What are the best online animation degree programs?
|Academy of Art University||San Francisco||California|
|Digital Animation & Visual Effects School||Orlando||Florida|
|Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design||Denver||Colorado|
|Full Sail University||Winter Park||Florida|
|Savannah College of Art and Design||Savannah||Georgia|
Our list of the best schools with online animation degrees. The list is in no particular order and is not intended to be a ranking.
Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Academy of Art University houses the School of Animation & Visual Effects, which is the only Animation & VFX school that teaches in a studio production environment (StudioX). Distance learning students have the option to work in the studio through a combination of on-campus and online classes. Otherwise, students will learn and engage with peers and expert instructors through "beautifully produced" videos, narrated, interactive slideshows, recorded audio, digital documents, interviews with experts, livestreams, and hands-on work.
Geared specifically towards art and design, the Academy says that it is “constantly innovating” the animation curriculum created by instructional designers and industry professionals. Assignments are uploaded to the Academy’s custom-designed Learning Management System (LMS), where it is shared with classmates, and instructors can leave visual markups, video, written and recorded feedback. Students in the online program can expect the same rigorous education (but with greater flexibility), hands-on training, and real-world industry expertise as the Academy's onsite students.
Academy of Art programs for aspiring animators include AA, BFA, MA and MFA degrees in Animation & Visual Effects.
Undergraduate students will take classes specializing in one main area of the industry. Emphasis is placed on creating a professional demo reel and/or portfolio in tune with the latest industry trends. Specialization areas include 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, Rigging, Animation Generalist, Animation Producing, Storyboarding, 2D Animation, Puppet Fabrication, Stop Motion Animation, Compositing, Dynamics, Lighting, and Matte Painting.
Course highlights include Cinematics for Animation & VFX, Computer Animation Production, Producing for Animation & Visual Effects, Sketching for Communication, and 3D Animation. Undergraduates will also complete Senior Portfolio for Animation & VFX, Collaborative Project, and Internship in Animation.
The MA program provides students an opportunity to work in 2D Animation & Stop Motion, 3D Animation, 3D Modeling, or Visual Effects, while focusing on storytelling with an emphasis on exhibiting technical skills and eliciting emotional responses. Students can expect to take courses such as Advanced Character Animation, Feature Animation, Gesture & Quick Sketch for Animators, Storyboarding, and 3D Animation Physics and Mechanics. Students will also complete a portfolio.
The MFA in Animation & Visual Effects program focuses on developing skills in any one of the many areas of expertise within the animation and visual effects industry. The program educates students in all aspects of animation and visual effects, from ideation to post production. Course highlights include Acting for Animators, Perspective for Characters & Environment, Storyboarding for Thesis, 3D Modeling & Animation (Maya), Traditional Animation, and Visual Effects for Animation. MFA students will also take several Directed Study courses and Special Topics, as well as Animation: Thesis Completion, Final Portfolio Preparation and ANM 900: Internship.
All online programs are enhanced by the student-run, 6,000-member Facebook group AAUHOO, online social media & blogs, the online library, music library, and learning tutorials, and career advice, support & mentor chats. Students will also engage in one-on-one sessions with the director, town hall meetings, director Q&A, VIP guest speakers, and workshops, and they have access to live-streamed events & presentations and on-demand demonstration videos. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in the digital portfolio showcase.
Graduates of the School of Animation & Visual Effects at Academy of Art University have landed positions at Blizzard Entertainment, CBS Interactive, Disney Interactive, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Lucasfilm, NBCUniversal, Pixar, and Sony Computer Entertainment America.
Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School), Orlando, Florida
The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (Dave School) offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Animation that takes just 30 months to complete. Per the school, the program “provides students with a practical application to the animation process.” Students in the program will learn and understand acting for animators, body and facial animation, character rigging, creature animation, drawing for animators, previsualization, principles of movement, rigging, visual storytelling, and performance using a variety of software.
DAVE school graduates and instructors have worked on major productions such as The Hunger Games, Green Lantern, Game of Thrones, Terminator Genisys, Jurassic World, Captain America, The Hobbit, Godzilla, and many others.
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Denver, Colorado
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) offers a BFA in Animation. Per the school, this fully online program is designed to help students “understand how to use the technical skills and techniques they’ve learned to create original animation and compelling narratives.”
The program, which takes four years to complete, offers Drawing (2D) or Advanced Software (3D) Concentrations as well as Stop Motion, Anatomy and Figure Studies. Other curriculum highlights include Modeling, Character Design, Virtual Environments, Storyboarding, and Line of Action. Students will graduate from the program with a polished portfolio and experience gained from an (optional) internship.
Graduates of RMCAD’s Animation BFA Program are prepared to seek positions such as Flash Developer/Designer, New Media Designer, Digital Videographer, 3D Artist, Character Developer, and many others. RMCAD graduates have landed positions at Pixar, Blue Sky Studios, Lola VFX, and Industrial Light & Magic, to name a few.
Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Full Sail University’s Online BS in Computer Animation “guides students through the same production pipeline used in professional studios – from storyboarding, sketching, and visual development to modeling and character animation, and final compositing,” says the school. The program, which takes just 29 months to complete, highlights courses such as Animation Production, Character Design and Creation, Character Rigging, and Technical Animation.
Animation Production develops students' ability to plan, coordinate, and study assets, using traditional methods to demonstrate their learned strengths as a 3D artist.
Character Design and Creation builds upon previously learned skills by applying knowledge to 3D characters. Students begin with preproduction of a character, developing concept art and character sheets.
Character Rigging introduces students to the foundations of character rigging, which is the process of adding joints and controls to a character that allows an animator to make the it move in a realistic manner.
Technical Animation moves beyond traditional keyframe animation to explore systems that allow for the creation of more complex animation tasks such as cloth, hair, water, and other physics-based motion.
Other course highlights include 2D and 3D Animation, Character Animation, Compositing and Scene Finishing, Shading and Lighting, Psychology of Play, Technology in the Entertainment and Media Industries, and Visual Development.
A total of seven Project and Portfolio courses must be completed as well, including Project and Portfolio I & II: 3-D Arts, and Project and Portfolio III-VII: Computer Animation. Full Sail’s unique Project and Portfolio courses combine “hands-on learning experiences with summative and formative portfolio assessments.” The courses are taken in addition to an internship, which can be pursued after the student has successfully completed 50% of the required credit hours for the BS program.
Graduates of the programs at Full Sail University have been credited on films such as Ant Man and the Wasp, Avengers: Infinity War, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Solo: A Star Wars Story, Deadpool 2, Incredibles 2, and many others.
Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is home to an award-winning eLearning program that the school says is a “collaborative online environment empowers students to connect to faculty and programs without disconnecting from their professional and personal lives.” Classes for the online program are taught by the same “world-class” faculty as the SCAD’s on-campus courses, and students are provided with “the tools and technology they need to be successful academically and in their professional lives.”
Just a sampling of free tools and downloads available to fully enrolled eLearning students include Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max, Autodesk Mudbox; Adobe Creative Cloud; Nuke Personal Learning Edition; Microsoft Windows 8, Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft Visual Studio, Microsoft XNA Game Studio, Microsoft Kinect for Windows SDK, Microsoft Expression Studio; Lynda.com and Unity 3D.
Offered for more than 12 years, SCAD’s online degrees have achieved the rank of Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Teaching and Learning from the Online Learning Consortium, and the school is the first art and design university to receive the Instructional Technology Council’s award for Outstanding Distance Education Program.
Online options for animators include MA and MFA degrees in Animation. The MA is a 45 credit hour program that consists of courses such as Animation Aesthetics and Practice, Art Criticism, Computer-Generated Modeling and Design, Environment Look Development, and 3D Cartoon Character Animation. Students will also complete a Collaborative Project and the Final Animation MA Project, which provides students the opportunity to synthesize their learning into a cohesive project piece. Students propose, develop, and execute a project that is then cut into their reel.
The MFA requires 90 credit hours of study, with many of the same courses as the MA program. Additional courses include Media Theory and Application, and Storyboarding and Previsualization. MFA students will also complete Animation MFA Thesis Exploration and Research, Animation MFA Thesis Visual Component Production, and Animation MFA Thesis Completion. A Graduate Internship is also part of the program.
Courses for the online MA and MFA programs begin and end on a 10-week schedule to coincide with the university's academic calendar. Graduates of SCAD’s animation programs have landed positions at major studios such as Walt Disney Animation Studios, Digital Domain, and Bento Box Entertainment.
Other Online Animation Programs to Consider
University of Montana, Missoula, Montana
The School of Media Arts at University of Montana is home to the school’s first fully online Bachelor of Arts Degree. Per the school, the Online BA in Media Arts “enables students to maximize their creative potential through the study and artistic application of emerging digital technologies.” The program “provides learning opportunities in interactive media, web and internet technologies, gaming, and a variety of digital design applications including sound, still image, motion, and animation.”
Due to the flexible nature of this online program, the school says that it can serve as an effective compliment to those interested in a double major. There are no prerequisites and 45 credit hours in the major are required to graduate. Course highlights include Digital Technology in the Arts, Creative Coding, Photoshop: Art & Design, Illustrator: Vector and Layout Design, Principles of Interactive Media, Art and Science of International Games, and Intro to Motion Design.
Flashpoint Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Flashpoint Chicago, a Campus of Columbia College Hollywood, says that its “online learning environment mimics the on-campus experience, while providing flexibility to work virtually” whenever and where ever it is most convenient for the student. The online program features engaging video lectures, lively group discussions, real-time instructor feedback, expert instruction, and hands-on learning.
Program options for aspiring animators include a BFA in Visual Effects featuring specialized visual effects coursework that provides training in 2D and 3D digital art, animation, and traditional art skills. The program also introduces students to the basics of design, entrepreneurship, production, media and motion, as well as digital art and design software, including the Adobe Creative Suite, Maya, Zbrush, Houdini, Cinema4D, Arnold, and RenderMan.
The program, which takes 3-4 years to complete, prepares graduates for career paths such as Character Animator, Character Modeler, Environmental Modeler, Simulations FX Technical Director, Motion Graphics Designer, Rigger, Digital Compositor, Motion Capture Technical Director, and many others.
Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Arizona
The College of Fine Arts and Production at Grand Canyon University (GCU) offers a fully online BA in Digital Design with an Emphasis in Animation. Per the school, the program “encourages collaboration with peers via the Digital Design Club, which fosters the pre-professional development of visual communication.” Online students also interact with “fully qualified instructors” via GCU’s “dynamic” online learning platform.
The Online BA “provides a comprehensive framework for the next generation of multimedia artists.” Students in the program will “examine the interplay of light, color and texture in visual arts,” and “explore the technical capabilities and creative possibilities of motion graphics, typography, 2D animation and 3D modeling.”
While working through a hands-on curriculum, students will explore advanced elements of storytelling and animation production. Course highlights for this 120 credit hour program include 3D Animation and the Mechanics of Motion, Designing with Motion Graphics, 3D Visual Effects and Lighting, Short Film Production, and Business for the Design Professional.
Also part of the program is the Advanced Design Practicum, which allows students to develop their own professional portfolios. Through the Practicum, students demonstrate their ability to provide reality-based, customer-driven digital design solutions.
Besides career paths such as Animator, Web Animator, and Game Artist, graduates of the program will be prepared to seek employment in areas such as architectural visualization, new product development, and technical simulations for the manufacturing and medical fields.
Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, New Hampshire
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers an Online BA in Graphic Design and Media Arts with a Concentration in 3D Modeling & Animation that consists of 120 credit hours of study. The program, which covers the 12 principles of animation, focuses on 3D sculpting workflow including animating character functions, designing wireframe 3D models, foundations in color theory and typography, and rendering photorealistic effects. Students in the program will use industry-standard software, including Adobe Creative Suite and Autodesk’s Maya and Mudbox, to master the basics of modeling and create hands-on projects.
Per the school, “coursework for the 3D modeling and animation degree begins with the full design course of study, which blends theory and practice, and culminates in cutting-edge courses in digital sculpting and 3-D character animation.” Specific course highlights for the program include Interactive Animation, 3D Modeling and Animation, 3D Character Animation, Advanced Digital Imaging, Basic Design and Color Theory, Language and Practice of Media Arts, and Digital Sculpting.
Online education services for the program include an online library, tutoring, and 24/7 tech support “all developed specifically with a busy adult in mind.” Graduates of the program are well prepared to take on jobs in animation, game development, advertising, virtual education, marketing, and other fields that use graphics to provide “spectacular” interactive experiences.
University of Advancing Technology, Tempe, Arizona
University of Advancing Technology (UAT) describes its BA in Game Art and Animation as a “computer animation degree.” The program consists of 120 credit hours, including 36 major credits. Per the school, students Game Art and Animation “will gain an insight into what is involved at all levels of game development to create 2D and 3D art and animation assets for multiple video game platforms such as PC, consoles, mobile, online and VR.” They will also “master the artistic principles used in video game art asset creation such as color theory, lighting, shading, anatomy, perspective, scene staging, modeling low polygon and high polygon, 3D modeling texturing, rigging and key frame and motion capture animations.”
Course highlights include Advanced Materials, Shaders and Lighting, Characters and Vehicles Animation, Concept Art, Environmental and FX Animation, Figure and Character Sculpting, Game Art and Animation Fundamentals, Game Texturing, and Industry Professional Development. Students will also take three Game Production Studio courses (Production Studio I-III), where they will collaborate and create games in a simulated production studio. An internship is also part of the program.
UAT BA in Game Art and Animation graduates are prepared for career paths such as Character Artist Modeler and Texture Artist, Character Artist Animator and Rigger, Environment Artist Modeler and Texture Artist, Environment Artist Animator, Mechanical Mesh Modeler and Texture Artist, and Mechanical Mesh Animator and Rigger.
Programs to Consider: