09.03.11

Coventry University launches world's first free 'class in an app'

Coventry University

Trendsetting photography lecturers in Coventry University’s School of Art and Design have achieved a world first with the launch of an app which delivers an undergraduate degree class directly to your iPhone free of charge.

The app, which takes the form of a Twitter-like feed bringing together photos, podcasts from lectures and top tips from industry professionals, is the latest step in the photography department’s radical plan to reach global audiences by opening up its degree classes for free on the web.

Delivered as part of the university’s popular BA (Hons) Photography degree, the Picbod class – short for ‘Picturing the body’ – invites members of the public to ‘drop by’ and join in by downloading the app, submitting work and contributing questions and answers via Twitter, Facebook and a dedicated blog.

Non-paying attendees can already visit the Picbod website to listen in on lectures, view seminar notes and read contributions by luminaries such as legendary photojournalist Gilles Peres, Guardian picture editor Sean O'Hagan, and the Rt Hon Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education.

Following the success of a similar online class at the end of last year – which saw the course’s third-year ‘Photography & Narrative’ class, Phonar, attract over 1,800 unique participants worldwide over a six day period in December – course leaders Jonathan Worth and Jonathan Shaw are repeating the open, free and web-based format for the second-year module Picbod – this time with the added usability of the iPhone app.

The two classes have been made available online as part of a department-wide approach to answering a challenge from the heads of Coventry University to improve students’ employment prospects, reduce net costs and develop cost-effective, sustainable teaching practices.

Jonathan Worth, senior lecturer in Photography at Coventry University, said:

“The idea that we are giving our classes away for free is utterly terrifying for some. People think, “Well, students just won’t pay to go to uni” but within two years this course is the hardest to get into at the university. We only accept one in 10 of the students that we interview.

“As a course we’ve come a long way in a very short time but more importantly we’ve shown that as the media economy and now education undergoes radical transformations, there are opportunities emerging for those willing to explore novel ways of distribution. Our new app is just one of the exciting new ways we’re reaching new and bigger audiences.”

The pioneering efforts of Coventry University’s photography department have not gone unnoticed in offline circles either. In recognition of their “innovation and influential role in developing new business models for photographers using the social web”, Jonathan Worth and associate head of department Jonathan Shaw were made Fellows of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

Worth was also recently described by European Parliamentary TV as “breaking new ground for photographers”, and Shaw added to his accolades by being made a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society (FRPS).

Shaw said:

“It's an exciting time for Coventry University’s photography department. Not only is one of our Phonar students currently working for Annie Liebovitz in New York, we’ve also launched our first app that will build on the dramatic success of our iTunesU content and hopefully convert some of the 400,000 plus people who have visited us there to look at the other innovative things we’re up to as a department.”

A four-page feature on the university’s online classes in Professional Photographer magazine and an interview by the Shpilman Institute for Photography (SIP) research institute rounded off a year of international accolades for the School of Art and Design’s newest course.

For more information on the Picbod app and online degree class, please visit http://picbod.org , or if you’d like to learn more about photography at Coventry University, go to http://photography.covmedia.co.uk

 

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