Kadenze: A MOOC Platform for the Arts

This article is part of a series examining the relationship between arts education and MOOCs (massive open online courses). For the last article, see “Arts Education in MOOCs.”

Launched in June 2015, Kadenze is an online learning platform that is built especially for arts-based curricula. It now offers more than 30 courses through partnerships with leading art colleges and institutions around the world, including California Institute of the Arts, Stanford University, Seoul Institute of the Arts, and the National University of Singapore. To enhance the education experience, Kadenze has created a community-learning environment in which students are able to showcase their works with professional portfolio-building tools, and comment on each other’s work. In the course forum, students can exchange ideas with their peers and instructors. While Kadenze allows free access to the course content, they also provide for-credit courses. To receive course credit, students pay $300 for a credit hour. Once they complete the course requirements, students will receive credits that are recognized by several institutions. 

To learn more about this innovative learning platform, AMT-Lab Contributor Vicky Peng interviewed Kadenze’s Communication Manager, John Johnson.

Vicky Peng: What differentiates Kadenze from other MOOC providers like Coursera, and edX?

John Johnson: They key difference is that when you are teaching design and the platform in which you are teaching doesn’t even follow any of those principles, it really makes no sense for the schools or for the students. So we created Kadenze from the ground up for creative education. We started from the beginning with arts teachers and students as first-class citizens, as opposed to other systems that were built for engineering courses and then later tried to add arts education into a portal that actually wasn’t designed for creative needs.

VP: How does Kadenze create an interactive and personalized learning experience for students? How do you cater to the unique needs in online arts education?

JJ: One is absolutely the design. We also have audio and video players. People can play, share, and comment on music, and they have the ability to share a community discussion around the actual artwork that students submit. We also have assessment tools for music, art, filmmaking and design. Most other platforms only work with auto-code and only look for plagiarism in text, whereas we are working with media files because that’s what’s needed in arts education. Another big difference is that Kadenze courses transfer to credit at a level that’s really inexpensive. So Kadenze is not only a MOOC platform, it is also a place where students are already taking courses for credit and using them as transfer units in order to reduce the price of their real college degrees. It’s $300 dollars/hour for everyone for every school.

VP: What is Kadenze’s plan for the next year? Are you going to incorporate other features or technologies to make courses more interactive and engaging?

JJ: Absolutely. We are going to work on features for the community. We will continue to add more courses to our catalogue. Right now we have 30 courses, and we hope to get close to 100. We have over 50 universities that have contacted us that want to put their courses on Kadenze. It’s crazy! We are just legally getting all the things worked out with the schools one by one, and releasing them every month. We’re pretty excited. Although we can’t share exactly what the courses are, imagine what you would want from the best art school in the world, and that is what our catalog will look like. We will gather the best teachers from the best schools. It’s really going to be curated.

VP: Until now, how many students have registered in Kadenze’s art or other creative courses? And what are the demographics of this group?

JJ: There are more international students than U.S. students. We have three groups of students. There are high school students that are really excited about learning creative courses from these top schools and looking to apply to some of these colleges in the future. The second group is a set of students who are in college and reading the book by some Kadenze professor, and are excited to get access to them on our site. Then there are life-long learners, the people who are done with college and want to learn from the leaders in the field.

VP: If a high school student takes a course at Kadenze and gets credit from a school, do they later have and advantage in applying to that school?

JJ: There is no set policy for admission along these lines, but we are finding that students who are taking courses for credit have a much stronger portfolio when they apply to the school. I can personally tell you that I have two students coming to CalArts because they have taken a set of our courses for credit . They both have taken some courses at community colleges that combined with their Kadenze credits, so they have a year-level adjustment. It’s really exciting and it’s working.