Cameras, Exposure, and Photography! an xmooc From michigan university

As part of my studies for Education and Digital Cultures for the University of Edinburgh, I have been asked to carry out a micro netnography focusing around the community of a MOOC course. I chose to focus on the MOOC course "Cameras, Exposure, and Photography!" from Michigan State University, an xMOOC provided through the Coursera platform. My thoughts behind this were that I was genuinely interested in learning about photography and so would be able to participate in this course fully as a MOOC student rather than lurk as someone who was simply observing.

The course is actually a specialisation of five separate courses each expected to take a month with the option to submit a photography project at the end for review by experienced photographers.

For the purpose of this micro-netnography, I took part in course one and I will be comparing the peer review assignments in the MOOC environment with peer review in a classroom based course I attended recently in Edinburgh with the purpose of showing the duality that can exist between these two very different forms of education carrying out the same pedagogy.

Purpose of the peer review

In both instances, the purpose of the peer review was to provide a way of giving feedback to students on photographs that they had taken. The outcome to be that the students would recognise the positives and potential improvements which could be made to their work and the process of how to make those improvements.

What students had to work with

In both cases, students were given guidelines of what was expected in a peer review including the type of feedback required and social behaviours expected.

Results of the peer review

In the classroom environment, students gave their feedback face to face as a group after spending the day working with each other and learning about each others' photography desires. Feedback was verbal and usually lengthy with the tutor acting as a guide to ask questions when feedback could offer more. At all points feedback was a discussion between reviewer and reviewee with discussion from both sides.

On the MOOC, students were asked to review a minimum of 4 pieces of work from their classmates which they carried out without partaking in any other element of group building or community creation. Feedback was textual online and other than the reviewee name and picture if they had uploaded one, there was no way to find out more about that student, their hopes for their learning or aspirations in photography. There was no tutor interaction to guide peers who were reviewing.

Interesting finds

In the classroom environment, feedback was much lengthier with more explanation on how to physically make improvements. One student went to great lengths to try to recreate a photograph to show how to make corrections whilst the others in the group would jump into the discussion when appropriate.

In the MOOC environment, feedback tended to be one or two lines of text, with less constructive feedback or instruction and more "pat on the back" type feedback.

Unexpected findings

Due to the broad range of nationalities and languages spoken, the MOOC course had potential for there to be language/understanding issues when peers were asked to take part in a review without support from the teaching representatives. This resulted grade abnormalities when a reviewing student didn't fully understand what they were being asked to grade against.

In a situation with on hand teaching or mentoring representatives, guidance could be offered. In the MOOC situation however, there was no guidance for the reviewer to help them understand nor was there any way for the reviewee to question a low grade which they felt was unfair, either of the reviewer in question or to raise it with the course instructor.


Peer review in both environments offers the chance for students to learn from each other and glean knowledge from a larger group than a single grader alone.

However comparing these two courses, it can be said that peer review by a group who occupy the same physical space as opposed to online environment is more meticulous and full.

It can also be seen that the tutor plays a vital role in guiding and leading in the review and no matter how carefully written the guidance materials, without the presence of a guide to interject where necessary, misunderstandings can go uncaught and risk devaluing the process for students.


Created with images by pheezy - "PHOTOGRAPHY" • PublicDomainPictures - "angle black camera" • Alexas_Fotos - "sony slt-a58 camera sony" • Republica - "camera vintage retro" • markusspiske - "analog antique exposure"

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