Ayse Taspinar
from Istanbul, holds a B.A. in political science and international relations and an M.A. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. She is a civil society worker, communications specialist, and a Steering Committee member of Cultural Innovators Network, a young non-profit organization for cultural activists.
Alexandra Resch
holds a BA in International Cultural Business and is currently working for the German Foreign Office. She is interested in bringing complex issues of contemporary life closer to people through art and culture.
Online Course Managing the Arts

Collaboration among a Global Community of Cultural Managers

The worldwide demand for qualified personnel in cultural institutions is great, yet the opportunities for advanced training are limited. For that reason, Goethe-Institut started in 2015 its international MOOC Managing the Arts. This review may give you some impressions.
Since 2009, the Goethe-Institut has been offering cultural management training programmes in different world regions (for the MENA region see Arts Management Newsletter 120). As a matter of fact, the demand for these 2-4 week courses by far exceeds the placements that can be offered, with about one out of 40 applicants being able to partake in an actual training. In order to cater this uncovered demand for specialized qualification programmes in cultural management, in 2014 we at the Goethe-Institut decided to offer an online course in arts management and arts marketing that was supposed to bring together a high number of cultural managers from all around the world. A promising learning format to reach that goal seemed to be the MOOC format.
What is a MOOC?
The acronym stands for Massive Open Online Course and describes an educational format that has gained increasing popularity in the past few years. MOOCs are characterized by open access for a vast number of learners and by the use of Web 2.0 technologies in order to promote communication, interaction and collaboration between the course participants.
For its first MOOC the Goethe-Institut joined forces with Leuphana Universitys Digital School, whose concept of the Mentored Open Online Course assures a high degree of guidance to the participants and invites students to work within a framework of peer-to-peer team-based learning.
Course design
Managing the Arts was structured in six learning phases, each about two weeks long. In each phase, the working groups had to submit a solution to an assignment task in order proceed to the next phase. It started out by exploring the relationship between the arts and the market (learning phase 1) and subsequently proceeded to more concrete fields of arts management such as audience development (learning phase 4) or digitalization in the cultural sector (learning phase 5). The course drew from four different kinds of learning resources:

  • literature on cultural management and arts marketing;
  • more than 70 teaching videos, in which international experts such as Chris Dercon (Tate Modern), Arjo Klamer (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Birgit Mandel (University Hildesheim) provided the theoretical foundation for the participants to work on;
  • 4 video case studies on art institutions in Bangkok, Berlin, Budapest and Lagos gave insights into real-life challenges and practices of art organizations operating in very different contexts;
  • the learning community is the most important resource within the framework of peer-2-peer learning. Students, teachers, mentors are constantly giving feedback to each other. These feedback cycles result in crowdsourced facilitation and generation of knowledge that by means of the sheer input and output involved cannot take place in traditional classroom or workshop defined by physical interaction.


During the one-month registration phase for the MOOC 17,000 people registered for Managing the Arts. All of them could obtain a Statement of Accomplishment by giving detailed feedback to the working groups. 800 of the participants had the opportunity to obtain an ECTS certificate (5 credits) from Leuphana University by working in one of more than 100 working groups. Every certificate was issued after academic assessment by a mentor at Leuphana. A limitation to certificate receivers was necessary, as the mentors capacities required for academic accreditation are limited in nature.
The course appealed to practitioners in cultural management, who were the main target group of Managing the Arts. 88% of the participants have an academic educational background. The average age of the MOOC students was 31, more than two-thirds being female. By reaching out to the global network of the Goethe-Institut, Managing the Arts was surely one of the most international MOOCs that has ever taken place, with participants from more than 170 countries on board. In numbers, Germany (2500) was followed by Russia (1400), Brazil (1000), France (600) and Bulgaria (500), but the MOOC reached people as far away as Tajikistan (4) and the Solomon Islands (1).
Considering that almost half of the participants of Managing the Arts came from outside Europe, one of the biggest pitfalls the course had to avoid was an overly Eurocentric approach to cultural management. For example, while trying to remain relevant for all participants, the course had to negotiate practices in countries where culture and the arts are largely state-subsidized as well as in environments where there is no state support whatsoever for the arts sector. The video case studies were installed as a projection screen for exactly these context-specific differences of international arts management. Four important partner organizations of the Goethe-Institut collaborated in the production of the video case studies:

  • The HAU Hebbel am Ufer operates in the dynamic cultural setting of Berlin and therefore has to develop marketing strategies for very segmented contemporary arts audiences.
  • The Trafó House of Contemporary Arts in Budapest, facing a challenging economic and political situation in Central Eastern Europe, is developing digital marketing strategies in order to diversify its audience.
  • The Bangkok Arts and Culture Center (BACC) operates in a nine-story building with a wide array of cultural spaces, ranging from graffiti shops to contemporary art galleries. The case study is therefore characterized by an agenda that bridges the divide between high and low culture.
  • The Centre for Contemporary Arts Lagos (CCA) is an institution that, without any public funding, is pioneering contemporary arts in the region by promoting an international artist network, offering educational programmes for children and students, and by running the biggest library on contemporary arts in West Africa.

Cultures of Collaboration

While the course proceeded, we witnessed an ever increasing culture of collaboration in the MOOC. One indicator for this is that in spite of (or perhaps because of) the very diverse community, the rate of interaction and participation and the rate of course completion was surprisingly high. More than 50% of the participants eligible for a certificate completed the course, a share that by far exceeds the average completion rates for MOOCs (15%). The 600 submissions that were handed in by the working groups were intensively scrutinized by the MOOC Community. 10,000 peer evaluations, which assessed the quality of the submissions and offered advice for further development, were produced during the course. Increasingly, connections between the different case studies were also established. What if the Trafó Budapest would appropriate the HAU strategy of becoming very visible in public spaces of the city? Could the CCA Lagos also rent out gallery spaces as the BACC Bangkok does in order to increase its budget?
The MOOC set out to combine a collaborative learning approach with globally relevant and practice-oriented content for cultural managers. The high completion rate and the positive participant feedback of the course prove that the course has reached its goals. Also, Managing the Arts was awarded a Comenius EduMedia Seal for being an exemplary digital education programme by the German Society for Pedagogy and Information. First and foremost, however, the course has created a network of arts managers that we hope will prove sustainable. Many participants in the course remain in contact after the MOOC via the social network Alumni Portal Deutschland. We also know of others who have traveled large distances, be it from Dublin to Lagos or from Berlin to Athens, to meet up in person and to collaborate further.
Arts for Everyone. How 4 team members from 4 continents experienced the MOOC Managing the Arts
By Ayse Taspnar and Alexandra Resch, participants in Managing the Arts
Our team "Arts for Everyone" included Ayse from Turkey, José from Costa Rica, Alexandra from Germany and Molemo from South Africa. We worked together on the Case Study Trafó House of Contemporary Arts in Budapest for three months. We gained insights into the Hungarian cultural scene and the structure, marketing and communication strategies of Trafó as well as the challenges the institution faces. Our proposal built on the idea that through its history and reputation for avant-garde work, Trafó has established a name for itself. However, with constant change, increasing competition, changes in funding and an ever-growing city, Trafó has not been able to maintain its place at the centre of the creative community of Budapest.
The way we worked together differed in each of the assignments. It depended mainly on the availability of the team members and their preferences with regard to certain tasks of the assignment. For instance, in Phase 6 Curating Strategies we arranged an online meeting and divided the tasks. Furthermore, we jointly defined community building as the strategic goal of Trafó, which was important because it provided the base for the entire assignment. In order to align the different work streams of our assignment we made use of the lab provided on the MOOC platform. Moreover, we exchanged documents via e-mail. Doing so, every team member was always able to contribute their ideas and give feedback.
Working in the team created an exciting intercultural exchange, which strengthened our intercultural competencies. Through this collaboration we experienced different perspectives regarding academic expertise and practical demands.
The structure of this MOOC was very unique, creating a participatory and engaging setting. It allowed participants to observe the work of other teams even while they were developing their weekly assignments. This kind of setting has two benefits for the participants. First of all, it gives opportunity for peer-to-peer learning. Secondly, the transparent working process, which is rarely found in our education systems, created a less competitive environment. Additionally, the lively human interactions, e.g. the possibility to change teams or the ability to comment on the work of the others, created a strong value that is rarely provided in an offline working environment.
Our main motivation to attend the MOOC was that from a social scientist perspective, culture and arts are among the strongest ways to create solutions both at individual and societal levels. Creating different tools for expression is a strong approach to impact societal and political transformation. The MOOC literature as well as the keynotes and case videos were very strong in the sense of reflecting the recent situation in the culture and arts sector. The resources helped us to recognize the potentials of marketing in the sector while including different people and partners in the process. This inclusion, both for the final product of the work and the implementation processes, enables arts to be for everyone and created professionally by everyone.
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