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Photography-related Massive Open Online Courses (aka MOOCS)

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If you’re anything like me, you’ve “learnt” how to take photographs using your smartphone, or an inexpensive digital camera, by pointing and shooting using the auto mode. The quality of the photograph being rather hit-and-miss; I have no problem on the quantity side!  Every now-and-again you felt brave and tried to use a pre-programmed setting on your digital camera. Perhaps, like me, you’ve become inspired to take the art or craft of photography a little more seriously, but don’t have the budget or time for a more formal photography course.


Free online courses, also known as massive open online courses (MOOC), are freely available. All you need is access to the Internet, some time and some patience (and perhaps some courage too).  These MOOCs are usually offered by colleges and universities by way of a MOOC organizations (some not-for-profit, others for-profit), or their own MOOC programme, to anybody who wants to learn.  They are not always geared towards brainy 20-somethings with lots of time and no family commitments or responsibilities on their hands.  I have completed a few other MOOCs, not related to photography, and they are not that scary. In fact they can be a lot of fun, and I have learnt so much. It all depends on how much time you have to devote to the course. What I like about them is that they are quite structured; starting at the beginning and ending, well, at the end. The lecturers are professional teachers, often with a bit of personality, who are experts in their field.


Course topics are offered on a weekly basis if the course is “live”. You join thousands of learners from around the world and it’s quite interesting meeting people from different countries and cultures. Most weekly classes will have a few videos, broken down into “chunks”, to watch online or download. Most are a few minutes long up until approximately 15 to 20 minutes each.  These videos might be interspersed with a short quiz. If you would like to receive a certificate, you will need to complete all major quizzes, homework and projects. Usually quizzes are marked by the computer, but written homework and projects may be peer-reviewed, i.e. by your fellow students, which means you will need to mark some-one else’s homework or project. There are strict rules of conduct, so you need to be patient (especially since many students from other countries may not speak English as their first or second language) and give constructive feedback.


If a course has already had a “live” cycle and is not active, you may often still go through the material but, obviously, you won’t be able to participate in any projects or homework, nor will you receive a certificate. But you’ll still learn the work, with none of the pressure. If a course is inactive you may still enroll for the course, and the course coordinator will contact you when the course is about to start.


It’s really that easy. Register on a site for free, and see what courses they offer, making note of whether the course is free or whether there is a course fee involved.


Below is a list of online photography courses (as of October 2016). New courses are developed all the time, so it’s worth your time to return periodically to your favorite MOOC site to search for course offerings.  My favorite MOOC website is EdX, so I’ll be starting there. I’ve also done Futurelearn and Coursera courses. EdX course videos tend to have quite large file sizes (around 100 MB per video), but they really are worth it!



1. edX ( 


While there is no course currently on photography (how to), there is a self-paced course called Visualizing Postwar Tokyo, Part 1 offered by the University of Tokyo in which you analyze the history of change and development in postwar Tokyo from different perspectives using archived photographs, films, and TV programs.



2. Future Learn (

Future Learn currently offers two specific and two non-specific photography courses (all free):


Commercial Photography: Still and Moving Image

Norwich University of the Arts


Stereoscopy: An introduction to Victorian Stereo Photography

The University of Edinburgh


Earth Observation from Space: The Optical View

European Space Agency


Improving your image: Dental Photography in Practice

University of Birmingham


 3. Coursera (

 Coursera offers the following courses in photography: 


Photography Basics & Beyond: From Smartphone to DSLR (Specialization) ($355.00)


Cameras, Exposure, and Photography ($79.00)

Michigan State University


Camera Control ($79.00)

Michigan State University


Principles of Photo Composition and Digital Image Post-Production ($79.00)

Michigan State University


Photography Techniques: Light, Content, and Sharing ($79.00)

Michigan State University


Photography Capstone Project ($79.00)

Michigan State University


Seeing Through Photographs ($49.00)

The Museum of Modern Art


Content Strategy for Professionals: Ensuring Your Content's Impact ($59.00)

Northwestern University

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