Online Enrollment Rises; Students Seek Degrees in Non Traditional Art School Setting

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Academy of Art University Students Find Professional Success Through Online Art Classes

An ever-increasing number of Academy of Art University students are attending art school online to get the necessary degrees to achieve their dream careers. According to the Sloan Consortium, more than a fifth of all students enrolled in higher education were taking at least one online course in 2007. Academy of Art University's fully accredited online art school far outstrips the average with two-thirds of the student population taking at least one online class.

Since its inception in 2001, the Academy's online art school has ballooned from 400 to 10,000 students. Touting a customized user interface, precise curriculum development and passionate artist community, the online art school draws students from more than 90 countries.

Online art school students can earn AA, BFA and MFA degrees in 12 concentrations of art and design: Advertising, Animation & Visual Effects, Computer Arts: New Media, Digital Arts & Communications, Fashion, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Illustration, Industrial Design, Interior Architecture & Design, Motion Pictures & Television and Photography.

"The curriculum for the online art school mirrors that of the San Francisco campus whenever possible. We occasionally have to make adjustments, but I'd say about 95 percent of the time online students are working on the exact same projects as on campus students," said Academy of Art University's Director of Online Graduate Studies Jason Shaeffer.

Online photography school student Nik Clements finds the photography classes to be just as challenging, if not more so, than taking courses in San Francisco. "I wanted to take photography courses online, build an amazing portfolio and graduate with a degree that I was proud of, but I needed the flexibility of online art classes to make it work. The Academy seemed perfect," he said.

Clements' experience at the online art school has far exceeded his expectations. "I took a BFA class online at another school and it was terrible," he said. "The Academy's system itself is very well thought out. I rarely see any glitches, and it feels like an actual classroom setting. Other online schools should look at the Academy."

Academy of Art University Online goes to great lengths to constantly refine its user experience and courses. The online art school turned away clunky third-party systems, opting to build its own Learning Management System (LMS).

"Most systems are really outdated and difficult to use. Not ideal for an art and design school. We've spent years building our own LMS, and we're constantly making improvements," said Shaeffer.

The online art classes themselves also go through a rigorous build process, often taking up to a year or more to complete. An instructor, copyeditor and instructional designer team up to create classes. Once classes are complete, instructors are brought into Academy video studios specifically designed to record demonstrations for online classes. These demonstration videos are highly polished and produced, using two or three cameras to film each video, ensuring that online art school students have "the best seat in the class". The Academy's team of 25 videographers and editors shoot and update class videos throughout the year.

"If you're excited about education, why wouldn't you want to get your courses out to as many people as possible, in the best format possible?" asks Shaeffer. "Our online art school gives everyone the opportunity to achieve their dream careers."

Set to graduate in Fall 2009, Clements' is already seeing the fruits of his labor. His photograph 1 + 10 was published in Photographer's Forum Best of College Photography 2008. He was recognized in the 2008 International Photographer of the Year competition and the 29th Annual College Photography Contest. And, he has three photographs exhibited in the Biggs Museum of American Art just to name a few of his accomplishments.

"I feel very blessed to have found Academy of Art University's online photography school. Getting my MFA here is one of the best choices I've ever made," said Clements.

About Academy of Art University, San Francisco

With over 13,000 students, Academy of Art University is the nation's largest private art and design university. Established in 1929, the school offers accredited AA, BFA, M.Arch and MFA programs in 14 different majors, as well as continuing art education with classes in copywriting, fashion merchandising, interior design, new media, computer animation, sculpture, graphic design, cinematography, industrial design, digital photography and car design. Multimedia Communications is the school's newest major, offering BA and MA degrees. Students can also enroll in a flexible online degree program in art and design.

Academy of Art University is an accredited member of WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges), NASAD, Council for Interior Design Accreditation (BFA-IAD) and NAAB (M-ARCH).

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Amanda Wardell
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