! Advanced Program Online: Fall 2023 and Spring 2024 enrollment now open


RISD Advanced Program Online - Artwork by Lotus Zhou
Artwork by Lotus Zhou


Similar to RISD’s first-year experience, students begin the program by focusing on Essential Fundamentals courses, which emphasize the practical skills needed to develop their ideas. Working through a series of prompts, students are challenged through research, material and method exploration to develop work that reflects issues around creativity during times of uncertainty.

During each course students create work that reflects their unique vision and direction. Upon completion of one or more Essential Fundamentals courses students can choose to move into a Featured Topic paired with a Visual and Critical Language course allowing for focus on a particular topic and medium.

From addressing the practical challenges of working with limited space and materials outside of a traditional studio, to learning how to find inspiration in the mundane, to developing and sustaining an active art-making practice, students will work independently and through peer connections to understand how constraints might inform exceptional outcomes.

Essential Fundamentals

Offered during the spring, fall and summer, these courses focus on how best to express your ideas and concepts through impactful visual communication. Additionally, you’ll strengthen connections to your own interests and passions by exploring the work of contemporary artists and designers. There will be demonstrations, lectures, presentations, critique, and feedback, all working to strengthen your core skills.

Time Commitment: During the Fall or Spring terms, students should expect to spend a minimum of five hours per week engaging in coursework. The Summer term is a shorter, more compressed experience. During summer, students should expect to engage in Essential Fundamentals courses for a minimum of 10 hours per week in each course. Students should plan their schedules accordingly to keep up with the coursework and class engagement.

Experiential Drawing

Drawing is a thinking process and a way to explore and broaden creative passages. In this class principles and elements essential to drawing are explored through a variety of media and methods. Students may use materials such as charcoal, graphite, markers, collage and water-based paint—as well as found materials and invented tools—in order to explore different processes. Students learn about a range of compositional strategies; tonal studies, volume, weight and contour, line, and form are pursued through observation and interpretation. Emphasis is placed on developing an active sketchbook practice that serves as the reference for larger projects and allows others to understand your process.

Offered in Summer 2023
Offered in Fall and Spring (as a 2-part course)
Fall/Spring Session I
Fall/Spring Session II

Exploration in Design

Design is a planning process and a way to create impact and expand ideas. In this class students investigate line, shape, color, value, pattern, texture, space and form. Experimentation with scale, transparency, transition and a variety of approaches allows students to create a personalized collection of studies and completed works. Students explore painting methods and materials such as gouache and acrylic; in addition, students may incorporate ink and basic printmaking techniques. From initial sketches to final projects, students develop a core practice to help in the success of current and future work.

Offered in Summer 2023
Offered in Fall and Spring (as a 2-part course)
Fall/Spring Session I
Fall/Spring Session II


— Featured Topics course of choice
Visual and Critical Language

Students who have completed either Experiential Drawing or Exploration in Design may want to further their immersive art and design education by choosing to explore a specific area of study. Offered during the summer, Featured Topics courses are an opportunity to focus on a singular area of study to harness your skill sets in a particular medium. Students engage in investigatory and iterative practice while also exploring different approaches and materials. These courses conclude with student final presentations. Linked to this experience is the Visual and Critical Language course, where students work through reading assignments on the lives and works of key contemporary artists and designers relevant to the Featured Topic. In addition, they will learn to speak, write and present on their personal connection to their work and what influenced their choices in its development.

Time commitment: The Summer term is a shorter, more intensive experience; students should expect to engage in Concentration courses for a minimum of 20 hours per week and should plan their schedule accordingly to keep up with the coursework and class engagement.

Featured Topics

Examples of Summer Immersion Featured Topics courses:

Animation: Beyond Entertainment

With increasing expansion, animation serves as a vital tool to highlight injustices, explain data and essential information, and bring new understanding to critical issues. This course focuses on communication, problem solving, and reflection upon global and local issues through the medium of animation. The fundamental principles are introduced through a variety of methods and materials, which may include flipbooks, storyboards, collage, cutouts, and stop-motion techniques. Students think and learn about the roles of artist-as-communicator and artist-as-educator with the ability to create content that is impactful, dynamic and effective. Independent research of political and socioeconomic areas of interest provides students with the content to develop their unique vision.

Register for this course

Drawing and Mixed Media: Expressive Ideation

The act of drawing when grounded in visual research unearths an individual act of expression that enlightens and reflects current culture. This course presents students with an opportunity to expand their understanding of drawing by using nontraditional materials and methods. Students learn to interpret drawing as a way of thinking through visual and conceptual problems, allowing them to see how to develop their own visual language that can address issues and areas of personal interest. Assignments challenge established approaches to composition, materiality, tools and concepts. Processes such as collage, frottage, and image transfer are covered to help students find their own medium of choice for future work. Students are challenged to create a series of larger-scale works that focus on a harmonious combination of experimentation and concept development.

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Graphic Design: Visualizing Information

Data visualization is storytelling that helps translate information into knowledge. In this course students learn to process complex material like time, location and hierarchy through the design of information structures and systems of form, color and typography. Projects communicate data through a variety of methods such as maps, graphs, charts and diagrams. Students create symbolic visual language to build a series of concepts and final work that makes information about critical issues such as health, environment and social structures accessible. Students will learn various methods of compiling data and translating this information in both analog (hand-making) and digital tools.

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Illustration and Identity: Finding Your Voice

Illustration crosses all boundaries in materials and messaging: The common unifier is the identifiable style and voice of the artist. In this class students learn how to create a compelling narrative from their own story, identity and viewpoint. Lectures and research feature historical and contemporary artists, as well as process and creative practice. Students develop effective concepts, characters and narrative through a variety of materials such as graphite, pen and ink, collage and painting. Genres of communication such as social commentary and fiction are investigated to further develop personal areas of interest, process and style. In this course expressive solutions to visual problems are emphasized through a rigorous sketchbook practice and the development of final concepts.

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Interpreting the Figure: Culture and Context

The figure continues to provide artists with a critical point of inspiration to express the human experience and reflect current world conditions. In this drawing course students learn the fundamentals of accurately portraying the human form by focusing on the underlying skeletal structure. Through a series of assignments, students work from observation and investigation to address anatomy and meaning. Then students are challenged to move outside of the conventional and cliché understanding of the skeleton, to explore other cultural and historical interpretations of rebirth, communication and transformation. Students develop a series of expressive drawings that position, layer and abstract the form to create work that is rich with personal meaning and unique viewpoints. Note: Students in the class are required to purchase a half-scale skeletal form along with drawing supplies. Full supply list provided upon registration.

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Print and Image: Art as Activism

How do artists convey powerful messages through image and text to address particular societal inequities? In this course students explore economic, political, environmental, and social justice issues through lectures, assigned research, online discussions and 2D studio assignments. Using a variety of drawing media, students create meaningful imagery combined with text for use in print and on social media platforms. In addition, issues of scale, perception and function are addressed as students inform, enlighten and educate their target audience in public and private spaces. For the final project, students explore a call to action that will bring attention to a social justice issue in their community.

Register for this course

Visual and Critical Language

Students enrolled in a Featured Topics course also take a corresponding Visual and Critical Language course.

Visual and Critical Language

In this course students address where we are today and how artists and designers have used their expressive capacity to reflect on current culture. Through virtual museum, gallery and artist studio tours we will examine what artists and designers are doing and saying about contemporary issues and the role their work plays in society and how it can inspire your personal creative work.

Film viewing and reading assignments on the lives and works of key contemporary artists and designers relevant to the Featured Topic give understanding of how creativity and invention always flourish during times of uncertainty. Emphasis in this course is on concept development through research strategies that help avoid the common pitfalls of the cliché, plagiarism and citing inaccurate information. Students develop the ability to speak, write and present in clear, well-reasoned ways about the work they create in the Featured Topic.

Registration for Visual and Critical Language is included when you register for a Featured Topics course of your choosing.


Online Experience

Throughout the program, students will interact with their instructor and peers in two ways. Live Zoom sessions offer face-to-face time for students to engage with the instructor and their peers. Live sessions may consist of lectures, material and other demonstrations, project development and group critiques. Instructors use Canvas, our learning management system, to provide a sequential curriculum consisting of prerecorded lectures and demonstrations; resources, research links and materials; and assignment outlines. Students share in-progress work and concepts, present fully developed projects, and participate in peer discussions to support their own work and the work of their fellow students. Students receive direct and responsive support from instructors to promote advanced learning.

This mix of synchronous (live) and asynchronous (recorded) activities means:

  • Zoom sessions will be at a set date and time in Eastern Time. You will be required to attend and be an active participant.
  • In addition to the Zoom sessions you are expected to log into Canvas daily to post images, participate in discussion boards, watch demos and tutorials and keep pace with assignments.
  • You’ll have access to the online course content any time of day or night.
  • The majority of class content, assignments, demonstrations and tutorials will be online. You will need to schedule your own study, research and creative time.

The essential elements for success are a passion to create, a willingness to try new ideas and being open to working differently. However, some students may struggle as they learn to work independently within tight deadlines, long-term projects and written assignments. These students may need additional support from family members, tutors and/or other resources not provided by the program. Each student will be assessed and graded on their engagement and performance.


An essential element of the RISD undergraduate curriculum is the studio critique (or, affectionately, “crit”). That’s because all visual artists and designers, at every stage in their career, need the advice and perspective of others. In the Advanced Program Online, you’ll learn to present your work to your peers and instructors, receive constructive criticism and analyze your classmates’ work in turn.

The Human Figure

To develop a critical understanding of art, Advanced Program Online courses may utilize images of clothed and unclothed human figures. The work that you create from these resources is designed to develop an awareness of the kinesthetics of the human form, some knowledge of human anatomy and a connection to the living energy of the subject. You’ll be expected to be non-distracting and keep all discussions on the human figure respectful.


Since most of class time is made up of lectures, demonstrations and critique, most of your work will be done outside of the classroom. Homework for all courses is substantial. You’re expected to take initiative both inside and outside of the classroom, including prioritizing your schedule to balance extensive homework assignments. The intensive curriculum of the Advanced Program Online is your dedicated time to develop your skills and concepts that can inform your portfolio. Therefore, you should carefully consider the workload of the program and avoid scheduling any competing outside activities and studies such as competitive sports training, AP coursework, SAT prep, vacations, family events, etc. during the program that will hinder your ability to keep up with your work.

Final Projects

The last week of class consists of final critiques and presentations to your class and instructors; equal in importance and intensity to final exams in other subject areas. Attendance at final classes and participation for final projects account for a major portion of your final grade. Your participation is essential to your success in the program.

Learning Outcomes

The primary goal of this program is to provide an educational experience that allows students the opportunity to focus on a passion, reflect on contemporary circumstances, and experience the pursuit of art and design topics in depth. This vital online experience will help students as they learn to be self-motivated, nimble, creative and critical thinkers. Learning outcomes include:

  • Demonstrate a strong understanding of foundational principles in drawing and design
  • Demonstrate knowledge of contemporary thinking in art and design, especially as it pertains to responses to crisis
  • Develop a rigorous, investigatory and iterative conceptual process to create work that successfully conveys personal expression and meaning to an audience.
  • Explain information, ideas and proposals effectively using methods of visual and written communication.
  • Analyze technical applications, theoretical issues and proposed concepts within their work and the work of fellow students.
  • Develop a personal work ethic to create independently.
  • Produce completed projects alongside a formal sketchbook that includes unresolved work, concepts and plans for the future.

Academic Schedule

Each course in the Advanced Program Online has a unique schedule. Most courses offer multiple sections, with students selecting the schedule that works best for them at the point of registration.

Start dates: Classes begin on the program start date (listed as asynchronous dates on your registration). Students should start engaging with course content in Canvas immediately upon the program start date, which is before the first Zoom class.

End dates: All courses end at 11:59 pm ET on the last day of the session. Students should make sure they’re available to participate in the class up until the course ends. Students will continue to have ongoing access to the class, but will not be able to engage in Canvas (i.e., uploading assignments or discussions) after the course closes.

Zoom class meetings: Live class meetings via Zoom are three hours long and meet according to the following schedule:

Fall and Spring
Live class meetings in the Fall and Spring are held on weekends, typically offered either in the morning or afternoon. Courses meet two times per session, once at the start, then again at the end.

Live class meetings in the Summer are held weekly on weekdays. Essential Fundamental courses during the first Summer session are typically offered in the morning, afternoon or evening. Concentrations in the second Summer session are offered in the morning or afternoon and meet twice each week.

Transcripts / Grades

Students will receive their final grades via the Student Portal at cereg.risd.edu (not Canvas) approximately four weeks after the end of the semester. You can view your grades and/or print an unofficial transcript by navigating to “My Enrollment History + Transcript.” Grades cannot be sent by email or provided over the phone.

After grades become available, students are welcome to request a transcript for their own use or to share with an institution by visiting our Transcript Request page. Please note there is a fee to process each request.


Courses are open to students of all skills and backgrounds, and there is no prerequisite to take an Essential Fundamentals course. Students must successfully complete one Essential Fundamentals course in order to register for a Concentration. Prerequisite courses cannot be waived.*

*Students who successfully complete the Pre-College program are eligible to take a Concentration in the Advanced Program Online without completing the prerequisite of an Essential Fundamentals course. Pre-College alumni interested in registering for a Concentration need to complete the waiver application in the Student Portal.

Note: The Advanced Program Online courses cannot serve as a substitute for Pre-College classes.

Portfolio Review for Summer Term

As a participant in the Advanced Program Online summer term, you’re invited to have your portfolio reviewed virtually by a RISD representative. Coordinated through the RISD Admissions office, this event is a great opportunity to receive direct feedback on what’s successful in your work, and what to think about developing further or improving upon in preparation for your college applications.

These live, online portfolio reviews are 15 minutes long. During the summer term, enrolled students will receive an invitation to register for a session, as well as information on how the session will work and how to prepare for it.