If you are or have been a college student, you are probably aware of two emerging trends in higher education. One is the increasing number of Internet-based, online courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. Distance learning has made it possible for students to attend and participate in courses while not physically present in a traditional classroom. It often includes video conferencing, instructional television, or live streaming media and web or digitally-based platforms for learning and interacting with instructors.

The other trend is the advent of massive open online courses or MOOCs. MOOCs are designed for large-scale participation and are free access via the web or similar platforms. A recent development in distance education, they have been declared as the “next big thing” for the last several years; numerous universities in the US and around the world now offer MOOCs and thousands of students may participate in an online course at any particular time [see http://www.class-central.com for example]. MOOCs typically do not charge tuition or offer academic credit. There are many questions that remain unanswered about MOOCs, including whether or not they are effective methods for instruction and what role digital literacy plays in online learning. Completion rates for MOOCs are generally low with some suggesting course completion rates of less than 10% according to most research studies. In response to these massive online courses, Slate journalist Jonathan Rees observes:

“How do you teach tens of thousands of people anything at once? You don't. What you can do over the Internet this way is deliver information, but that's not education. Education, as any real teacher will tell you, involves more than just transmitting facts. It means teaching students what to do with those facts, as well as the skills they need to go out and learn new information themselves.”

Certainly, that is a question for art therapy and any mental health education—can one learn the requisite skills via online learning to become a professional who works with people? Despite this challenge, each week I am asked, “how can I study art therapy via distance learning?” Because art therapy graduate level education is largely found in private colleges and universities rather than state universities, many students cannot afford tuition or may not be able to relocate to attend courses. Although distance learning can alleviate some of the cost of room and board, traditional low-residency programs can still be expensive. As I have discussed in previous posts and in the series, So You Want to be an Art Therapist, art therapy can be a complicated career pathway.

So you can imagine the excitement when a tuition-free distance learning opportunity for art therapy graduate level education suddenly appears on the horizon. Yes, it is true and you will find it at World Education University [WEU] [http://www.theweu.com/programs/graduate-certificate-in-art-therapy/]. According to the course catalogue, prospective students can hypothetically enroll in either a Graduate Certificate in Art Therapy or a Master’s Degree in Expressive Arts Therapy with the appropriate entry criteria. Coursework, at least on my initial read, appears to follow the criteria for US art therapy education as found on the website of the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB). But whether or not this certificate or degree will be accepted by the ATCB or any other credentials board [including licensure boards] is not yet known. Also, WEU does not hold a national or regional accreditation as a higher education institution at this time [see http://www.theweu.com/about-weu/].

The idea of “free art therapy education” is intriguing to this steel mill worker’s daughter who had to work three jobs to get through graduate school. I feel that the cost of an art therapy master’s degree has jumped the fence in terms of financial returns in the career marketplace for many students. But like most issues in art therapy and art therapy education, I also have some strong opinions about the impact of a MOOC-like art therapy degree offering; I will save those opinions for another post in a few weeks. Until then, I recommend that if you have questions about these tuition-free art therapy education offerings you directly contact Penny Orr, PhD, WEU Dean of Psychology [who is also the current President of the Art Therapy Credentials Board at atcb@nbcc.org]; if you live in the US you can also contact the Education Committee of the American Art Therapy Association at info@arttherapy.org to get their opinion.

Be well and check back for updates,

Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC


MOOCs on the Move: How Coursera Is Disrupting the Traditional Classroom"(text and video). Knowledge @ Wharton. University of Pennsylvania. November 7, 2012. Retrieved on July 28, 2013 at http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=3109.

Rees, J. (July 25, 2013). The MOOC Racket: Widespread online-only higher ed will be disastrous for students—and most professors. Retrieved on July 28, 2013 at http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2013/07/moocs_coul....

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