Art Institute Online!?!?


Hello, I enjoyed the posts I’ve read concerning going to school or not going to school, but I have a very specific question as I am in a state where there is no CG education available and the only VA (prior military) approved school I’ve found so far that does distance education is The Art Institute Online. I don’t expect anyone to slander the school or anything but I would really like to know if there is anyone familiar with the program or any of its graduates going on to do great things for the industry. The program is 76K for 4yrs done from home. My cousin who is already partially in the field told me to just web surf and learn from master artists on forums for free. At the end of the day I just want to make what’s in my mind come to life and I really don’t care how I do it…but I aint rich neither so I’d like to know if the AIOnline is worth the price or is what my cousin told me true.


I’ve taken some classes online with Ai, I also attend an Ai campus and personally I wouldn’t recommend distance learning. For me the best part about going to school is interaction with other students and while you have that online to a point it is the same thing you would have here on cgsociety.

I only took one art class online, the rest were gen eds. You get 5 weeks per class (not enough if you ask me) and the standards are way low. Teachers are extra nice but often I’ve noticed honest criticism isn’t welcomed.

If I were you I’d find a non cg specific major (art major) and get your degree and art fundamentals and in your spare time continue your software training, there are so many resources out there.

You can also look at places like animation mentor ( ) if you are wanting to go into animation.

I would say it is your decision. If you think you can handle 4 years of online classes and realize that you will have to do a lot of the learning yourself still (school only offers you motivation, a start on fundamentals and organizes your time imo.) then this might be good for you. I would say think about your other options aswell as how self motivated you are.

Also, considering Ai is a private school (no in state tuition), wouldn’t it cost the same to attend any school out of state? I’m not familiar with the prior military approved school you were talking about so this might not be an option.

Let me know if there is any other question I might be able to answer. Good luck.


Hey thanks for the honest answer. I do want to do animation in fact but can’t move down to Florida to go to Full Sail because of my current situation (just bought a house)! What classes do you think would be relevant to animation? figure drawing, sculpting, painting, web design, digital art, digital media because there isn’t a whole lot to chose from or at least I haven’t found it here!? I want to bring my ideas to life you know what I mean? I guess I can just do like my cousin said and save that 76K and learn from the pros on the net but I would really like to be in school for something relevant and I have the GI Bill to help me pay for it. Hey thanks for any advice.


Online education is a choice. If you are dedicated and motivated, it can really be a benefit. It allows you a flexible alternative to going on campus for 4 years. My experience with The Art Institute Online has been very good. I am a full time student in Interactive Media Design. I don’t know much about their animation program, but I think the school is great, it’s well respected and, from what I have been told, the majority of their grads get a job shortly after leaving school.


I used to do the AI online program, and if your interested in doing it, there’s a couple of things you have to keep in mind. The last time I was on there, in July, they had it to where you had to be logged on for a certain amount of time for each period, and some of the teacher will count the time you spent towards your overall grade for the week. And then they total that up for the period. Its best for taking Gen Ed. courses though, but if you want the benifits of the art classes your better off trying to get to a campus, some things just don’t translate as well online. I probably just said basically the same thing as the others, but I hope this helps.


$76,000 for 4 years is simply not worth it. Browse the forum instead, you’ll learn a whole lot more.


You guys have helped me tremendously. Thanks! Maybe oneday we’ll work together on something, but for now I will practice and get my skills sharper (on the forum) :wise: with the pros.


Well I did attend an Art Institute campis and personally I would rather have kept my money and learned how I learned anyways. On the threads here and in other forums!

The animation program is a joke. Youll spend half of that time learning math and programming and not even touching a computer for a while, much less any 3D program until you are too frustrated to learn anyways. After you graduate the school will try and stick you in the first place they can in order to get you as that percentage point on job placement. And as my entire class can tell you, its not whaere you want to be, its some underpaying job with some no-nothing as a boss. And you probably will end up tracing peoples pictures for etched glass as 2 of the the people in my graduating class did.

I would look for another school completely. Online schools usually are 10 Xs harder because you cant just ask for your teacher to look at why your model is all messed up. So you have to be able to teach yourself with books. I would say go to a community college and get some college credits in something close then just pay attention here and ask questions and you’ll end up just fine.


I don’t know if that is a fair statement. While I can see why you would say such things and why it is cool to complain, and easy to blame a school for not ending up with the skill set you desired, after spending a lot of money.

First of all, Ai is a big company and like most big things, Ai is a brand. The schools are all different, more than you would think. Staff, scheduling, classes you take, what you learn are all established at school level not corporate.  Second thing, I assume you were going for a bachelor degree. It amazes me how many people complain that they have to take general education classes and even art classes! Well why are you going to school if you only want software training? Get a certificate degree if you don’t need an art education. Degrees are meant to be a little broad so if you just want to animate and hate rigging/modeling/everything else either suck it up because you will get a college degree you can always use out of it, or go for something that fits your needs.


Third, I know the schools try to sell you the idea that they find you jobs. I have no such expectations. Know what will get you a good job? Your portfolio! 

How do you get a good portfolio? Not by doing the minimum school projects and pretending you are still in high school. Main problem with Ai schools is that they take in too many kids with no interest in what they do or motivation to do it. I go to portfolio shows and max 1 or 2 kids put any effort and pride into the work they do and guess what? They are the ones getting the good jobs. Most are hired on the spot before they even sign their graduation papers. Magic? No. Same teachers, same time, same school, no excuses! 


Yes people who are good put in a lot of extra time out of class and teach themselves a lot of what they know. No I don’t think the school can make you a good artist if you don’t push yourself and go above what it asked of you and develop a strong work ethic. I’ve seen teachers have to pull down the level of a class because 90% of the kids could not keep up, leaving me frustrated but the teachers always made sure to meet with me and support me going faster than the class.


Life lesson nr 1: There will not always be someone there you can ask for help, learn to figure solutions for yourself and that will make you a valuable employee in any industry.


I don’t mean to be too forward, and I’m talking in general terms not directed towards you specifically. 

Stoli, I missed the question directed towards me.
I think you answered your own question. It really depends what you are after. If you know what you want to do, say character animation, you would also want to think about an acting class, storyboarding classes, writing classes and so on.

For modelling, painting, figure drawing, sculpture are very important.

Going towards more technical, you have rigging and dynamics and particle effects. These are a lot of software training, need programming experience, math and so on. Compositing and video editing are also related areas.

I would also suggest you look at film programs around you for an alternative. Learn lighting and cinematography, take photography classes.

Hope that helps.


:eek: :eek: Whhheewww…


Okay, so I have decided to stick to the forums for learning CG and I am waiting for the Community College to open back up at the first of the year to take some ground courses, but when it comes time to actually get my hard and software is Maya the industry standard because I have seen some stuff you guys have made with other programs and the work is beautiful, but I’m wondering if I should learn on the platform most used in the industry as my base before trying my hand at something else… Any advice is greatly appreciated. And can a laptop be used for modeling or is it better to just get a desktop?


I’d say laptops nowadays are capable of modeling. I have a 3 year old laptop and it did fine. But I don’t see them being used to do a lot of rendering. There’s already a thread that someone asked about a laptop for Maya and Zbrush. (LINK). Naturally a desktop would be more powerful. You want mobility or power?

As for the platform, I’d say most people here would say it’s all about knowing the art than the tools. There are fundamentals in modeling, rigging, animation, etc. that just translate to any program. With that in mind, it’s fine to start with a common industry tool. Just don’t let it get in the way of learning the important stuff.


Hey thanks! I was thinking about just getting a desktop but I haven’t found anything less than 3K that has everything in it… Is this standard or can I find something good for a lower price? Thanks in advance because your replies are definitely appreciated.


Is all of this true for the Art Insititutes of California? I’m considering going to the art institute of california in LA and I would hate to pay the 84K if it is going to be people holding everyones hand and not being judgemental of their work, or that I wont get anything out of it.

I would much rather get a degree in Computer Science and learn the stuff on my own if Ai is like that.


What is your focus? I assume more technical than artistic since you mention computer science. If so, I would say that yeah a computer science degree would go longer ways for you than Ai. Don’t leave out the art part, maybe you could minor in art of some sorts (if that is an option).

Also for anyone looking at Ai and are still in highschool, look at their scholarships. That is the nr 1 reason I’m attending one. They covered 75% of my tuition, 50% of which all I did was submit my portfolio.

I can’t answer specifically about the LA school. I have friends in San Diego and know a little about that school, aswell as the Toronto campus.
I would say take the little tour with them, then go for a personal tour and talk to some students. A senior would be your best bet. They will know best what is right and what is wrong with the school.


Stay as far away from AI as POSSIBLE! is my advise to you.

I have been attending Ai in Boston for 3years now. They hire a lot of part time teachers that wouldn’t even qualify as a satisfactory teacher in a High school much less a college of higher learning (my personal opinion). Most of the teachers in my particular school are not enthusiastic and most of them make it a point to let you know that this is their part time job and they don’t really care. Most of the assignments are half baked. some teachers even make them up on the spot with little to no consideration for the general lesson of the assignment. There are a few good teachers in the school but way too few to mention. One particular experience that made me feel like crap was when I asked my professor why her suggestion would be better for my design. Her response was a snappy “BECAUSE I HAVE 14 years of experience” Very professional answer. Thanks. Dealing with the Administration IS A NIGHTMARE!! Most of the time they will give you a run around to find a person that can help you which almost always resulted in you finding out that the particular person is in a meeting or “is not at work today”. They also ended up loosing very sensitive personal information, which contained my SSN and financial information. When I questioned an administrator about this and mentioned that this is of a sensitive nature and could result in legal actions, the guy exploded pretty much jumped up from his chair and started screaming “DONT COME IN HERE AND THREATEN ME!". I asked him to sign a piece of paper saying that he had a meeting with me and that I communicated my concerns. The guys didn’t want to sign it and then finally threw a pen and paper in my direction and said “YOU WRITE IT!” Finally got the a hole to sign it. After that happened I wanted to make sure nothing else was wrong and requested a print out of all the charges to my name in a detailed report. By doing this I discovered they charged me about $1800 for health insurance which I did not require because I had my own and housing damage charges for dorms when I lived in an apartment and not in the dorms. All of which was returned to me after a meeting with the president of the school.

I am still there strictly because transferring would be too much of a headache not to mention I have 2 semesters until I graduate. I also promised that I would tell as many people as possible the truth about that school and save them the hardship that I went through. I hope this paints a picture for you and helps you decide if AI is the right place for you.

** This was my experiance and sorry for not answering your question directly, I just wanted to inform you of what goes on in some of these places. everything that I said is stricly from my personal experiance and my personal opinion. I have been learning things for my self after school and I tend to spend more time at home learning by visiting various sites and creating my own projects as well as doing freelance design work.


This sounds more like an isolated incident then anything. The LA campus I toured said they have one of the guys who designed Maya on their Academic board, one of the guys who wrote a popular 3DSMax book as a teacher, and various other people who are well known. Then again I went on a 30 minute tour so I’m not an expect on it.


While I read through all the responses I am sad to hear of these horror-related Ai stories.

I can only speak on behalf of the Art Institute of Phoenix, Arizona and tell you that while it was never always rainbows and puppy dogs I got out exactly what I expected from it. Like mcernusca said, don’t simply EXPECT to be awarded that “killer job” and “awesome portfolio” things like that are awarded to those who went far and beyond then what they are normally told to do from both their teachers and peers.

You have to devote a lot of time, dedication, patience, and love while being there because shit will happen as people have posted. I’ve run through similiar things as well but due to my good fortune was able to still stay focused and if anything made sure to work harder to get out of any situation was i put into.

I’ve already graduated and thanks to having a great number of contacts and portfolio book in hand my first “big-time” job interview lead to my first big break. How did I do this? By not depending simply on the school alone. They simply provide you the tools, it’s up to you on what you do with them.


Yeah I always thought that based on locations the Ai’s would have a different collection of professionals… The Boston AI has a lot of great teachers in the Audio department, and most of the Gen Ed teachers are great. They just lack in other areas. I failed to mention that part in my previous post. My previous post seems almost like a drunken rant. :shrug: They definitely sold me on the school when they took me on the tour. Bait and HOOK!. The inadequacies of the schools administrative staff and faculty are just difficult to deal with some days. However I am grateful because this school has taught me some great lessons that where not part of their normal education plan. I learned how a corporation works, also got some experience in dealing with people in a corporate setting. I am almost more interested in running a business now after seeing how their system works. It also motivated me to find things out for my self and seek educational experiences elsewhere as some of you had mentioned. It all depends on your reasons for going to school in the first place. For me It was always the thought of a degree as a safety net, I always remember thinking “if all else fails I can just get a job at some corporation for a fixed salary”. I guess if you’re a motivated enough person you can master anything and be fairly successful.


I’m thankful for everyones post and I hope to be as knowledgable on these matters as you guys so I can help others with similar concerns.