Like many design schools, the Rochester Institute of Technology offers degrees in both Industrial Design and Architecture. Unlike most design schools, however, R.I.T. recently announced they're rolling out a Masters of Architecture degree program…online.
They're not alone. In fact, according to the Guide to Online Schools, "Online architecture degrees are available at the bachelor's, master's, and certificate levels." The site lists 31 accredited schools offering such degrees.
Which begs the question: What about Industrial Design? At press time I could only find one accredited school claiming to offer an online degree in ID: The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. However, the Online Industrial Design Degree section of their website makes no mention of which degrees--Bachelor's, Master's, Certificate--they offer as an online option.
AAU has posted this video demonstrating how their online programs work, but it's not ID-specific:
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For those of you who have earned ID degrees, could you imagine earning one online? It's been a while since I graduated, but I could not see a "distance learning" model having worked for me. The camaraderie developed in classrooms and studios, the ability to see what all of your peers were working on, the help we gave one another, the future friendships and work contacts we formed, all seemed irreplaceable. We gave each other internship leads and job leads. Perhaps most importantly, many of us had jobs waiting for us after graduation as a result of the in-person education; we'd formed rapports with professors who were working industrial designers, and many of them hired many of us (indeed, that's how I got my first two gigs) after graduation.
While I cannot imagine an online Industrial Design degree program being a suitable replacement, I suppose it's worth noting that not too long ago, the idea of buying something online--not to mention meeting romantic partners online--seemed absurd. So I'll be keeping an eye on how this progresses.
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I'm currently working through the online MA ID program with AAU. I'm working full time while doing this, and the flexibility it affords me to work around my schedule is really great. The communication systems that they have in place are sufficient to build a rapport with other students and faculty, although it is up to the student to really take advantage of these resources. I'm happy to share my experience and answer any specific questions if anyone is interested.
Hi there, I'm really interested in this? Can you share more info?
Sure! Is there anything in particular you would like to know?
Well, how about the full name of the school and program?
The school is Acedemy of Art University in San Francisco. I'm currently in their online MA program for industrial design. They also have an MFA program for ID. The great thing about the online program is it is completely remote. All assignments are submitted through detailed pictures through the portal. This is what enables me to take classes across the country from the actual university. If you're interested, in enrollment, the university's website should have more info on how to apply.
I think results would vary wildly based on the student of course, but I do think a large part of an industrial designer's job relies on the ability to collaborate, take feedback in group situations, and contribute to group discussions. The critique model of studio based learning typically facilitates this. Some schools are not really pushing their students into those less comfortable modes though. When I have found the time to teach I've often been told that I can't push students as hard as I was. In most cases the results were the students got a lot better a lot faster. They might not have always had fun, but they were up proud of their improvement and that is what I believed they were paying for. If a school isn't going to do the hard work of helping students to improve the students might as well learn online, and there are plenty of non-university options for online education.