ASU debuts first online photography degree

Herberger is the first fine arts college in the nation to offer an online studio practice-based degree

This semester marks the launch of a solely online digital photography degree by ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. 

The new program is the first studio practice-based BFA degree offered entirely online by a research 1 university or fine arts college in the nation, providing students with the chance to work with practicing artists across the nation, according to ASU.

A survey of online college students showed that almost half of undergraduate students and 64% of graduate students are employed full-time, according to The Learning House, Inc. and Aslanian Market Research, making online programs and courses a great option for students with a busy schedule. 

Betsy Schneider, a lecturer for the School of Art, was involved with the development and launch of the program and said one of the significant things about the degree now being offered completely online is the practical aspects of providing accessibility to non-traditional students. 

“It’s really exciting because I think it provides a possibility for people who wouldn’t normally walk into an art classroom to study art,” Schneider said. “And specifically, photography, which I think for a lot of people feels a little bit more accessible and a little less intimidating than maybe some other art practices.”

Utilizing social media for students to connect and share ideas, Schneider said the program is able to foster a community through interactions between classmates. 

Another important aspect of the class is having students evaluate each other’s work and creating a space for critique like students would experience in a traditional art classroom, she said.

“I think most people who have taught online have been surprised at the meaningful exchanges that can happen,” Schneider said. “And I think that I’ve learned as a teacher to be a little bit more open to where meaning can come from.”

Infographic by Joseph Coalter.

Ashley Czajkowski, a faculty associate at the School of Art , said the program emphasizes how photographs communicate, especially in a time where images are everywhere.

“The focus is really on conceptual aspects of how photography is situated within our contemporary world, socially and technologically,” she said. “So really thinking about photography both as an art form but also as a visual language.”

Read More: Social media poses opportunities and challenges for ASU photographers

Czajkowski said though she has taught both online and in-person photography classes, she has realized that online teaching allows her to reach a larger number of students in a larger range of places. 

“I would say at least half of our students are living in other places in the world, and I think that’s pretty amazing,” she said. “I think it also works with many schedules, so people who have full-time jobs during the day can also be online students, and it opens up what is typically the demographic of a college student.”

Maggie Crulo, a senior studying family and human development online in Colorado, said she chose to go to ASU because of an arrangement her employer has with the University and enjoys the flexibility of being able to work full-time and go to school. 

She said she has taken every online photography course ASU has offered in the past, and the teachers are incredibly helpful and do a great job of mimicking the studio aspects of a traditional art degree, such as peer critiquing.

“I think it does a really great job considering that we’re all in different states, possibly, for some people, different countries, (and) that we can pull together and have a dialogue with an online class,” Crulo said.

Crulo said learning about different photographers and styles throughout the courses she’s taken has given her a broader outlook on photography in general.

“Sometimes I get stuck in this box of what photography is,” she said. “And in reality, photography can be just about anything you want to be.”


Reach the reporter at chofmann@asu.edu and follow @chofmann528 on Twitter.  

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