My Crash Course on Creativity

moocThe "Crash Course on Creativity" course from Stanford that I took last fall ended in December. I had written about it back in October 2012. It was offered by Stanford's Venture Lab. The course was designed to to explore several factors that stimulate and inhibit creativity in individuals, teams, and organizations.

I do have an interest in creativity and it is a portion of a critical thinking course that I teach. But I took the course mostly because I wanted more experience in the world of MOOCs (massive open online courses).  

Each week meant a focus on a different variable related to creativity such as framing problems, challenging assumptions, and using creative teams. And every Wednesday we received a new challenge which was due the following Tuesday. Some assignments were done individually, and some done in teams. There were short video lectures 

I had issues with the group process. I was assigned to a group for the first assignment. It took a few days to get everyone from around the world talking to each other. There was no group collaboration space provided online. So, we shared email addresses, used Google documents and started a Facebook group. It was more awkward than traditional online classes that use a platform like Moodle, Sakai, or Blackboard.

Then Hurricane Sandy hit me in New Jersey and knocked my power out for a week. I couldn't get my next assignment in so I was booted out of my group and into a new one. That group had no collaboration at all. In fact, when no one responded to my posts, I just did a quick project slideshow and submitted it for the "team." Four members never commented. One was angry that I "took over" the project. (Each project was supposed to be done with a different team, so that students got a chance to work with a wide variety of participants. I would have preferred staying with my original group after we had spent time getting to know each other (the first assignment) and figured out ways to collaborate. One of my original team members, Marci Segal from Canada, is herself a creativity guru and probably could have taught the course herself. We still exchange links and thoughts via Facebook, but the rest of my group has dispersed.

At that point in the semester, I decided it was taking more than the 1-5 hours per week that I had said I would devote to the course when I registered. (I assume that number had something to do with the group I was assigned to.)  I changed my registration to "auditing."

The submissions were supposed to be viewed and evaluated by the course participants. It was said at the outset that the more projects you review, the more feedback you would receive on your project, but it didn't work out that way in my experience. I did two evaluations but it was not a smooth process and participation seemed spotty at best.

Eventually, there was a course Twitter feed and Facebook page, but it too too long for them to be available and they were surprisingly inactive considering that there were at least 24,000 people in the course. There were supposed to be Google Hangouts too, but if they occurred, I never found them.

There was a recommended textbook, inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity, by the instructor, Tina Seelig, but it wasn't necessary to doing the coursework. 

The tech requirements for the course were online access to the course and video lectures, and the ability to upload your images, videos, slides, and text for assignments. It was an "introductory course" (comparable to a 100 level undergraduate course in my estimation) and open to anyone, anywhere in the world. No prerequisites, no fees, no credit. There was an assumption that you would be able to navigate the site, know something about using tools like Skype, Twitter and such and be able to take digital photos, create slide presentations, and even make short videos for your submissions. Hopefully, at least one person on your team could do it. On individual assignments, you did whatever you were capable of doing.

I found the course lacking in comparison to traditionally-sized online courses I have taught and taken. But MOOCs are still new and experimental, so I cut them some slack. And, as expected, when you pay nothing for a course and expect no credit, the motivation to do the work is often lacking.

In the final note from the instructor/facilitator, Tina Seelig, she told us that "This was my first experience teaching an online class, and I learned a tremendous amount. I appreciate all the helpful feedback on the course
survey, which will be used to create new and improved online classes."


Unlike other courses I have taken off and online, this one offered swag. "For those who are interested in having a souvenir from the class, we have posted an artistic version of the class motto - Creativity Rules - on Zazzle so that you can order a T-shirt, sweatshirt, coffee mug, mouse pad, etc, with the message. The products will be available very soon. (It has to go through their approval process.) You can see a preview of the T Shirt design here."

There are also certificates for those who completed the course to be delivered via Venture Lab this month. ("The Venture Lab team is waiting for Stanford to approve a template for the certificate.")

This MOOC was offered by the Stanford Technology Ventures program. If you are interested in updates on future online courses on innovation and entrepreneurship, you can sign up for the quarterly STVP newsletter.

Course Survey Results (Approximately 2,000 of the original 24,000 people filled out the survey. I'm not sure how many "finished" all the coursework.) 

74% of people feel this was an effective way to teach creativity.
75% said that this format was similar or better than a traditional course.
90% said that the assignments were the right level of difficulty and that the pace worked well.
73% said they would definitely take a course in this format again.
60% of people liked the balance of individual and team projects.
The biggest challenge to teamwork was the different levels of commitment by team members.
Most people spent between 2- 7 hours a week on the class.
82% said they would recommend the course to others.
Most people had really positive comments about the class.
As expected, we have an opportunity to improve the team formation and evaluation processes.


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