One of the first classes offered via UReddit was Introduction to Photography:
My name is Alexandre Buisse and I am slowly transitioning into full time photographer. My main emphasis is on adventure (specifically alpine climbing) and landscape images, but I do a bit of everything. I have also written a book on hiking and climbing photography (to be published next spring by Rocky Nook). My portfolio is visible on my website, Alexandre Buisse Photography.
The class was conducted on a subreddit, at /r/photoclass by Alexandre Buisse, whose UReddit username is nattfodd. It consisted of seven parts: The Gear, Exposure, Focus, Using the Camera, Post-processing, Vision, and conclusion. The subreddit has over 6,000 subscribers and was a great example of what an online class could be like.
Alexandre is clearly passionate about photography and put this class together of his own free time. He shared his knowledge publicly and, using UReddit as a point of coordination, led a group of people to pursue their own interests in photography. This led to a community of people sharing their photographs with each other, exchanging comments and advice, and receiving feedback from the instructor.
With the internet and the ease of uploading and sharing media on the internet, this class was not hampered by being entirely online. In fact, the online nature of this class facilitated the sharing of one passionate teacher’s efforts with a huge group of people, more than can fit into most rooms. Furthermore, the fact that the students were spread over a large geographical area meant that there was larger than usual variety in the photographs being shared by students, much larger than if, say, half of the students in college photography class took photos in the local park.
In a traditional photography class, the teacher would lecture in person. Once the lecture is over, it is gone. In this case, since the class was conducted online, the material and the entire experience were recorded and available to newcomers. This was taken advantage of by the Redditor doing_donuts, who used the online material to lead a resurrection of the Alexandre’s photograph class.
All thirty lessons were done again, in sequence, in accordance with Alexandre’s original vision and exposition. The revived class was conducted again on Reddit, in the subreddit, /r/photoclass2012a, with nearly 2,000 subscribers.
(Update) Another Revival!
A comment on Reddit let us know that this class is, in fact, being revived yet again at /r/PhotoClass2013, and Alexandre is part of the team running it. It is, at this time, at lesson 9 of 30. It goes on!
This is a great example of not only the strengths of online education, but of crowdsourcing that education. This class was offered by a passionate teacher who left the accumulation of his efforts publicly available after offering it to thousands of people, and the material was taken advantage of again by another motivated individual in order to benefit further thousands of people. How many people with an interest of photography learned from this experience and furthered their own passions? Probably more than the subscriber count. This is a great thing, and it came from the UReddit community.
The only question is whether this experience could have been improved. One of the shortcomings is that Reddit disabled commenting on posts in a subreddit after a certain amount of time passes because Reddit received so much traffic. Furthermore, the entirety of the class was conducted in Reddit posts; although this was great for encouraging discussion, a Reddit post is perhaps not the best place to format and present educational material.
UReddit served as a point of coordination for this Reddit-based class, and the UReddit team is currently working on a new project that is UReddit’s spiritual successor. After the success of the sort exemplified by Alexandre’s class, we want to create a fully-featured platform that offers all of the tools necessary to conduct a class. Imagine if this class could have included weekly live, webcam-enabled discussions between students and with the instructor for faster communication, if there were a centralized area for students to upload their photographs and receive critique, if there were no expiration date on the columns, and if there were a formalized way of another user resurrecting a class to benefit more people.
(Update: We didn’t even know that the class was being conducted a third time, someone let us know in response to this post. Wouldn’t a centralized platform and community work so much better?)
Well, the platform we are working on, which is being conducted via the non-profit organization Open Compass the UReddit team has established, will offer all this and more. We are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the development of this platform. If you see the merits in Alexandre’s class, see how it could have been even better given the right tools, and think that this project is worth supporting, please check out our Kickstarter page for more details about our new project and for how to help us. Here’s the link again.
A Thank You
It is worth it to take the time to thank Alexandre for this class. The effort he put forth in his own free time to share his passion has led literally thousands of people to pursue their own interests and to learn from him, and that is a great accomplishment.
Thank you, Alexandre!