Our MOOC is a world first in the field – Natural History Illustration


The University of Newcastle’s (UON) partnership with edX has just been announced.  A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in Natural History Illustration is to be first in the MOOC suite for UON.

This MOOC is a world first in the field and is pioneering ways to teach online drawing and related skills in a scientific context. I was thrilled to be asked to head the team charged with delivering this MOOC.

Particular challenges were faced at UON as Natural History Illustration  had never delivered online teaching and no one in our midst had designed an edX course. I brought together a cross-unit team starting back in May 2016 and this amazing team is delivering an amazing course in less than half the average MOOC development time. Enrolments are open and course kicks off on 26 October 2016.andrew-howells-microsope-web-small

bernie-and-wedge-tail-eagle-small-webDr Andrew Howells and Dr Bernadette Drabsch, with Dr Daniel Atkins‘ assistance, have developed subject materials and worked closely with the Centre for Teaching and Learning’s blended and online learning design (BOLD) lab staff, led by Luke Boulton have  orchestrated and
facilitated staging, film shooting, editing, post-production, scripting assistance, technical problem-solving and more.

Dr Clare Lloyd as lead project operations manager and instructional designer has developed edX expertise in course building and management, and brilliantly coordinated all project operations.

We have all worked with Chris Hildebrandt, Dr Kyle Holmes and Slingshot’s Adam van Dyck in adopting principles such as those covered in the new UON course “Innovation, Startups and Entrepreneurship” STAR4000. That is, we’ve used agile, lean canvas management to ensure the MOOC’s availability for enrolment from August 2016.


This has been a stellar team effort that has radically changed the culture of theNatural History Illustration discipline into a cutting-edge digitally enabled team. Through the cross-unit approach we’re “skilling-up” staff across UON enabling knowledge sharing and transfer. It is putting the University of Newcastle, Australia on the map for a unique MOOC in the world. It has also proven to UON staff and stakeholders that UON can develop an innovative MOOC and attract enrolments from around the world.


The team members demonstrated their clear understanding of the environment in which UON, MOOCs and this particular MOOC operated. As a team we tried to “think big” and to act strategically and agilely. Most importantly, we envisioned and anticipated success – for students undertaking the course, for us involved in the project and for UON as a whole.

The University of Newcastle has embraced a culture where curious and courageous minds collaborate to create the future.

Our MOOC team has developed a new way of delivering creative practice teaching in an online environment – we’ve shown we are Curious! Team members have shown their willingness to change the status quo when required and take on new challenges in an environment of uncertainty – thus we’ve been Courageous! We’ve engaged cooperatively to develop skills in agile management to deliver the best outcomes possible for our students, partners and communities – a great example of being Collaborative!

The team engaged beyond UON with edX and others. We’ve been 100% performance focused, and pushed educational, administrative and technical boundaries while always showing respect for all. Team members all strove for excellence, and through their efforts have shaped a positive future for MOOCs at UON, and an exciting future for Natural History Illustration.

WHY STUDY WITH US? If you love our MOOC, you may want to come and study on our wonderful bush campus.
“It combines science and art in a really unique way and teaches students how to problem solve in their illustrations” – Rose

If you have a love of drawing, are fascinated by the natural world and admire professional illustrators who can bring life to an object, then the Bachelor of Natural History Illustration is for you.

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The material or views expressed on this Blog are those of the author and do not represent those of the University.  Please report any offensive or improper use of this Blog to RPS@newcastle.edu.au.
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