For Your Classroom is a massive open online course about inquiry-based teaching methods originally developed for museums and their potential for integration in classroom settings. The course is taught primarily by Lisa Mazzola, Assistant Director of School and Teacher Programs at the Museum of Modern Art, and is made available through the Coursera platform. Though the course is designed to be completed over the span of four weeks, it is possible to audit the course asynchronously. Those interested in pursuing a certificate of completion, however, are expected to complete two quizzes, one by the end of the first week and one by the end of the second week, as well as a final project due at the end of the course. The quizzes assess participants’ recollection of key points from the corresponding week’s required readings. The final project requires participants to create an inquiry based lesson about a work of art. Participants are also required to review the randomly selected final project submissions of two peers. A free account is required to read and view course content. The cost of obtaining a certificate is $49.
The entire course takes place on the Coursera platform on any major browser and merely requires reliable Internet connection. Each video clip is transcribed and allows participants to save passages simply by highlighting and clicking the “Save Note” button. The interface is also well organized and easy to navigate. A menu on the left side of the screen provides access to the course content, grades, saved notes, discussion forums, messages, and course information.
The four weeks of the course are organized by the following topics: (1) Introduction to Inquiry; (2) Close-Looking and Open-Ended Inquiry; (3) Activities as Inquiry; and (4) Putting it all Together. The curriculum is scaffolded so that educators with varying degrees of experience, from beginners to experts, are able to follow along without being bogged down by dense pedagogical theory. Participants can expect to spend a total of approximately ten hours to complete the course, including reading assigned articles, viewing video clips, completing quizzes, and completing the final project.
The course is well produced overall. However, since some of the clips were shot in the galleries at the Museum of Modern Art, lighting and sound quality are subject to the limitations of recording live during the museum’s regular open hours. Additionally, the “#ArtHangs,” which consist of live recordings of online discussion, rely on the quality of webcams and Google Hangouts. Though the clips are far from high definition, visual examples are clear and the audio recordings are intelligible.
The course is appropriate for any educator who uses objects, artifacts, and works of art in their curricula, though the content is more relevant for those working with K-12 students. Educators in higher education may find the fundamental concepts useful, but may need to adapt them for a higher level audience. The optional discussion forum records conversations from past participants, so it is possible to engage in critical dialogues alongside the main course content; however, an in-person course in the subject would be a more ideal format since interaction with peers and the instructor is fairly limited and mostly optional. Aside from completing the final project and reviewing two peer submissions, participants will likely spend most of their time passively viewing videos and reading on their own. For this reason, pursuing the certificate is recommended for those interested in a more active experience. Despite these small shortcomings, the online environment of the Coursera platform is relatively accessible and the tone of the instruction is approachable and presented professionally. The recorded instruction sessions at the museum provide concrete examples and the #ArtHang clips address interesting questions posed by past participants. At the very least, participants will be challenged to consider new teaching strategies for their classroom and have useful models for implementing them.