PHONAR: A Massive, Free 'Open Undergraduate Class Hybrid'

Lessons learned from open-sourced, massive education and thoughts on the evolution of skill-based learning in the digital age.

About The Speaker(s)

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  • Jonathan Worth is a freelance commercial photographer who has shot numerous celebrities and whose work is on permanent collection at the UK’s National Portrait Gallery. Four years ago, he opened his Coventry University photography class to the world via a WordPress blog, Twitter, and now an app: PHONAR. He is dealing directly with changing business models, both in photography and education, and the role of the photographer as a publisher.
  • Matt Johnston is a freelance photographer and teacher. In addition to key involvement in the development and delivery of the highly successful Open Undergraduate classes #picbod and #phonar, he has set-up and run the Photo Book Club: a space to promote and engage in discussions around the photobook as a medium of communication.
  • Maarten Koets is the Deputy Managing Director for World Press Photo--an independent non-profit committed to supporting and advancing high standards in photojournalism and documentary photography worldwide.

Resources

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Download a PDF of this session's Livestream Chat archive

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Articles, Websites, or Videos Mentioned

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Key Questions and Comments

  • (03:28) What does the phrase "Open Learning" mean to both of you?
  • (04:18) I see "Open" now as being inclusive, as being 'dialogue' rather than 'broadcast'...and I always throw "Connected" in as well: "Open and Connected"..."Connected"--when more than one person gets together--is where learning happens.
  • (06:15) The downside is that this way of thinking about "Open" means I lose control, but I think that's a fantastic thing. To me, "Open" is about opening up authorship.
  • (06:45) In PHONAR and Photobook, have your students been receptive to this change from the typical student-teacher relationship, or has that been something they had to get used to as well?
  • (12:25) Is it difficult to keep that intimate atmosphere going or does Open make that easier to do?
  • (17:54) Jim [Groom] talks a lot about space online. When he says 'students should be able to claim their own space online,' I always hear "identity." There is definitely a process of getting students to rethink their existing views or habits--this process of defamiliarization.
  • (20:48) What are some of the challenges you think PHONAR or Photobook have faced, either from a curriculum or a logistics standpoint?
  • (25:10) Especially when we're dealing with smaller classes, we try encourage personality and encourage students take a role of authorship in these classes. Each time, they're going to be different; they're not always going to follow the same structure.
  • (26:54) For this kind of work that you're encouraging students to do where a lot of it may be art-based or not necessarily fall into a typical grading rubric, how do you grade it?
  • (29:13) The big thing that we can do is we can teach heuristically...then the way of judging how successful something has been is 'how effectively have you solved the problem?' As a photographer, I've never ever been asked what my degree qualification was. There is no rigid career structure in photography and the job I used to do doesn't exist anymore. That should prompt quite a lot of questions.
  • (32:45) Was there ever any pressure when you were first bringing up this idea for PHONAR to create a traditional MOOC? Or was it always envisioned as an 'Open Undergraduate Class Hyrbid'?
  • (35:08) It was just appropriate...if you're not using the internet to teach, then you're bonkers! How does it not get better with that networked knowledge--all those people to ask, all those people to draw into the conversation?
  • (39:40) For Photobook, I used an analogy recently about the Photobook Club being a bus and I don't really know exactly where it's going; I know it's going somewhere interesting because it's led by interesting people...The focus of this global community and my efforts is increasing actions and conversations.
  • (44:29) I'm not operating as a middle-man--I think that goes with the opening up of the authorship...I'm trying to get these communities to speak to one another and remove myself from that. Because I'm not needed in there; it takes away some of that really interesting connection if I'm there peering over people's shoulders.
  • (45:58) Why do we have to "reclaim" open learning? When was it 'lost'?
  • (48:31) That's the stuff we need to reclaim: collectively solving these big problems and working out what the questions are rather than just adopting systems that were built for other problems.
  • (51:41) With these open classes that we're talking about, it's that 'tiered experience'--there should be a way for someone to engage at all of these different levels, if possible.

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