Online Degrees: Are They a Mistake?

by Judge Josh on July 27, 2010

Lindsay lives in Alaska, and in addition to lacking warmth, daylight and tons of human companionship, she also lacks a wide variety of colleges from which to choose. So she’s doing an online degree program, and her friends’ reaction has got her in a state.

Okay, here’s the deal- I am a recent high school graduate who lives in Alaska, in my freshman year at Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online. I’m worried that I’ve made the wrong choice and might be ruining future job opportunities as a result of attending an online college.

This is what my magical octopus looks like, but I still can't draw. (courtesy of the International German Bodypainting Festival)

Not necessarily true at all.

I don’t want to say “I went to AI Online” and get laughed out of any job interviews!

If you’re doing any type of art or design for a living, your employers are going to care a lot more about your chops than where you learned them. Countless art majors have backed up my sentiments in other posts, but more on that in a second.

When people ask me about my school, the moment they hear that I go to an online college… I am told that I should reconsider my choice of school (and major, since apparently happiness is an idiotic thing to pursue.) But the sheer volume of people telling me this have really cast doubts, and I’m not sure if I should take heed and seek out another school.

I’m guessing that most of these people are your friends and/or family, who a) are not artists and don’t work in the field, and b) are probably your age and haven’t hired anyone, ever. You can listen to them and nod politely, but that doesn’t mean they know anything at all about online degrees.

The thing is- Alaska is extremely limited in terms of college education, and even more limited when it comes to my major of choice, Graphic Design (or video game design, but that’s a whole other question, really.)

That makes sense. It’s also why online degree programs exist, so the important thing is whether you’ve got talent, and whether the program you’re in is helping you expand and develop that talent.


The local college here does not have anything more than a general arts degree, and that’s not what I want. I have no intention on settling on something that doesn’t feel right.

Thumbs up.

Short of moving out of state, Art Institute Online seems to be my only option. I can’t afford to be on my own yet, rent in Anchorage is upwards of 1000 a month which doesn’t include utilities. That is a month of pay for me.

Granted, I am not an artist. In fact, I’m so bad at art that if you put my drawings next to my 6-year-old and my 4-year-old’s drawings, you can’t even tell who did what. So I have no idea what whether the Art Institute can or can’t teach you via an online curriculum.

I do know, however, that talent is what matters. You could receive your instruction from an online program, or a homeless vagrant who makes brilliant murals under bridges using only his urine that he totes around in a discarded paint can, or a magical octopus with glittery skin who only appears in your mind after you smoke a lot of pot. Doesn’t matter. If you come out with demonstrable talent, you’ll be fine.

Is online college really that bad?

“Online college” varies too widely to make broad generalizations about one way or the other. Sorta like regular college. Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes it’s a hellaciously good investment, and other times it’s a big fat overpriced waste of money.

I can definitely see some of the drawbacks, high cost included, but do I really have options? Would is be logical for me to finish up a year or two online, then switch to a traditional campus, or is that unnecessary?

That’s a question better left to the artsy folks who will likely follow up with comments, because I know little about art and the best way to learn it. However, generally speaking, I do not support the idea that you need to ditch the online degree just because it’s an online degree.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my question!

You’re welcome. Artsy types, any comments for Lindsay about whether an online art degree is something she should or shouldn’t stick with? Let us know in the comments below.

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Terry Davis July 27, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I agree with Josh that online degree programs are all over the board. My two hard and fast rules with any online learning are: (1) the school must be accredited and (2) the units must be transferable to another college or university. In my opinion, those programs that offer nontransferable classes are trade schools and not colleges… and should be priced accordingly.

Having said that, when it comes to the art world, especially the graphic design and video game design world it’s more of who you know, what you know and what you can show than it is where you learned it. If you are learning new skills and struggling to do so…it sounds like a great way to learn. If it is easy and mostly review work for you, look somewhere else. Make sure you are forming personal relationships with your instructors to establish the connections that help with recommendations down the road and good luck to you!

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Carlos July 27, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Hey first time commenter but long time reader here.
I don’t know if you can see this Lindsay but its generally agreed that the art institutes are overpriced and don’t offer much. I don’t want to discourage you from following your passion Graphic design/Game design, because I’ve been interested in said majors my self. That said read this: http://www.studentsreview.com/PA/AIOP0_comments.html
Comments are generally negative. I don’t know what it’s like in Alaska, but I can’t imagine you have a whole lot of choice. Ergo I suggest working for a bit, and seeing if you can move out of state. Maybe wait a year till you get in state tuition? I honestly think that is a better option than the art institutes. However, unless you are enjoying your education at the art institutes online, and you think its helping you, then by all means stay online. I’m just aware of the very high price of this school, and think you could find cheaper and better elsewhere.

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Anonymous July 27, 2010 at 5:54 pm

My $.02 worth…

I was accepted into the Art Institute of San Francisco (an affiliate school to AI of Pittsburg), and did most of a term there. Their program was good, so good in fact that I felt out of place and dropped out; I just didn’t have the talent to compete. If you are getting comparable marks to your classmates, if you truly feel that you have a talent that is being developed, go for it! AI is not “accredited” in the same way that, say, University of California (or other state institutions) are, but they do have connections to industry. Talk to a counselor at the school (you should be able to make a phone appt.)!

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Jamie July 27, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I am currently working towards attaining my BA in Visual Communications at theIllinois Institute of Art in Chicago (Ai). I generally take on campus classes. I am taking my first online course this quarter through Ai and I can tell you it is an excellent class. Some of my classmates feel that their online experience is even better than their classroom experience. It requires a lot of individual work as any class does. In fact, it almost requires more individual responsibility, in my opinion.

Ai schools are very good design schools. I’ve gone to several different colleges as I found it difficult to find out what I wanted to do. This school has seriously changed my life in a very positive way.

Be proud that you are going to school and proud that it is Ai. Work smarter, not harder.

Good luck.
Jamie

I’m curious if those that question your online classes have attended college themselves.

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Shaun Spalding July 27, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Being an artist myself, I can attest that there are only three benefits to art school (1) hands-on one on one mentorship with professors and peers, (2) the networking connections you make learning from your professors and peers, and finally (3) some basic technical skills and lectures about how to see the world differently.

I don’t imagine you can get any of those (except some of #3) with an online Art school. You’ll be spending A LOT of money and getting into A LOT of debt getting a degree you don’t need. You can be an artist without a degree.

IN FACT, you would probably be a better artist if you didn’t go to online Art school because you would have more money (more freedom) to concentrate on learning your craft, and you would have more time on your hands if you didn’t have to worry about turning in assignments on time.

Go ahead and take classes at the community college (to get to know people and do a little networking), spend what you would spend on text books on real books that will expand your horizons and get you thinking and get your out of your comfort zone [art books, design books, fiction, graphic novels]. Finally, join every artistic organization you can in your area as well as free online forums like DeviantArt.com

But whatever you do, don’t pay for online art school. Good luck

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Sarah July 27, 2010 at 6:58 pm

I’m in an arts field, and most places would consider the fact that you didn’t have to “get out there” to pursue your art a problem.

My husband is in computers, and he has been told by interviewers that they don’t even call people who went to online colleges.

In both the arts and computers, it is about WHO you know. How will you meet people in an online program?

Going into graphic design (or video game design) is a combination of arts and computers, neither of which generally likes online programs. So…you can probably see where I’m going with this. You need to try to look at colleges out of state.. Look at state schools in the Midwest. Rent is cheap, tuition is usually pretty cheap (even out of state), and many have great computer and art programs.

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Kristi July 27, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Heya! I’m not an art student, but I am an online student. As a Freshman many years ago I attended a traditional, pants-in-the-seat state university, then a private university as I developed an interest in a specialty not offered at the state school. When my career went down the tube with the economy, I took the opportunity to go back and follow a different thread.

This time, I went online… and I gotta say, the schools I have attended (I’ve finished my AA and less than a year shy of a BA) have been rigorous to say the least. I think as more people attend online schools or know people who have, the perception will change overall. There are still people who think that they are a real joke, but most people I talk to understand what it takes to cut the mustard.

Like others have said, accreditation is key. Schools that are not properly accredited will waste your money if you ever want to transfer… generally they don’t transfer at all. That’s a bad deal. You might check real life, accredited schools that offer art programs and see if they have offerings through their Online extension programs… they will be accredited properly and you will also be able to get federal aid.

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Stefanie July 27, 2010 at 7:18 pm

I’m not an art major, but my boyfriend of 5 years is a 3-D artist and has worked at some top companies. He taught himself to create 3-D art through tutorials online while he was going to high school (and with the advice of various online friends). Then, he got a job at a company doing menial 3D art (he was placing seats in a 3-D football stadium, I believe) and learned what he could there before moving on. He consistently worked on his portfolio and personal work to advance his career on the weekends and after work when he could (in fact, he still does, even with a good, comfy job). He worked his way up this way, learning new things at every job. He has worked modeling architecture, but mostly on video games (Halo 3, Halo Wars, etc.).

In his experience, many people in the industry think of the A.I. as kind of a joke because it is ridiculously expensive and students coming out of the A.I. get the same entry level jobs as people that never went to school (and often demand more money for those jobs, making the companies less likely to hire them). I’m sure that there are exceptions to this, depending on the teachers you sign up with. And I’m sure that you could potentially learn a lot. It really depends on your learning style. But you could also learn a lot by teaching yourself and save a ton of money. It’s all about working your way up the ladder in the video game/art industry.

Good luck, and I hope you figure everything out!

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marie July 27, 2010 at 7:22 pm

As an online student myself, having taken several online classes, I can tell you that the online classes are actually harder than the in class classes are. You have to be dedicated enough to work on your own and do the work that is reqired and there seems to be more reading involved. People DO look at you funny when you say you are taking online classes. I tell them what all is involved and they are surprised at the work and time it takes for each class.
I agree with Terry “(1) the school must be accredited and (2) the units must be transferable to another college or university.” If thats the case and the online classes are working for you, forget everyone else…. People can be negetive and mean. Just do your classes and follow what you love.

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Catrina July 27, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Not even my two cents, but one cent: it’s not where you go, it’s what you do with what has been given to you, what opportunities you create for yourself, and how you go about pursuing those opportunities.

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Kathy July 27, 2010 at 8:15 pm

I’m not an art major, but I do go to college.I went to a traditional college for my AS, but took all of my classes online. Employers are actually starting to view online students as more motivated than traditional students because they have to push themselves and learn alot on their own.

The idea that an online school doesn’t allow you to make connections or network is crap. I work online as well as take my classes online and I have made far more professional connections online than I ever will off line.

The fact is, you’re talking about not only art, but art combined with technology. Going to an online school can only benefit you in that area since you have to actually use technology on your own to even complete the courses.

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Leeja July 27, 2010 at 8:36 pm

My boyfriend is an engineering professor at a major university, and I attend University of Phoenix online. I’m a 37 year old accounting major, not looking to become a CPA, and I can sympathize with those of you who get odd looks when you say you’re going to school online. At your age, without the responsibilities of a family (I assume), I would do everything I could to attend a ground campus. For me, the online education is fine, because I have 19 years of experience in my field, but jobs I’m otherwise qualified for are closed to me because I lack a bachelors degree. However, I think that those who will looking at you as a young person who chose to live “in the bubble” of their hometown rather than take to the road to get the education you really want may look at you with a harsher eye than a person in my situation.

Good luck!

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kayla July 27, 2010 at 9:06 pm

I was excepted to SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design), but shortly after the finance reality set in and I was unable to attend. I also decided on AIOnline. However before enrolling for their graphic design bachelors program, I called around to local designers asking they would consider me if I graduated from an online institute instead of a school like SCAD. All of them said it’s about proving the work that you can do. If you want to know for sure, call your dream business you plan on working for, and call the one that hires and ask them. I definitely understand since I went through it myself, but instead of looking to friends for advice, look to your future employers.

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Kelley Lucanegro July 27, 2010 at 9:30 pm

*Pardon the second post. I accidentally hit “enter” while typing.*

Lindsay,

In my freshman year at the University of Central Florida, I was an Illustration major (I’ve since switched to business), and I can tell you that for art-related jobs, your PORTFOLIO is what employers consider. Art school is simply the most effective way to build your portfolio and develop important skills through instruction and exercise. You could be employed without any art education as long as you had an impressive portfolio and could display a proper work ethic. Getting an online degree for art would be fine. Don’t worry. :) All you need to do is focus on building a portfolio that displays versatility but incorporates a discernible theme. You can include work from class assignments or it be all your own personal work.

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kiwi July 27, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Having done both online and on-campus classes, and been a fine art major and now a computer science major, I can tell you that online programs really are similar to on-campus. Classes are harder/easier dependent on the instructor, not the media (although I truly cannot recommend taking any form of accounting class online, period).

You don’t *have* to go to school to be an artist, but to be a graphic designer, having that degree after your name gets you in the door A LOT faster (personal experience here). You can draw and paint and create on your own, but working in small groups really helped me to improve, as well as the technical instruction I received. Some people do better self-directed. But if no one got anything out of attending art school, we probably wouldn’t have them around anymore.

I plan on doing my master’s completely online at a pretty high-end school. Harvard offers online degree programs, and MIT’s been doing it for around a decade, I think. Regis University is a specialist in this area, and they are nothing if not rigorous (Jesuit school, people. Don’t think I need to say anything else here). There are a ton of very, very good schools that offer online programs and there are more every day. I personally have no interest in working for anyone who thinks online degrees from places like NC State and MIT are jokes. We’re just not on the same wavelength, and that’s not likely to improve.

I don’t think Ai credits transfer very smoothly, so I’d stick it out. Your book is what counts. Get some freelance in while you’re in school (even the free stuff, because printed pieces really do help you). Tell the naysayers to come see you in 10 years and then make a judgement. Are they paying for any of this? You could tell them that you take $10 contributions for every unasked for opinion they care to offer….

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Nolan July 27, 2010 at 10:13 pm

I often draw cosmic octopi.

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James July 28, 2010 at 12:52 am

I am going to partially disagree with kiwi and Kathy. Some employers accept online degrees, but many still don’t. Yes, they can be harder than onground courses, but employers don’t see it that way.

I am going to strongly agree with Kelley. Your portfolio is the key, and not just for art, but for most jobs. The difference being non-artists will have non-art stuff in the portfolio. Internships, paid or unpaid, will do more for your career than an Art degree from wherever.

http://firaxis.com/jobs/career.php is a major game designer and the link has great advice on those wanting to pursue video game careers.

Video game design programs are pumping out way more students than the demand, and without experience, it isn’t going to help you get a job.

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Teresa July 28, 2010 at 1:01 am

Hey Lindsay,
I think the online schooling is a great idea. It saves you money and you can learn everything in the comfort of your own home or favourite working space. If you have the discipline it takes to complete an online course, then I saw go ahead.
As for whether or not you should switch from online to campus halfway through, I am not too sure. The councilors at AI should be able to answer that question for you. Don’t be afraid to email them. Also keep in mind, if the school thought that giving their courses online would decrease the success rate of their students, I do not believe that the institution would offer it online.

Blessings,
Teresa

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James July 28, 2010 at 1:10 am

There are only a handful of video game design companies out there and the number of job openings is not that large.

On accredited schools, make sure it is a real accredited school. There are plenty of fake accrediting agencies out there.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unrecognized_accreditation_associations_of_higher_learning

It also links to diploma mill schools, but the list is by no means complete.

If you choose an online school, choose the cheapest you can find that has a good reputation.

This place is hiring. I included the link because it shows what they want. Most companies are going to want to see copies of your work and several years in the industry (3-5+). Check out internships in your desired field. Design some games to use in your portfolio and realize they will probably want for you to have several published examples.

http://www.crypticstudios.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=236&Itemid=46

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Diana Watkins July 28, 2010 at 1:21 am

Hey! I’ve been through a Bachelor’s Degree program where I showed up in person, and then I tried a class at AI online while attending an Art Institute of Portland in-person class. The AI Portland class blew me away. Smart kids, great instructors, and good connections all over the Northwest. I’d almost say better than Seattle but I don’t know for sure.

The online class, however, doesn’t cut it for design. You need to be able to interact with other people, share ideas, not just work in a vacuum and read text for that kind of stuff. Graphic design isn’t just about the graphic design. It’s about sharing ideas, getting inspired by others, and learning how to make connections. And making a lot of them. Hanging out after class to talk to a professor may seem geeky, but it’s how you get ahead, and if you show the extra effort they will put forth extra effort for you.

If it was a text-heavy class like a business major I’d say sure. But for graphic design? Not so much. Especially not for the price you have to pay. For that price, to do online, you may as well save a huge chunk of change by doing your own research into design trends and styles, getting inspired by what you can find on google search that other people do, and buying a few good books on Amazon.

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James July 28, 2010 at 1:25 am

I agree with marie to make sure the courses will transfer. Many schools like AI don’t have transferable credits. I went to school with several people from Vatterott, several of the Art/Technical schools, and Devry, and they did not transfer. Not only were they out the fairly large sum of money for these courses, but they had to take them again, basically double paying and taking twice as long for each course.

I went for two degrees because it increased my marketability between 150 – 200% and if one degree is not hiring, the other probably is. I had to take another 30 hours, but it has been worth it.

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Anonymous July 28, 2010 at 1:30 am

One last thought. Some computer science type degrees qualify for a SMART grant that helps with up to $4,000 in additional funds. You need a 3.0 GPA and have to maintain it. You also have to be a junior or senior.

http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/SmartGrants.jsp

PDF link of computer science degrees at the bottom of the page.

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Michael July 28, 2010 at 1:54 am

I understand how you feel about staying in AK. I do not live there but everyone I know up there really loves it. After heading up in the summer as a “tourist” to do some fishing, I would love to live there. yes it was summer, but the dark cold winters would be perfect to get tons of online work done and would drastically reduce the price of having to live on your own. I currently live with my parents and go to UW-Rock in WI to save tons of money. It might well worth it to do things online.
-Mike

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K July 28, 2010 at 8:16 am

Hello! I’ve been whittling away at a Bachelors in Graphic Design for years…I finally myself ended up with Pittsburgh Online, due to the limitations of the schools in my area. I had actually wanted to go to the physical AI’s in high school, but I no longer live near one. I had the same concerns, in fact I still HAVE the same concerns with finances.

What I can tell you is ask your counselors about credit transfers and whether they are or not accredited (which they are, they took most of my transfers, and I was told that transferring credits out will not be a problem – though of course success rate can differ with other schools. This is an issue whenever you transfer, some times a few items just plain won’t apply – but for your core classes, I see no danger).

Also, the points on meeting people from other commenters above are fantastic. Networking. So important. However, I’m an honor society member. I know our group encourages networking, and is working a social networking site to enhance that option. The online school hub also has networking (or at least social) options. I cannot attest to their strength personally. But go to deviant art. Go to pinkmuse. View galleries online. Marvel colorist and pencil artists frequently reference each other on Deviantart. They’re pros. Not to say that’s a credible networking option for EVERY NEW ARTIST OUT THERE, but in an increasingly digital age there are many artists who maintain online identities / connect with others they can work with online. Chances are, if your area doesn’t have art classes available and art demand may not be very high in the job field (I ran into this problem). So at some point, relocation and face to face ladder climbing in an entry level design position may be very necessary. In the meantime, this could be a good option for you.

I’ve moved a good deal since I started taking college courses, part of the reason I’m still going, and I’ve attended universities and community colleges. I did not decide to take studio art classes until recently, however. I can tell you that professors vary, and it depends on how you learn. But I have not had one studio class online where I did not walk away with personal attention that helped me grow as an artist. In my life drawing class, which I finished a few months ago, we would literally receive a five minute jing critique – where the prof would point out sections we had improved on / done correctly (for anatomy, as well as drawing technique) and manipulate the image to show how it could be better. For example, I had to draw the skeletal structure of the hand. He told me the thumb should be larger and my outlining less thick. He utilized his graphic program to demonstrate, and note the correct relationship between bones. He’d then show in detail what I did well, and how I could further improve it (more highlights HERE, try this type of eraser…imagine light from here, reflecting here, blend this…) Such a knowledgeable professor, who was so willing to help. The visuals, and also having them online where I could revisit them at my own pace, were incredibly helpful.

And, students MUST post on each others work…I have never gotten so much feedback. It’s not all glorious, let me tell you, but it’s so much more helpful than getting back a paper 3 weeks later and realizing you got a concept wrong right before a test. Grades and feedback must be posted timely.

In high school, I took art for all four years. I was never shown proper techniques. I’m a visual learner. So seeing an instructional video, I eat it up – immediately try things out, and understand/ apply feedback I’m given.

If you’re disciplined enough to do work when somebody is not in your face everyday, you’ll be fine. But it is VERY fast paced (5.5 week semesters) so stick with it. I do feel I’ve gotten more out of this year than I have so far in my college career…compared to the last uni I attended, where they allowed 30 people into design a YEAR in a huge campus and suggested those who didn’t make the cut should just major in sculpture…having a chance to attempt core classes, see that I am capable of excelling in them, and growing as an artist – it’s been incredibly helpful for me. And in researching other schools, albeit in Minneapolis where I was going to relocate to, I’d end up paying about the same amount.

Be smart with your loans, get a good rate, talk to people who know more than you, see how you can budget yourself. So many artists get started with a traditional degree. It can be so much cheaper. But if that’s not an option, I feel like nearly every class I’ve taken at Pittsburgh online was useful and informative (AND, I should say, I have earned A’s in all classes but one which was not a core design class). Which is such a better ratio than I’ve had, personally, with in person classes.

Don’t write it off as an option, if that’s the way you want to go for your career and nothing else is available. If you feel you can work for awhile, apply and relocate to a cheaper school, look into that. But if that’s not working, I would encourage you to look at AiPo. You get what you put into it, like any degree really, but due to the fast pace and high amount of work you produce there’s no way to simply skate through. So take criticism with a grain of salt, and look at all your options.

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Jessica July 28, 2010 at 11:13 am

Hi,
If you are looking to get into game design a few things you can do to help yourself are get a digital tutors account/subscription or see if your school can provide you with one. Digital tutors has literally thousands of videos about pretty much any 3d package, and adobe products. Also there are a lot of good free tutorials out there especially for Maya, 3dmax and Blender. To be a game designer you will probably start out as a 3d generalist so you should know how to model, and animate. Also you should know at least one 3d package like Maya, XSI, or 3d max. Maya and 3d max are pretty much industry standard. I think too as a student you can get Autodesk Programs free for a year, but your school will probably provide you with a license of the software they use. Something too that will help improve your drawing skill is going to a life drawing class, also a good site to try is pose maniacs.
Hope this helps. I am taking 3d game animation at a school in new brunswick and its really wonderful . Its a wonderful feeling being able to create things in 3d and then see them moving and emoting on screen. Good luck in your future studies.

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Kara July 28, 2010 at 11:38 am

Hey there. I plan to be an art major as well, and I have to tell you right now, as long as the person knows what they’re talking about, you can learn art ANYWHERE. I’m on the world’s largest art website, where I haven’t started college even, but there are other artists on there who have just as valuable input on art as professors. If you feel you are learning and progressing where you are, stick with it! And good luck!

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Corri July 29, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I have to agree with everyone who says go for it. I’m an Art major (Illustrator) just now trasnferring to the Academy of Art University in Cali, which I will be doing all online.

First off, I have spent time in a trade school and a traditional campus (yet I’m only 21). I have taken online classes too in order to get a certificate in Fine arts from Penn foster. The point is, I’ve had great learning experiences from everywhere I’ve gone. I’ve met wonderful teachers both online and off and for anyone who tells you not to do it, forget them. I’ve been told for years I’m going to end up living in a cardboard box in Mexico, because I want to be an artist, but someone has to draw the stuff we see around us.

As for online schooling, it’s ify sometimes, but all colleges are. Seriously, grin and go for it. If it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world, check out a different school. You won’t know if the school is the right fit for you or not until you’ve tried it right?

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Anonymous July 30, 2010 at 11:37 am

Maybe call up a bunch of real employers and ask them what they think when they see those online universities. It sure is a lot of money to spend on something that clearly still has a stigma attached to it. And don’t talk to the advisors at the school about that because they will just lie to you….they are in it for your money. Can you not move to the state where you would like to go to school and gain residency for one year?

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Kelsey August 1, 2010 at 1:36 pm

I would agree there’s a great variety in the quality distributed between various online schools. On the good side, usually school review sites will only have the most jaded student and ex-students commenting on the school so its probably not as bad as a lot of those people posting make it out to be. However, if the school is affiliated with the AI franchise of schools across the country, I dont believe they are college-accredited so if you ever wanted to transfer credits you probably wouldn’t have that ability. My brief experience with AI San Francisco left a bad taste in my mouth. There were a ton of fees just to apply and a $150 fee was supposedly refundable but you have to wait like 90 days or so to get it back. We never got our money back.

I’m going to the Academy of Art University and have taken both their on campus and online courses. Some people prefer the online courses for their convenience and for some classes its probably an easy way to get some credits out of the way. I however found it frustrating to have to wait sometimes weeks later to get feedback on an assignment. When you’re on campus you not only have the aid of instant feedback from your teachers but you are way more engaged with your fellow classmates as well. In my experience more networking occurs on-campus.

Being in Alaska is tricky, although I ended up traveling 1,000 miles across the country (My family and I are broke as well and I’m getting 0 financial support from them) myself to attend a worthwhile art school. Look at what colleges you’d really like to attend and seeing what kind of credits they’re willing to transfer over. There’s a good chance you could save money by maybe attending some community colleges classes online and later going somewhere on campus. Some art schools are good about giving scholarships, especially those with promising talent. Do your homework and research various programs and also a benefit to community college it can give you time to build a better portfolio to increase those odds of schoalrships.

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Carey August 9, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I know what you are talking about but I wouldn’t worry as so many people have received their degrees online. If you are super worried you could also visit online education programs
and see if what you took from AI will transfer to other schools (perhaps more local state ran schools). I still think you are fine however.

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Kathleen August 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm

I think that if you’re going for video game design, even if you were present at the university you’d be doing most of your coursework via the computer– taking the class through the computer might not create much of a noticeable gap.

One disadvantage which doing a degree online *might* have is that you aren’t exposing yourself to as many people (of course I don’t know if this is for certain, not having done an online course myself) which might mean less contacts and connections to jobs. I just graduated from UCSC’s art degree program, and I got a job right away (hooray) and it was through people I met in a neighboring program– actually, in the computer game degree program :) I really don’t know what the social atmosphere is like for an online program– but with luck, maybe you’ll come out with friends who are aware of your skills– I would say maybe you can be thinking about that while you’re doing your online degree: stay active on facebook and connect with your classmates, post your images on flikr and your facebook account, email them interesting bits of news.. Create your own web page and ask them to critique. If one of them gets into a company later and finds out the company needs another graphic artist, they might remember you… Well, it’s an idea anyway.. Oh and do side-jobs online while you’re taking classes. Look for people who need graphic work done, on job bulletin boards online etc… craigslist… I could think of many more if given some time.

–On the note about jobs… Are you planning to stay in Alaska after graduating? You may find yourself pulled by the job market to another state or perhaps Canada… Of course, I can also see the possibility of being able to carry out a good part of your career online, plenty of artists do this nowadays. Is that what you’d like to do? — I think that, if you really want to and are ready in two years to make a radical move to a faraway place, you could think about in what states/cities would being there in person be a big advantage in job-seeking. (in other words, if you decide to go the route of transferring to an in-person degree, you might think of studying where the jobs are… that is, to where you might be working. As the big advantage of being there in person is meeting people face to face, and being ready to jump at opportunities you hear about/see.) Just an idea, of course. You just might get all the same advantages by being active online…

–It sounds to me like the friends you have around you at the moment just don’t get the idea of online education– sorry if that sounds a little harsh. (sounds like the same might be said about their understanding of art degrees/careers.) Online degrees are new and alot of people don’t have alot of knowledge about it (or have heard only the bad stuff) I think this blog shows, however, that beyond your physical horizons there are people with alot more familiarity with online degrees, both good and bad, and who don’t think you’re going wrong at all.

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Deborah May 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Online degree programs are not that new. Online education started in 1989 and has grown in technology and enthusiam. Even state universities have online courses to accommodate the working student.

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Roger August 26, 2010 at 8:51 am

Interesting post, although it’s more relevant for folks who’re studying art. However, I think the broad rules of online education apply to all the fields. First and the most important rule is that the school must be accredited by a proper national or regional accrediting agency. Second, the quality of education disbursed should be at par with a traditional degree. Third, the institute should have a system in place to help its online students. Independence University is one of the leading distance learning universities. All distance education programs offered by IU have the same course content as a classroom degree and the university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC).

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Collene January 22, 2011 at 5:53 pm

This makes me ask the question: is it possible to go take classes through an online program and then attend an additional unrelated campus part time? I know you can do this with high school, but can you do this with college as well?

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Deborah May 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I am from Alaska and resent the lack of life and sunshine : ) We hae lots of life and lots of sunshine especially during our summer months.
I do understand how you feel Lindsay. The options for higher educaiton can be limited in Alaska and you may need to step Outside or obtain your degree online – I did and have not gotten laughed at yet. Remember, employers do not hire degrees, they hire qualified people.

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jordan June 14, 2011 at 12:08 am

So I’m seeing input from a lot of non-art majors or art majors that have online classes. I go to a traditional art school. We see people from online courses come and go at my school. The work load may be more but i honestly feel like you learn more if you have a teacher behind you commenting while you design or sketch. I would agree that you can learn your trade anywhere BUT if there are a few fields where “name power” is important. Art is one of those fields, there are so many types of artists doing so many things that to outshine your competitors in the job market yes you must have an amazing portfolio but if they see a resume first and see that you went to an online university instead of one of the big name art colleges I believe that you MAY be overlooked. I chose to bite the bullet, take the extra financial aide and attend a major art school in the Midwest. So that’s my two cents as an art major.

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Rikk Wolf August 24, 2011 at 6:22 am

The Art Institutes, especially Ai Online, are a complete for-profit scam school. Their courses are pitiful, don’t prepare you and their degrees have no respect on the job market. They are owned by a crooked company called EDMC currently being sued for fraud by The Department of Justice. They let anyone attend, even students with absolutely zero talent – even students that can’t read or write!

If you have been cheated by any of the Art Institutes please contact me right away at wolf.rikk@gmail.com. I am seeking avenues to help students sold into financial slavery by these criminals.

Please watch this video and DO NOT ENROLL:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SU29jTJC7BI

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