The Pennsylvania State University

School of Visual Arts

SoVA Goes Global

An image from Anna Divinsky's Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques course

Penn State’s latest initiative to reach new student audiences involves joining the ranks of other top universities now offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to a global audience. Building on its tradition of educational outreach and the power of self-initiated learning, Penn State will offer five free online courses across various disciplines.

One of the first Penn State MOOCs to be developed, Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques, was launched on May 28 ( Introduction to Art is taught by Anna Divinsky, and is based on her popular online course, Art 010 Introduction to Visual Studies. As part of the process of assessing the viability of offering Art 010 to broader public audiences, Anna worked in collaboration with Apple and the College of Arts and Architecture e-Learning Institute to develop an iTunes version of the course, iTunes U Art 10 project. The iTunes version exposes learners to a range of art experiences and allows them to explore the material as they wish and to share their ideas and responses with others.

The Introduction to Art MOOC is a seven-week program that gives students the opportunity to explore their creative and critical responses to their visual world through a series of structured experiences. Techniques, concepts and ideas give focus to this creative mix and this information is framed around specific assignments. The main emphasis for assessment comes from peer review where each student is required to comment on the work of others. A goal is to build a community of curious and creative learners. With a ‘massive’ enrollment, this makes for a dynamic group of learners using their initiative and impulse to generate a huge array of creative thoughts, ideas and actions as they are introduced to art. Anna describes it this way: “Currently we have over 56,000 people enrolled from all over the world and more are continuing to enroll in the course. We also have 6,000 on the list who want to take it next time it's offered. Our Facebook group is at 4,500 and our ‘total weekly reach’ is around 35,000 people – that’s how many unique people have seen content from our Facebook page.”

To read an informative interview with Anna Divinsky and Keith Bailey, assistant dean for online learning, College of Arts and Architecture, see

Image caption: An image from Anna Divinsky's Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques course