“How can I learn to do what you do?” This question usually emerges at the end of any of our workshops, at the moment when participants are thinking about returning to their organisations. Often, the interlocutor is a PI who wants to bring some part of the creative process into his or her lab. We get the same question from mentors, research managers, and even some of the funders. It seems as though the question of bringing deliberate creativity into STEM education is no longer an entirely contentious one.
KI is always ready to talk about the ways in which people might develop their expertise, and we point them in the direction of books, conferences, and various courses (some of which we run) and other creative resources. In general, this works well, and we have started to see creative skills taking root in institutions around the world.
Yet we’ve always been conscious that our ability to train and coach people is quite limited. At best, we might be able to work with a few hundred people a year. And that simply isn’t enough. Creativity is a natural skill that exists in everyone. But just like any other cognitive talent, it can be substantially enhanced through education and training. Ultimately, we’d like to see interdisciplinary creativity as a part of every doctoral training programme, and ideally part of every degree.
Online education could be major part of the solution. We’ve been experimenting with online courses, and, overall, the results have been encouraging. But like many organisations, we’ve seen a wide variation in terms of people’s involvement in the courses, and we haven’t been able to collect clear metrics on the fundamental skills we were trying to affect.
So when the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) started developing its Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on creativity, KI was eager to help. As a result, we’re sponsoring this MOOC on Everyday Creativity, which makes it an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to understand the basics of creativity.
Being involved in the design and delivery of a MOOC is interesting in itself, but what really intrigues us is the research agenda associated with the event. The ICSC team is investigating and measuring:
- The improvement in divergent thinking skills over the duration of the course;
- Definitions and experiences of creative environments;
- Development of new techniques for assessing the creativity inherent in different products;
- Correlation between Foursight preferences and use of language.
And what’s really exciting is that they will be able to conduct this research with more than 25,000 participants in one go, using an automated creative assessment tool developed by the NSF-funded Sparcit.
Clearly, MOOCs are at a very early stage of development. Maybe they will prove to be effective in their current form. Perhaps they’ll morph into something even more interesting. Either way, we are delighted to be involved in this experiment. You can be involved too: if you have an interest in learning about creativity, we encourage you to sign up, and see what you think.