I'm listening to the second lecture in a course entitled History of Photography, Photography 1105 taught by Jeff Curto at College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, Illinois as I write this blog entry. I listened to the first lecture last week while travelling by bus from Vermont to Boston, enjoying the fall colours while learning about the early history of photography. I was using an iPod without video capabilities so I missed the images that accompany the lectures (but New England in the fall is a reasonable substitute).
The web page listed for the class contains the images Curto discusses, but these images – and the summary slides he uses – can be viewed not only with a video iPod but also with iTunes on a computer, which is the way I am viewing them today.
The lectures are live. Curto is an excellent lecturer and the audio quality is certainly adequate. Listening to the lecture, and the periodic coughs from students, while watching the slides is similar to sitting in the back row in a lecture theatre. One can't hear all of the questions (which is often the case in large lecture theatres) but Curto's answers incorporate the questions and the overall feeling is that one is part of a live event. A worthwhile event.
I've studied the history of photography for many years on an informal basis: but I'm learning a lot from these lectures. I'm frequently critical of the 'I'll talk for 50 minutes and you better write down everything that I say because most of it will be on the exam' approach, but the lecture system can work effectively if the lecturer is well prepared and is an effective communicator.
Having the lectures online with slides included allows students to review the lectures, to discuss them with others – or to stay in their dorm rooms and listen to the them at their leisure. Attending the lecture allows students to ask questions and participate in class discussion. Lecturers can use more of their lecture time for discussion if they decide to put some material only on the web or in podcasts.
This lecture series is another example of how knowledge is being made available at no direct costs to the public. I am able to learn about the history of photography from Jeff Curto without going to Illinois and enrolling in his course. I can learn at home or on a bus. I can't get academic credit for learning but I don't care about that: I simply want to learn.
You can access this and other podcasts on virtually any subject by going to iTunes and searching for key words.