Free Undergrad-Level Photo Courses Offered Online and in App by UK Professor

A photography professor at Coventry University in England is publishing his undergraduate-level photography classes online and in an app, making instruction and education available for free to photographers all over the world.

Picbod (Picturing the Body) and Phonar (Photography and Narrative) are, respectively, second- and third year undergraduate classes taught by photographer Jonathan Worth. Students who are not enrolled in Coventry University can follow the courses online, and can also choose to participate by asking questions, making comments and submitting photographic work they do based on class assignments. Those who choose to follow the classes can also listen to lessons and guest lectures from photographers like Elinor Carucci and Grant Scott. Comments, and links to articles and information of interest, are also shared amongst the students via the #picbod and #phonar Twitter hashtags, and via course Facebook pages, further fostering the community feel of the courses. All of the material also lives on the Web sites and in the app, so outside students can take the courses at their own pace. The material will be updated as each new class at Coventry University is taught.“I’d been trying to better understand new media economics and their implications for photographers for a while,” Worth explained in an email to PDN. In his own photography, Worth was trying to figure out “how to understand the thing that’s eating us as a powerful force for (our) good [as photographers]. For my photography, you could boil that down to me trying to understand why I couldn’t charge for pixels, the way I’d always charged for pages. This led me [to] trialling ‘free’ as part of a strategy and better understanding it’s dynamics within the new media economy.

“When I was asked to devise classes that explored what a sustainable 21st century photographic practice might be, it naturally fell that I would implement some of the strategies along the way. Making a version available online for free is one aspect of this. It is, after all, the media habits of this generation that are dictating the future business strategies of ours. This was and is an opportunity to learn with and from them. A chance to foster a culture of participatory learning that benefits from super-linked communities rather than a mode of traditional siloed broadcasts from the lectern.”

Since Worth opened the courses up online 18 months ago, they have become the most difficult to get into in the university, he says. He has also been the subject of study for European Parliament in their copyright legislature debates, and was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Worth is currently at work designing an open Master of Arts degree program in contemporary photography, which is set to launch in January 2012.

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7 Responses to “Free Undergrad-Level Photo Courses Offered Online and in App by UK Professor”

  1. james wood Says:

    Seems a really great opportunity to learn more rounded aspects of photography and at such a high level.

    Definitely looks like providing more rounded information for photographers.

  2. Metin fotografie Says:

    Great idea and a very good work. But it is pity that is created only for the iPhone. It would be nice if it would have been multi-platform. (I use a Android) I would like to be kept informed if this happens.
    Once again, good work.

  3. Dint Says:

    I don’t get it. I can find no courses, few lectures, and just a few links to short essays with little depth to them. Videos and podcasts are also very few. Am I missing something? surely university-level photography classes have not deteriorated that much since the 90s.

  4. Trudy Says:

    This is really awesome. Good educational opportunities are great for photographers. I’ll look for that app. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Jonathan Worth Says:

    James, Metin, Dint and Trudy, thanks for your support, it’s a terrifying experience to have people quietly looking over one’s shoulder.

    Metin – I too am an Android and we’ll have an android App for the class as soon as we learn how to build one! 90% of the ‘openness’ of the course is done in our own (unpaid) time. The app was built and shared by one of our contributors (in his own time) for which we’re very grateful.

    Dint – Sorry if you felt misled, Picbod and phonar are classes, not complete degrees. An attending student doing picbod would be attending that class once a week as a part of that term/semester’s programme of study. They would be doing other classes too. The attending (paying) student also has a much fuller experience as the class sizes are tiny and much of the learning is tailored to the individual.

    The material online is also intended as a framework of learning. According to our feedback, people that often haven’t had the chance to study at degree level appreciate the chance to investigate a structure of learning. Other people that have already graduated just miss the the feedback from a community working with the same focus.

    With regard to the amount, we are working to share as much online as possible, though almost all of the ‘openness’ (as I wrote above) is done in our own (unpaid) time. The quantity of material will necessarily accumulate – the degree is only in it’s third year and the open classes have only run through once.

    Hope that makes sense but if you still feel cheated I’ll be happy to provide a full refund. ;-}

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