Online Learning FAQ

This page provides information for professors and students looking to have online music classes.

Question: I don’t have great technology skills. Can I still teach music  online?

I would say that someone’s motivation and passion to teach can often overcome any technology barrier.

Question: Is it better to teach online asynchronously or synchronously?

It depends. If you are having the need for interactivity (talking and playing between instructor and students), then I would recommend a synchronous teaching time. You can use Zoom, Skype, FaceTime etc. for a “live lesson” teaching situation. If it is mostly a didactic approach and you are lecturing and don’t have a need for interaction, asynchronous teaching can work. This means that you will likely be creating/posting videos, text, and graphic items as the main teaching focus point.

Question: How long does it take to put a semester-long (12 weeks) music class online?

A well-designed course should be given about 6 months. This includes designing the course, writing the text for the weekly modules, and creating and organizing videos and resources.

Question: I need to get my face-to-face music class online for the semester, like, yesterday. Where do I start? I’m panicking.

First, breathe. You can do this. 🙂 Creating things in panic often means things are done at less-than-your-best. 

Step 1. Begin making a list of what items you already have ready to put online. These might be the handouts that you would have for your face-to-face course, or chapter/journal readings, or even the textbook chosen. 

Step 2. Since it sounds like you already have your class designed for the semester, you have half the problem solved. Look at the next three weeks and identify what are the main learning points/goals for each week. Put these main learning points into videos of 20 minutes or less. (Yes, you may have a 2 hour lecture ready to go, but you need to break them up into 20 minutes segments or less. Chances are there are things in that 2 hours that could be refined or omitted.)

Step 3. Decide if you are going to organize your online area in weekly modules, or by topics. I find weekly modules most predictable for students, but you know your topic best. Create the headers in your Learning Management System modules/content area. You should end up with a separate header or folder area for each week/module. 

Step 4. Create the videos needed for the next three weeks – start with the most current one first. Write a video script outline and use the Powerpoint slides that you would have used for your larger lecture. Record the video with a screen capture tool like 

Step 5. Write some text that supports each video and post both the video and text into the corresponding module area. Is there an activity or discussion that students can do to “show what they know” from the learning? Add that link into the module area as well.

Step 6. Don’t forget to add the assignments into the LMS area. Include helpful descriptions of the assignment to alleviate initial student inquiries and link any dropbox or submission button where needed.  Having the assignment attached to the student calendar is always a big help, too.

Step 7. Post a weekly announcement to the students to give them a reminder of what is happening that week and to let them know that you area available. Keeping communication open is key for online teaching. I find that choosing a certain day for the announcement is helpful for both the student and for me. It’s predictable and helps with expectations for everyone.

Step 8. Each week, add at least one more video & text module to your LMS area. 

Step 9. Once you finish the semester, go back and take a look at what you created! Well done. Now you have the time to go back and make revisions and/tweak your online class.

Question: How do I teach my applied lessons online?

First, choose the application that will best suit your needs. Do you just need to have video and audio sharing for both student and instructor? Choose something like Skype or FaceTime. Will you need to share your screen to show your student how to access music or your online studio resource area? Perhaps using something like Zoom, GotoMeeting, or Blackboard Collaborate would work better for you. These apps have a bigger learning curve, but you get more out of them. 

Next, you will need to get some tech. You will need a good camera and microphone. You will need to choose your camera and mic dependent on the instrument you are teaching. For those teaching voice, or acoustic guitar, you can likely get away with just your laptop camera and built-in mic. However, keep in mind that the louder the instrument, the more the sound will need to be compressed – and that leads to degradation of sound quality. For louder instruments, say the mighty saxophone… I would recommend something that you can pull back the gain, if needed. If you aren’t planning on using you a recording studio setup with all the nice bells and whistles (and further complexities), go with something simple like a Yeti Nano mic, or a Zoom cam and recorder. Someone mentioned the OSMO Pocket (which has a mic with a camera that can follow you if you move around), but I haven’t heard the sound of it to date. Chances are, if you aren’t using your studio audio tech and rig, your sound is going to be less than CD quality.  Your student will likely just be using a laptop camera and built in mic, so be prepared.Try out your camera and mic with a music friend or colleague first. Play a few notes for each other so you can get the feel for the virtual performance exchanges. Ensure your student knows the time and link to join you for the lesson. Click, and you are off and running.

Question: What’s the best camera angle for online music lessons?

In general, the camera should be able to allow for a full view of the teacher, and permit a close up by a few simple adjustments. I recommend using a clip on a stand, if using a phone or iPad as your camera source. The stand allows you to easily adjust for the camera angle needs. Take care to look into the camera aperture when talking to your student… otherwise it looks like you are not engaged in the lesson and reading your computer screen or email. For piano players, you will likely want two cameras, or at least one camera that can take a camera view like someone looking over your shoulder. The student will need to see your fingers on the keys… and from an angle that makes sense. Having the camera at the “over the shoulder” angle will help provide a great view. However, that camera angle is awkward for keeping eye contact with your student; hence, use a second camera that is likely placed somewhere on the piano in front of you. 

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