The description of the course from the Academy's website speaks for itself - "In this course, students will engage in an in-depth study of the fundamental language comprised of the aesthetical, technical, and practical aspects of the medium. Artistic interpretation and technique will be examined through the study of image capture, processing and printing relavent to fine art, commercial and documentary application."
Books, Equipment and Art Supplies
The required book for the course is "Photo:Box" by Roberto Koch. Its a photo book presenting works of some of the most prominent photographers of our times. There are about 250 photographs in all, each snugly put under a category such as reportage, portraits, fashion, still life, fine art, nature etc. You could skim through the book at your own pace, learn more of the various genre's of photography, read the short essay on the photographer, his background, his work and why he does what he does. It is meant to give you an idea of some of the best work done under each genre, so that you can figure out where your work fits in. This book is probably not one to which you will be coming back to every week of the semester, but it would be a good idea to buy and keep this one. I'd recommend this book to not just photo students but also to anyone who has a keen interest in photography.
The other recommended textbook for PH 603 is "Photography' by Barbara London. Its a great introductory book to contemporary photography practices. Written in easy to understand language, with many pictorial elements to depict concepts. Its somewhat similar to Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure, if not a little more detailed. Good for novice and mid-level photographers to fully grasp all technical aspects of photography - exposure, hardware, asset management, printing and so on. But don't be in a hurry to buy one though, it an expensive book and not really a must have book for the course. In case you need to go through it, there is one always available as a course reserve in the library.
Equipment wise, you are obviously expected to have a camera with you, preferably an SLR(digital or analog), other things that help would be a tripod, light meter, flash. This course has an assignment submission each week, plus you will have a mid terms and a finals, for each of which you are required to submit a printed photograph or a series of photographs (A4 size) for critical evaluation. While printing is free (within acceptable limits) in the numerous labs of the photo department, you do need to get your own photo paper. Buying a packet (50 sheets) of A4 size Epson Premium Luster paper(or glossy or matte) is an absolute must.
Mode of Delivery
One class a week for 3 hrs, plus an expected 10 hrs of reading and assignment work until the next week class starts. The class is logically divided up into two parts. One part involves a lecture by the Instructor, and the second is the photo critique section for the assignment submission. You will have an assignment given to you each class, which is due for submission in the next. The assignment involves submitting an A4 size photographic print in response to the assignment, which is critiqued for technical, aesthetic and artistic qualities. Feedback will be given to you on what is good(or bad) about it in a constructive manner and how you can improve. Assignments focus on one aspect of photography at a time, and get progressively challenging. Mid terms are on week 8 and finals are on week 16. Mid term involves submission of 8 photographs, each having it own theme. And the finals involves interviewing a practicing photographer and getting a professional perspective from him on his field, plus submitting 6-10 photographs on a cohesive body of work. More on this soon.
A personal take on the course
Even though the course starts off with some of the most basic stuff about photography, like understanding exposure and handling you camera, it quickly picks up the pace. So does the requirement from you on being able to create better and better photographs. It really helps if you already have a good grasp of photography or have practiced or worked in the field before. Good technical skills are required, so would knowing darkroom techniques (digital or otherwise). If you are good with Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop then it is even better, though prior knowledge is not mandatory. I shoot with a digital SLR and I know Lightroom to a medium expertise level, and that really helped me deliver great photographs. The goal of this course seems to be able to identify what specific stream of photography, as defined by the Academy, you are good at i.e. art for commerce, photojournalism or fine art.
If you have any specific question, post them in the comments below and i'll try and answer them as best as I can.
First Semester @ AAU
PH 603 - The Language of Photography - Assignments
PH 603 - The Language of Photography- Midterms
PH 603 - The Language of Photogaphy - Finals
PH 612 - The Nature of Photography
GLA 625 - The History of Photography