Designing the Digital Classroom


Since the turn of the century, the ongoing invention and application of new technologies and digital media has greatly changed how we live, work and play. New forms of engagement have emerged, and people from across the globe are connecting and collaborating in ways not viable a mere decade ago. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a prime example of this trend. Academic offerings accessible via the internet to anyone, free of charge, MOOCs allow institutions such as MICA to leverage technology in ways that increase their capacity.

And by allowing faculty to create flexible learning options and expand opportunities for partnerships with other industries, they are increasingly seen as the future of higher education. MOOCs are changing what it means for college classrooms to “go digital,” and Brockett Horne, chair of MICA’s B.F.A. in Graphic Design, and Ellen Lupton, co-director of the M.F.A. in Graphic Design, are among those leading the way. Partners leading the popular MOOC “Graphic Design History: An Introduction,” Horne and Lupton share their thoughts on this new way of teaching.

Ellen LuptonOne of the best things about teaching at MICA is the chance to experiment with new ways of teaching. This summer, Brockett and I turned one of our favorite MICA classes into an online experience available to people all over the world. Our course is called “Graphic Design History: An Introduction.”

Brockett HorneWe love teaching this course at MICA because we can show students why history matters. We can connect today’s design practice with historical precedents. To engage online users, we set up lessons that unfold as dialogues between the two of us, similar to a debate method we use in our class at MICA. Each session opens with a short skit where we argue about an aspect of design. Check out the introduction to the course at

ELOpen online courses have become popular in computer science and other technical fields. To create our design history course, MICA decided to collaborate with Kadenze, an online education company founded by and for artists. Our course appears alongside classes offered by top faculty from CalArts, UCLA, SAIC, Otis and other colleges and universities. Kadenze offers a great way to sample the unique approaches of different art schools.

BHKadenze serves unique online content to a population of visual and performing artists. Design history is an important subject for anyone studying graphic design because it directly connects studio courses to the rigorous history and theory that come from academic courses.

ELYet many schools struggle to find faculty who can teach this important subject. Graphic design history is closely tied to professional practice. Producing this course required endless research and an insider’s knowledge of design processes. Merrill C. Berman, the world’s premier private collector of graphic design, shared over 150 high-resolution images of some of modern design’s most significant graphic design artifacts. We also scoured online museum collections and libraries for quality material.

BHSince our course launched on Kadenze in September 2016, we’ve been fascinated to see students participate from across the U.S. and different parts of the world. We didn’t expect the range of opinions and ideas happening in the online forums. Those ideas can help me improve my teaching by improving the quality of the content, the way it is organized and the way we offer it to students. To prepare for this class, I worked with a speech coach to practice my delivery and focus on the craft of teaching. It’s agonizing to watch yourself on video for sure, but I’ve made big improvements in my performance.

ELTeaching online is different from teaching in a classroom. I miss the feedback and ideas that arise during face-to-face interactions, but teaching online lets us reach anyone, anywhere. I’ve produced several free online classes with Skillshare in New York City, including a new course on Graphic Design Basics (created with Jennifer Cole Phillips, co-chair of the M.F.A. in Graphic Design Program). We love sharing the great content we create here at MICA with a wider design community.

BHPlease join us online or in the classroom to learn more about graphic design history!

For more information, go to: