Back to the future: 15 years of quality enhancement in teaching digital photography

Rosewell, Jonathan and Peake, Stephen (2022). Back to the future: 15 years of quality enhancement in teaching digital photography. In: Innovating Higher Education Conference 2022, 19-21 Oct 2022, Athens.



‘Digital photography: creating and sharing better images’ has been presented at the Open University UK since 2007. Over the years nearly 15,000 students have registered, and students who complete the course find it a transformative experience. However, completion rates remain frustratingly low, despite continual quality enhancement changes.

I apply the lens of ‘E-xcellence quality in e-learning’ ( to this short course to see whether lessons can be learned, particularly the main headings of strategic management, curriculum design, course design, course delivery, staff support and student support. I draw on quantitative and qualitative data from course records, student surveys and forum comments.

‘Digital Photography’ is an excellent test case to probe the challenges of quality enhancement in e-learning since it is a long-running course that has been presented during a period where the pedagogical landscape around it has changed considerably. The nature of the subject itself has also changed, as digital photography has displaced film. That has meant that the motivations and demographics of our audience has changed. The course is an uneasy fit to the university’s strategic management since the subject has never been part of a core curriculum. Photography is traditionally taught as a craft subject using a studio approach. ‘Digital Photography’ seeks to emulate studio practice online using OpenStudio, an online environment for image sharing and peer comment. The strong element of peer comment has remained an important part of the pedagogical design of the course. However, other e-learning tools at our disposal have changed as the university’s course delivery platform has changed. The course is able to capitalise on the university’s standard processes for course production, staff support and student support. However, because it remains something of an outlier compared to the university’s core offering, this introduces stresses where normal practice clashes with the aims of this particular course.

The course will continue to be presented over the next few years. What enhancements can still be made?

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