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Ankara university's virtual classroom draws on swiftly changing technology.
Photo caption: A photographer shoots backstage during New York Fashion Week, Feb. 16, 2010. Anadolu university thinks it has found a way forward for both the amateurs and professional photographers. (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)
ISTANBUL, Turkey — Every day we are bombarded with images — on roadside billboards, in newspapers and magazines, and on TV. And every other week, a new tool or medium (look no further than camera phones and YouTube) allows amateurs to become self-publishing quasi-professionals. It's little wonder that universities report a tough struggle in reassigning value to the study of photography.
One university, Anadolu in Turkey, thinks it has found a way forward for both the amateurs and professionals.
Gone are the darkrooms and printing labs of a traditional photo school. Gone, too, are the classrooms. The degree program, established last year as a part of the school’s innovative distance-education system, is using the same technologies that created the rampant proliferation of images to reinvent the way in which they are taught.
“Our lives, more than ever, are intertwined with photography,” said Yakup Karapolat, a student in the Photography and Camera Operation Associates degree program based in Ankara. “The trick is to teach people how to use it.”
The course is based around a digital-learning platform that allows students from around the country to interact virtually, uploading work and hosting discussion groups without ever having to leave the privacy of their own home.
“At the beginning I thought it would be very difficult,” confessed Gulsen Elmas, a student living in Adana, in south-central Anatolia, a day's drive from where the university is located in the industrial powerhouse of Eskisehir. “But then I realized I could follow the lessons while sitting on my comfortable sofa ... It was getting easy.”
The two-year course includes standards of photography education such as the "History of Photography" and "Film and Video Production," as well as some uniquely Turkish offerings like "Ataturk’s Principles" and "History of Turkish Revolution."
For decades, photographers would cram into workshops and conferences as they discussed the important values of their craft. But at a time when the technology, nomenclature and just about everything else involving photography is changing so rapidly, virtual classrooms seem to fit the trend.
Distance education, whether delivered online or in real time, is quickly becoming one of the most significant growth areas in higher education. Major academic institutions around the world are investing human and economic resources into developing high-quality distance-learning programs.