Perspectives, news, and announcements from the Center that will ignite your passion for wellbeing.

Exploring the Global Classroom

December 6, 2018


“Through online education, anyone can learn anything,” says Allison Gage, president of The Big Know. “This is the democratization of education and learning!” This fall, the Center is partnering with Minneapolis-based company, The Big Know, to offer cinematic, affordable, online courses to learners around the globe.

The Big Know is only one part of a larger initiative to bring wellbeing and integrative health education to larger audiences. California-based Coursera, an online learning platform that offers courses, specializations, and degrees, is another.

For many years now, the Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing has offered online, for-credit courses, but these have been largely accessible to only University of Minnesota students. “What’s different about both The Big Know and Coursera,” says Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer, the Center’s founder and director, “is that they are oriented as professional development opportunities or even just lowcost educational experiences for the public as a whole.” Louise Delagran, director of the Center’s Learning Resources Group, is excited about the broader reach that these new course delivery mechanisms offer. “How can we reach new audiences? How can we respond to the needs of our current audiences? These questions are driving our exploration of new platforms like Coursera and The Big Know.”

Since fall 2017, the Center has been offering online, for-credit courses through Canvas, the University-sponsored learning platform designed to serve students. Business clients who are investing in the Center’s online Mindfulness at Work course for their employees, too, are learning via Canvas.

“Canvas is a strategy that we have used successfully in the past,” Delagran says. “It’s a great tool for creating a community of learning. We use it as a way to develop cohort-model courses where people learn together in a 6-week period. We can deliver video, audio, and written or interactive content in so many different ways through Canvas. There can be quizzes and many different educational tools as desired by our business clients. These are very deliberate strategies that are employed to create a feeling of community.”


Kreitzer is enthusiastic about the affordability and worldwide audience of Coursera.

“Coursera is a platform for reaching learners all around the world in an accessible fashion because it is relatively inexpensive,” she says. “It provides people actionable skills that they can apply in their jobs.” The Center will offer the first specialization in integrative therapies on the Coursera platform. Health professionals who seek to further their careers by gaining new knowledge about integrative healing and wellbeing are most likely to benefit.

“The ability to teach a variety of health professionals around the world is a wonderful opportunity,” Kreitzer says, and hopes that this platform will be able to inspire some of these learners to go back to school and get a degree that focuses on an integrative approach – like health coaching or a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

With some 35 million learners already in their database, Coursera has the potential to reach many learners with a wide array of backgrounds


The Big Know is focused on helping organizations offer online personal development courses to their employees.

“The Big Know creates Netflix-inspired online courses for organizations,” Gage explains, “We partner with best-selling authors, celebrities, and industry experts to create fun and engaging online courses. Through our courses, we help organizations of all sizes teach the skills of health and wellbeing at higher quality and lower cost than has ever been done in the workplace. Our model is truly effective.”

Taught by experts from the Center, The Big Know will add new courses on mindfulness, behavior change, and workplace wellbeing to its Being Library that is offered through employers. These courses will also be available to the public through the Center’s new digital series “Wellbeing U.”

“When The Big Know approached us with an interest in creating the Being Library and having the Center’s Wellbeing Model at the core of that,” says Kreitzer, “we saw it as another great way to reach a larger audience.”

Gage agrees. “The partnership is the perfect combination of the Center’s strong research and subject matter experts with The Big Know’s distribution channels and deep learning expertise.”

“We are working with The Big Know to create a rich library of wellbeing topics,” says Kreitzer, “including our first course, which is titled ‘Wellbeing 101.’”


“The Center has been so fortunate throughout the years to have philanthropists that recognize the importance of investing in something new,” says Kreitzer. “We have been able to establish a Strategic Innovation Fund that supports new development in areas such as innovative learning strategies.”

“It’s very expensive to develop online resources,” says Delagran. “It takes not only the expert’s time but a whole team for instructional and graphic design, as well as programming and video production. Because online course development is such an investment, the Center needs to find a sustainable way to keep sharing its expertise. The revenue that comes from these strategic initiatives will help us add, update, and enhance content in all our online resources, much of which is offered free.”

When asked why the Center is committed to working toward global wellbeing education, Kreitzer replies simply, “Why not? We’re the Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing! The very core of our mission is advancing health and wellbeing around the world.”

Courses offered through The Big Know and Coursera will be released to the public in 2019. Visit CSH.UMN.EDU to learn more. +++


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