Pop-up restaurants appear and are gone in a day or three. Pop-up concerts getting announced on Facebook a few hours before they happen, filling an unused space with a packed crowd for three hours and leaving behind only glitter. A pop-up museum travels the country, inviting visitors to make their own exhibitions.
It was inevitable for pop-ups to crash headlong into education. Colleges increasingly offer pop-up classes, just a few sessions, no credit, no tuition. Just a crash course in topics that are someone’s passion project.
For instance, Pomona College in California offered “Essay as Resistance” as a quick run of classes linking writing and anthropology, with a garnish of political theory. The teachers, Kara Wittman and Joanne Nucho, were shocked when their Friday night sessions were attended to capacity.
At Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, pop-up classes are often taught by students, as a way to more thoroughly explore parts of their regular coursework that they find fascinating or compelling.
Pop-up classes, which may as well be called independent workshops or labs, are a great way to explore topics and skills without the time and financial commitment of a regular class. They also allow teachers to experiment with their educating styles, to combine topics in a way that their school’s regular curriculum might not allow, or to address the cutting edge of current events. Popular or successful courses can then be integrated into regular attendance, or just repeated.
“They’re a low-risk way to try out a class,” said Timothy Moore, who brought the idea into James Madison University while he was a student there. They now offer pop-up classes through their innovation lab in subjects that range from building musical instruments to high-science food prep.
In a college environment, the educational value of these bite-sized classes is impressive. When they’re open to the community, it’s incredible. Hopefully, the format continues to thrive and refine itself.