127 Students, 39 Countries, One Photography Exhibit

Peter Glendenning and Mark Sullivan of Michigan State University
Professor Peter Glendinning (left) and Professor Mark Sullivan (right) look at the exhibition of photographs at Kresge Art Center on Michigan State University's campus.

Photographs from 127 students from 39 different countries are now on display in Gallery 101 of Kresge Art Center through Friday, December 9. The photos represent the skills learned and work completed as part of a five-course specialization, Photography Basics and Beyond: From Smartphone to DSLR, offered online by Michigan State University through Coursera, an online education provider that partners with top universities and organizations around the world to offer massive open online courses (MOOCs).

The learners, their goals, their abilities, their creative and expressive approaches, in short just about everything, are as varied as the 191 countries from which they have enrolled.

Department of Art, Art History and Design Professor Peter Glendinning along with veteran photo instructor and College of Music Associate Professor Mark Sullivan developed the five-course series. Since it first launched in February 2016, the series has been wildly successful with more than 60,000 enrollments and students from 191 different countries.  

“The learners, their goals, their abilities, their creative and expressive approaches, in short just about everything, are as varied as the 191 countries from which they have enrolled,” Glendinning said. “Some aspire to make photography their creative outlet while others wish to make it their livelihood, and every other goal in between.”

Although the coursework isn't applicable toward a degree, students receive a co-branded certificate from MSU and Coursera after completing the specialization.

Each of the students whose work appears in the Kresge Art Center photography exhibit are among the first class to finish the series of courses and earn the MSU Capstone Certificate.

The exhibit includes a wide range of photos, from landscapes to portraits, still lifes to nature studies. The photos represent the diverse interests and cultural contexts of learners from around the world. A guidebook containing statements by each of the photographers is available to visitors of the exhibit.

"The review of student portfolios and the creation of this exhibit, largely through Peter's extraordinary efforts, and the book to follow have all only amplified the powerful cumulative impact of the final capstone course," Sullivan said. "We hope the ripple keeps going indefinitely."

Mark and Peter


With the goal of helping learners worldwide gain greater control of their cameras, whether Smartphones or Digital Single Lens Reflex models, the five-course specialization teaches the basic technical and aesthetic aspects of photography, covering a broad range of fundamental principles, from camera control to composition and creativity.

“My goal in developing the course was for learners to gain knowledge of camerawork, composition and creativity to help them create pictures they would be proud to share,” Glendinning said.  

Some aspire to make photography their creative outlet while others wish to make it their livelihood, and every other goal in between.

Each of the first four instructional courses is designed to be completed in four weeks, while the fifth and final capstone course takes about two months. In the capstone course, students develop an individual photography project that should result in a portfolio of 10 photographs.

Students from all around the world can register for the online courses for free, or pay a small fee in order to earn the MSU Capstone Certificate. Courses are offered on-demand, which means students can sign up at anytime.

For more information about the Photography Basics and Beyond specialization, including enrollment options, visit the Coursera website.

For those who wish to visit the exhibit, Kresge Art Center, 600 Auditorium Road, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Metered parking is available.