Is it better to study online or at university?

Peter Stringer is one of our talented students here at Animation Apprentice, and has been working hard to polish his animation reel, the final stage of our course. He has also been studying animation at University, combining a traditional bricks-and-mortar education with online study. We asked him to compare the two, and to explore what are the pro's and con's of these very different ways of learning.

AA: How would you compare the two ways of learning, traditional university education and studying online?

Peter: I would say that the main difference is that the classroom experience is vastly different.  There is a something of a sense of a classroom in online classes, but you do not see the other students face to face like you would at university. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it is simply different. 

I have found that the learners on an online course are a lot more serious about turning up to classes and learning the subject than university students are. I think that the reason for this is partly because you are learning from better teachers and partly because the students are paying with their own money - not the government's money.

AA: What are the best things and worst things about studying at University?

Peter: The best thing about studying at university is being in a room full of people with similar interests to you.  Another good thing is you have extensive interaction with fellow students throughout the day, and it is through that interaction that you often learn the most.

The worst thing about university education is people not turning up for classes, or sometimes students just being there simply for something to do. One thing I have found at university is that a majority of the teachers are there because they have already had their heyday, and are using teaching as an alternative means of employment. What I mean by that is they have spent years working in industry and now only teach full time.   

AA: What are the best and worst things about studying online?

Peter: The best thing about online education is the teachers. The teachers on online courses teach whilst also working on industry briefs, and on the better courses they do this for companies such as DreamWorks, Disney, Framestore etc.  Another important thing is the amount of personal feedback you receive and the quality of it. You would never get 10-15 minutes of personal feedback from a university teacher because of time limits. Online this is simply not the case, so the feedback is much better.

The worst thing about online education would be the lack of face to face contact with tutors - though to be honest this really does not bother me too much. There is a classroom as such for online classes, although you do not interact with tutors and pupils as much as some people might prefer. But, again, this is not a big issue for me personally.   

AA: What advice would you give to any student who wants to learn to  animate?

Peter: I would advise any aspiring animator to take this course before progressing onto other animation courses, whether they are online or classroom based.  The click-by-click feedback and clear concise explanations behind the teacher’s corrections of student work make this course one-of-a-kind. 

I would advise students to get familiar with the Maya interface before taking the course, as the software can look very intimidating to new users. Good navigation of the program is essential to creating high end animation. 

Another suggestion I would make though this is a personal one is that people should try learning basic animation principles in the traditional hand drawn way, as this is invaluable for both 2-D and 3-D animation, as it helps to improve timing, spacing and an understanding of fluid movement.