A Day in the Life of An Online Student
If you’re trying to figure out how to incorporate a creative education into your already busy lifestyle, online education might be the right choice for you. If you choose to attend school online, you will have the freedom to take classes at home, on your own schedule.
While convenient, online education does require the same discipline as an on-ground education. Coursework must be completed on time and you have to check in with instructors and participate in virtual classroom message boards.
Your dedication will result in great rewards that will help you turn your love of creativity into skills that can be marketed in the real world.
Matthew Updegrove, a 2010 graduate of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division, is one such student. An avid follower of animation, Updegrove knew that he wanted to pursue a creative career, so he turned to online study so he could continue his freelance work while earning a degree.
“As an online student, I had the benefit of catering my work schedule to the online school program,” says Updegrove.
Updegrove has taken courses both online and in a traditional setting, and prefers the more compact format of online classes.
“The difference I found the most challenging (in online education) is that the course terms are broken up into five and half weeks for an entire course,” says Updegrove. “Inherently, this requires a very clear schedule for your work.”
To complete his projects on time, Updegrove worked during the day, simulating an on-campus experience. He also balanced his studies and freelancing by working in the evening when necessary. The extra work paid off in helping him to fine-tune the skills he’d been studying.
“I found that the animation courses required a lot of extra hours and plenty of late nights on top of working in the daytime,” Updegrove says.
Like on-ground curriculum, online courses are lead by professional instructors, many of whom have contacts in the industry. Updegrove found that his instructors’ business insight and direct feedback were extremely beneficial, and notes that some of them were currently employed by large studios.
Updegrove also enjoyed the unique opportunity of being able to learn from seasoned professionals without having to relocate.
“You would have to be in areas like Los Angeles to have campus faculty working in the major animation studios,” he says.
Studying online has additional benefits, according to Updegrove, including no commute to and from school.
“There is a natural appeal to learning online, as there is this notion of working your own schedule and not having to commute,” Updegrove says.
Updegrove was also able to participate in his classes when traveling for work.
“The other aspect to the online program that I found to be a great benefit was the ability to be mobile while taking courses,” says Updegrove. “It enabled me to continue my line of work, to travel, and take my classes.”
But Updegrove admits that he sometimes missed seeing classmates in real life.
“At times I missed meeting people in class, but I have made friends over the years with some fellow students, and even had the opportunity to meet them” says Updegrove. “An online program can be an excellent avenue, as long as you are aware and able to make the commitments required to really make the most of the program.”
Updegrove has utilized the experience, contacts, and education that he gained at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division and is pursuing a career as an animator. He is currently working on a film being produced by a studio connected to one of his online professors. He is also working on a presentation using 3D animation and renders for a proposal by an architect for a Flight 93 memorial.
Updegrove hopes to work in pre-production for a company such as Nickelodeon, Disney, or The Cartoon Network someday.
He encourages prospective students to look into how an online education could fit into their lifestyles. For him, it provided the opportunity to balance a freelance career with a desire to earn a degree from an art school.
Just months after graduation, he’s already begun to take the lessons of discipline and hard work he gained as an online student into the real world as he purses his creative goals.
“Like any educational experience, you get out of it what you put in,” Updegrove says. “I put a lot of hours and effort into my work, and I can see a clear progression in my talents and skills ranging from animation to basic artistic skills.”