The online course requires approximately 100 hours of study in total, which is scheduled over 10 weeks - so that you can expect to spend approximately 10 hours each week working on each learning module. These 10 hours of weekly work will include reading the course learning content via the website, undertaking video tutorials i.e. in software editing and reviewing external resources. This time also includes taking images for the weekly practical assignment and sharing these, together with any other images you would like to, with other students via the course’s “Open Studio” file sharing site.
A very important element of the course is the participation in “Open Studio”. This is an online portal where students add images as part of their weekly assignments to their account, so that they can then review images from their peers, learning how to give and receive constructive critique to help develop their “photographer’s eye” and improve their images.
On commencement of the course, students are put into smaller individual groups within Open Studio, to make it easier to manage commenting on work within their group although it is also encouraged to review and comment on work within the wider community and this is something I tried to do as much as possible.
At the start of the course via Open Studio, Students are encouraged to participate in an initial “Icebreaker” exercise, adding examples of their current work for peer review and comment. This is helpful to get students used to the portal and also to feel more comfortable with sharing their work in this way and developing skills in giving and receiving constructive feedback.
The course itself is assessed by both a knowledge quiz at the mid-point of the course, worth approximately 10% of the overall mark, with the remaining 90% comprised of the End of Module Assessment, in which participants share a “panel” of 10 of their best images, together with providing a written paper, summarising their selection choices and also answering two questions chosen from options provided. These are to demonstrate an understanding of the skills, techniques and visual awareness used in their chosen images.
There are no tutors on the course and it is self-led over the 10 weeks. However, there are Forum “Moderators” who are experienced photographers. They are available for support via the course Forums to provide guidance and answers to questions but are not able to provide feedback on individual members’ work. I must admit that I was at first a little unsure about the fact that there were no “tutors” as such and no tutor feedback on your work as it progressed, only via other students. After all, many on the course are, like myself, relatively inexperienced photographers. However, I do have to say that having completed the course, I do agree that a large part of the learning on the course and developing skills is attained by students learning how to more critically view their own and others’ work and indeed, a large part of my learning to date outside of this course, has been from the opportunites that club competitions and viewing others’ work and my own generally, has given me to improve my own image-taking.
Feedback is of course though received on your final End of Module Assessment on completion of the course and the submitted images and these are tutor marked and comments given on your overall written work and panel of images.
During the 10 weeks of the course itself, students are encouraged to where possible, keep up with the suggested weekly programme and assignments and not to fall behind, to ensure that they are ready for the submission of the End of Module Assessment which does have a deadline for submission. For my course, this deadline was in early January.
One useful thing to note is that after the course is completed, students do retain access to the course content for a further three years via the Open University, which I think is very helpful. I have since revisited, and will keep doing so, many parts of the course to reinforce and revise knowledge. I did find the course intensive but I was undertaking it alongside work so that did have an effect too I believe. However, personally I felt that 10 hours a week, particularly towards the later parts of the course, was for me more of a minimum time requirement and this is something to perhaps bear in mind for others considering the course.
I felt that particularly with the Open Studio, to get the most from it and contribute as much as I could, I was spending quite a considerable time reviewing and commenting on images which is an important aspect of the course. Also, particularly some of the later learning modules were more intensive in content but there are parts which are optional elements too which can be revisited later if time is short.
Content of the course:
During weeks 1 to 9, course modules included the below topics:
- Interesting images
- Light becomes data
- Focus and depth of field
- Understanding and using colour
- Printing and projecting your photographs
- Innovation in photographic imaging
- Working with light and finding your style
- Preparing for the EMA
- Finalising and submitting work for the EMA