I often get asked if I enjoyed attending school online or if I would still do it if I had to do it all over again. I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Interactive Media Design from the Art Institute Online, which is actually the “online division” of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. As I finished my degree in 2006, I decided to ask fellow students for some pros & cons of attending The Art Institute Online (AIO). Let me start by saying that this website is not sponsored nor endorsed by The Art Institutes so everything you read here are honest opinions and will not be sugarcoated. Students just tell it like it is on this site. So here is a list of their most popular responses in no particular order (keep in mind this is a collection of actual comments from students as described in August 2006):
- Flexible Schedule – Do assignments and read lectures, books, websites, etc whenever and wherever you want
- Learn Anywhere – Wherever there is an internet connection, you can be in class.
- Few “tests” – Most grades are based on projects that help show individual talent and understanding rather than simple memorization.
- Convenience & Flexibility – It’s good for those that prefer to work independently, but it does require a bit of discipline.
- Convenience – Don’t have to worry about weather issues (like snow).
- Anonymity – Because this is somewhat anonymous, people may participate more than they probably would in a traditional classroom setting where they would shy away from discussions.
- Dealing with professionals in my line of work – Most everyone is already in the creative field in one way or another, so we can relate.
- Cost – Currently about $70k for a bachelor degree)
- Many classes are dated – Quite a bit of interactive media assignments aren’t currently being used in the real world. I don’t care what the facilitators try to tell you, Authorware is dead…let it go.
- Lack of Social Aspect – There is no face-to-face interaction that students of ground schools get to experience. Network and socializing is somewhat more difficult and less effective
- Lack of Traditional Benefits – Due to it’s nature there are no benefits like you would find at a traditional campus, such as student gyms, doctors, social programs, stocked library, ect.
- Lack of Advice – The school only provides a minimum amount of guidance when pursuing financial aid and career guidance.
- Class Lecture Material/Textbook Choices – Most times, the information is so old in the lectures and even more often than that, the information included is not in depth enough. Quite often, the textbooks are less than helpful as well. There are many students that do not even buy textbooks…ever…and still make straight A’s.
- Anonymity – Yes, this is both a pro and a con. Sometimes it’s hard to be so alone…it’s not just being alone as far as classes go. It is being anonymous when it comes to administration, too. Academic advisers would seem to be more apt to help out if we were right in front of them.
- Waiting Period – Sometimes it makes things difficult when you have questions for an instructor and you have to wait for a response through e-mail or in the discussions….sometimes takes days. On rare occasions, the facilitator may not even respond, which negatively impacts assignments.
- Facilitators – They should still be teachers. Just because we are online and this is self-based learning, does that mean that they should simply give grades and feedback. We want the wisdom of their experience. There are some good ones out there, those that go above and beyond to do whatever they can to make the learning experience a positive one. Far too often, though, the bad ones outweigh the good ones…and a bad facilitator makes it a painful experience when you feel like you’re wasting 5 1/2 weeks and $1300+ dollars!
- Pre-structured Classes – The teachers basically have little or no input into what material we cover and how we cover it since it is all laid out in advance. Many facilitators blame the material rather than fixing it as they go. Then again, some facilitators step up and fix the mistakes, errors, and outdated material.
- State grants (outside of PA) will not be accepted at The Art Institute Online since AIO is a division of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. If you receive a state grant outside of PA…well…you’re out of luck.
- No connection with most of the classmates! I mean yeah, we have bios on the first day of class but other than that, the postings are just blah and it’s easy to disconnect with people. It would be nice if we had a section in each class for more personal topics if someone wants to post whats new with them, life, pictures, to share what they did over the weekend, whatever. There is a student lounge for such posts, but the “new” classroom format makes it easy for cobwebs to form in that section of the forums.
- Session 2 of every quarter - The Art Institute Online arguably has the most screwed up schedule for “semesters”. There are two sessions in a quarter. Each session is 5 1/2 weeks long. The first session runs basically from Monday-Sunday (yes…you can be in class any day of the week, but the first 5 are typically the busiest). The second session though runs Thursday-Wednesday which means you do the bulk of assignments on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday! It makes it incredibly difficult to get into any sort of schedule with work and life as you are forced to move everything around the changing school schedule. It flat out sucks.
So there you have it…a rather extensive, honest list from actual students of the pros and cons of The Art Institute Online. Hopefully this will give people interested in attending AIO an inside scoop on what might be expected. I hope it also serves as a list of issues for The Art Institute that the students are most concerned about. A few of the cons are minor issues that could easily be resolved within the administration, which would make an immediate impact. The #1 pro was “convenience” as students like the ability to attend class wherever and whenever. I, personally, had an extremely hard time justifying the cost of the online version needing to be $100 more per class than the on-ground version at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh and I have never received a straight-up and honest answer for the cost. I’ve been led to believe (based on my experience as well as others) they can charge whatever they feel like since they are are private institute and operate it as more of a business than an educational institution…students just have to deal with it. Students simply do not get all of the advantages as campus students with computers, labs, software, library, face-to-face & immediate feedback, etc. Online learning may be the wave of the future, but the Art Institute is wading about ankle deep and not fully utilizing nor teaching many of the latest technology (as far as “Interactive Media Design” goes)…it’s still a rather rough and turbulent ride as they work out the kinks. If you can attend an on-ground campus, then I strongly suggest doing so. If your schedule prohibits that, then The Art Institute Online can still offer an opportunity to hang a degree on your wall.
Be sure to also read the numerous comments below posted by actual students as well as people who went through the application process for The Art Institute Online. You’ll find many reviews for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division below.
Do you have something you’d like to share about The Art Institute Online? Please do so in the comment section below!