Are online photography courses worth it?

Should you sign up for an online photography course? See more cool camera stuff pictures.

Information has never been as accessible as it is today with the Internet. Experts in every field can disseminate their knowledge to people in every region of the globe. Meanwhile, institutions and universities are taking advantage of the new shift in learning, investing more and more funds into online educational programs. And because photography is one of the most accessible and attractive skills, many believe it lends itself well to online instruction.

Is learning a useful, artistic and profitable talent such as photography from the comfort of your couch too good to be true? Yes and no. Proponents of online courses argue that it's ideal for people without the time or schedule to take traditional programs in a classroom setting. Those with full-time jobs and a family to take care of can work whenever they're able to carve out an hour for study. Also, online education allows those in rural or remote locations to learn the desired skills from far-away institutions.

But critics question whether online courses are able to adequately instruct students as well as a teacher in a physical classroom. No one can deny that face-to-face interaction can be important to the learning experience. And one of the comforts of home is that you don't have an instructor breathing down your neck, challenging you to try harder and making you feel guilty when you haven't completed an assignment. Online education therefore takes a good deal of self-discipline and motivation.

We spoke with photographer and author, Mark Jenkinson, who remains skeptical about online education, saying there's no substitute for group critique. He says peers can offer valuable opinions and suggestions to a student.

However, many institutions that offer online photography programs believe they provide adequate opportunities for such group discussion, albeit virtually. We'll delve into some of the details of how such programs work on the next page to help you decide whether taking an online photography class is worth the time and money.