University of Delaware
A photo by ART 180 student Megan Hodges of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Art online

Students learn photography principles at a distance


10:20 a.m., Aug. 6, 2012--Students taking a basic photography course at the University of Delaware this summer were able to complete their classwork and develop their skills from such far-flung locations as Utah, Canada and China.

Distance-learning courses — which use online tools to deliver videotaped lectures and to bring students together with one another and their instructor in virtual classrooms — are increasingly common at UD and other institutions. But, instructor Jon Cox says, they are rare in the Department of Art, where so many classes focus on studio work.

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“I used email, Skype and text messages to keep in touch with my students on a regular basis,” says Cox, who describes his first experience teaching online as “amazing.” In addition, he says, “One of the most exciting aspects of this course was that students were handing in images from all over the world.”

The traditional version of ART 180, “Photographic Approaches,” is normally limited to 30 students, who attend classroom lectures and then complete photography assignments that are later shared and critiqued in class. In the online version, which expanded to include 40 students, students watched Cox’s recorded lectures online and took a short, ungraded quiz at the end of each to assess what they had learned. As with other distance-learning classes, students can go back and replay part or all of a lecture to better understand the material.

Assignments included photographing natural settings and portraits, imitating the styles of famous photographers and experimenting with colors and black-and-white images. Student work was posted on the website Cox created for the class, and all members of the class were required to post comments about the work.

“The interaction I had with the students and the participation in discussions was much richer than I had expected,” Cox said. In a traditional classroom, he said, a few students often dominate discussions while some others stay silent, but in the online format, he could ensure that everyone commented.

The students, who kept blogs throughout the course, were asked to write about whether they had achieved their goals in taking the class. Many echoed Cox’s view that the online format had been beneficial.

“This class really made me think about what creates a great photo … lighting, color or even just the situation,” Rachel Harkleroad wrote. “I loved this class even though it was online — or maybe because it was online!”

How the class developed

In fall 2011, Cox took part in the UD Online Faculty Fellows program and completed a training course with UD Online program coordinator and instructional designer Jann Sutton. The same semester, he took a graduate course in educational technology and developed the ART 180 online class as his final project, receiving guidance from Fred Hofstetter, professor of education.

Kathleen Pusecker, director of educational assessment, also helped in incorporating student feedback into the class, Cox says.

Article by Ann Manser

Photos courtesy of Jon Cox

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