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Online Art Courses: How Do They Work?

Online art courses offer instruction in a range of arts, including painting, drawing and digital arts. Such classes provide students with knowledge on the theory and history of art, in addition to instructor feedback on assignments.

There are several key features of online art courses to consider before enrolling, including material delivery methods and technological requirements. We'll examine these considerations and also take a look at what hybrid art programs entail.

Overview of Online Art Courses

Distance learning art courses generally focus on the practice of visual arts and can be completed entirely online. These classes focus on readings and lectures covering history, theory or techniques, while simultaneously engaging students in hands-on practice and exercises. Additionally, some art classes may require students to read from a textbook, which they can purchase online.

These courses are usually available from four-year universities or two-year community colleges, and some schools offer complete art programs through distance learning, such as a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) or a Master of Fine Arts (MFA). Admission requirements vary, but undergraduate programs usually require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED. Prospective graduate students need a bachelor's degree and may be required to submit a portfolio of their artwork.

Online Learning Platforms

Students in an online art class typically have access to a course management system or learning platform. Through this platform, they may:

  • Watch recorded lectures
  • Access course readings
  • Retrieve assignments
  • Correspond with instructors and classmates
  • Download course-related software

Students submit their work to an online drop box and may scan or photograph non-digital work to turn it in. Instructors provide individual feedback online, typically through the learning management system being used for the class.

Technological Requirements

All online courses require students to have access to the Internet and a computer. Program information can usually be accessed via PCs, Macs and tablets. Many courses in digital arts require students to either purchase or download software, such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Reader, or Adobe Flash, in order to participate. The cost of this software is often in addition to course tuition. Students may also need access to a digital camera, scanner other equipment.

Common Classes

Many schools offer online courses in digital art because of the ease with which artistic methods and finished work can be viewed and posted on the Internet. However, online courses teaching photography or the history of art are also available. These classes may be offered by a school for college credit or act as non-credit continuing education options. Common online art course selections include the following:

  • Introduction to art
  • Art history
  • Digital photography
  • Graphic design
  • Multimedia animation

Hybrid or Blended Programs

For students who have the ability to periodically attend on-campus meetings, some schools offer hybrid or blended art courses that include both online learning and in-person meetings with instructors. The format of these courses offers students much of the same flexibility as online art courses, but allows them to spend time face-to-face with instructors to receive critiques, seek advice or ask questions. Depending on the course, students may be required to attend a regular class session on-campus.

Students who are interested in art can enroll in fully online or hybrid courses and programs, in which the curriculum is delivered through a web-based platform. Course options vary widely and can include art theory and history, as well as practice-focused classes like photography.


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