November 12, 2015

The Jazz MOOC

Lately it seems I’ve been spending every waking hour MOOCing. Some of you know by now I’m a saxophonist, so you might surmise that MOOCing is a saxophone technique, perhaps a spinoff of “honking.” When I was asked to do a MOOC by the powers-that-be at Hamilton College, I was vaguely familiar with the term, as two Hamilton professors had done MOOCs before me.
MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course, and it is an initiative of an organization called edX. Hamilton College and many other institutes of higher learning have embraced this new method of offering courses to (basically) the world. The course is done totally online, and anyone can enroll. There are no hurdles or applications to join in, and there is no cost for taking the course. Our MOOC is called “Jazz: The Music, The Stories, The Players,” and will launch on February 2, 2016. It will run for six consecutive weeks.
MOOCing has been an unexpected challenge for me. My comfort level with computer technology is nonexistent. Fortunately, I have a highly trained creative team from Hamilton’s Library and Instructional Technology Services working with me. Still, the hands-on activities I have used previously in workshops are not available to me in this online format. For decades I have worked with both musicians and non-musicians teaching concepts in jazz, blues and improvised music. The one-on-one and group interaction has always been key to what I do. While we have done some filming with small groups, the human interaction is not the same, and I am being prodded into the 21st century. At the same time, I am grateful for the opportunity to be involved in this new endeavor. I often tease my students when I ask them to do something new: “it builds character” I say. I should have a lot of character by the time this project is over.
Click here for information about our MOOC. I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s aimed at both musicians and casual listeners, and includes material from our jazz archive interviews.