Entering the World of MOOCs

As of this writing, more than 215,000 people from around the world have signed up to take Berklee’s online course offerings this spring. New developments at the college have spurred a surge in online enrollment.

Berklee Online, the college’s continuing education division, recently partnered with Coursera to offer free online music courses to aspiring musicians and music producers anywhere. Coursera’s courses are known as MOOCs, or “massive open online courses,” where literally tens of thousands of students study together in a given course.

Coursera’s mission is to change the world by educating millions of people with free online classes from top universities and professors. Berklee is one of more than 65 Coursera partner institutions, including Stanford, Princeton, Duke, and Rice universities offering free online courses through Coursera’s platform. The first four MOOCs at www.coursera.org/berklee are “Introduction to Improvisation” with Gary Burton, “Introduction to Music Production” with Loudon Stearns, “Introduction to Guitar” with Thaddeus Hogarth, and “Songwriting” with Pat Pattison.

“Berklee is committed to helping talented artists create the world’s next big musical idea,” Berklee President Roger H. Brown says. “Coursera gives us a way to reach people all over the world, many of them have no access to music education. Berklee’s Coursera provides them with the opportunity to learn at no cost from great innovators like seven-time Grammy-winning vibraphonist Gary Burton.”

This year, Berklee Online celebrates 11 years of teaching music online, and Coursera is the latest innovative step. Berklee Online offers a spectrum of music education opportunities from free to paid offerings. In addition to the four MOOCs, Berklee also provides free music lessons via Berklee Shares and YouTube. With nearly 40,000 subscribers and more than 18 million video views, Berklee Online’s YouTube Channel ranks fifth in popularity among more than 400 universities in the United States and Canada.

Berklee has always been at the forefront of distance learning. In the 1960s, the Berklee correspondence course involved 26 lessons and assignments that were sent between students and faculty members via U.S. mail. In 2002 Berkleemusic, which will soon be renamed Berklee Online, was established as the first fully online music education program. Berklee Online currently teaches 150 courses and certificate programs to 12,000 continuing education students per year. Continuing the trailblazing in distance learning, Berklee is working in the MOOC space with the Coursera partnership.

The Berklee/Coursera courses began in March, and the response from the students and the instructors has been overwhelmingly positive (visit http://bit.ly/Y4ZPg or http://bit.ly/13PFpBS to read Twitter comments.) Many wonder how one instructor can teach thousands of students in a single course. But the MOOC model is based on student-to-student peer review and competency-based assessment. Although course instructors are actively involved in the courses, students learn primarily from the lesson content and from one another. They critique one another’s assignments based on the lesson objectives, answer questions posted to the discussion forum, and even form geographically based study groups.

For alumni who are considering studying at Berklee Online for personal and professional development, there is now a spectrum of online courses that range from free to paid, noncredit to credit. The costs associated with Berklee’s online educational offerings are proportionate to class size and the amount of interaction one can expect from an instructor. The current online education options include the following:

Berklee Shares and YouTube.com:

Coursera.org/Berklee MOOCS:

  • Free courses, huge course sections, strong student community, peer-to-peer assessment, and little
  • faculty interaction throughout the 6-week experience.
  • www.coursera.org/Berklee

Berklee Online

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges-accredited online courses with less than 20 students per section and an instructor. Students can expect high-touch interaction with their instructor, and a strong student community for online communication and collaboration throughout the 12-week semester. Berklee Online offers courses and certificate programs. Beginning in the fall of 2014, an online bachelor of professional studies degree will be offered.
  • www.berkleemusic.com

The future is bright for online education, and Berklee is playing a leading role. Whether it’s MOOCs, online degrees, or anything in between, the college is doing its part to provide a range of online music education opportunities for our alumni and a global base of aspiring musicians.