Can I really deliver my music lesson online?
Outside the world has ground to a halt. No cars on the road, the birds singing in empty parks, bustling high streets closed. But in our homes, many of us are busier than ever as we try to quickly adjust to a new, albeit temporary normal, find ways of doing our work online and teaching our children at home.
For many in the arts, delivering creative activities online has been of interest for many years, an organic and developing process where we explore how real time online experiences might create new opportunities and new ways of accessing arts activities.
At NYMAZ, we’ve been working with music teachers and organisations for the last six years, to help them to deliver instrumental lessons, CPD opportunities, and even live concerts and events, online.
This has helped them to overcome the challenges of rural isolation, where it may be difficult for teachers to travel to far distant schools, and more practical to teach over the internet. Our partners have also been interested in the potential that online music education has to reach young people facing other challenges to access such as health issues or specific educational needs.
Now, with the global Covid-19 pandemic, the whole music sector is having to find new ways of reaching our pupils and audiences and many of us are having to learn new skills very quickly and get to grips with online delivery at speed. So, what have our teachers and partner organisations learned that might help you get started?
There are many real benefits
Online teaching can help to reach the pupil wherever they are – overcoming geographical barriers such as rural isolation or health and access issues; reduces travel time and costs; and increases pupil choice and access to specialist tuition and expertise.
Young people are very comfortable with live online communication and tend to really enjoy this method of learning. You might be able to connect with pupils more often and provide better support as a result.
There are challenges and differences to face to face lessons
You cannot play together and you cannot clap along – so think about what resources you need the pupil to have before you start. Metronome? Backing track?
Some things will take longer and need a different approach – tuning, replacing reeds or strings – are there apps that can help your pupil (or can you create instructional videos?)
You need to replace your briefcase/rucksack/music bag with a ‘virtual bag of tricks’ so that you have digital resources at your fingertips to keep your lessons responsive to the pupil’s needs.
Many teachers find pupils focus better in online lessons – it does require more concentration from both parties, so pace yourself and don’t do too much, too soon!
Planning and preparation
Find out what your broadband speed is, and that of your pupils. We suggest 2mbps as minimum (download and upload speed). Go to speedtest.net to check it. Ask any other internet users at your house and your pupils’ location not to use the internet during the lesson.
Send all login details and instructions for joining the online lesson to your pupils well in advance and check that they are able to download and run any software required. Make sure you have another way of contacting them/parents during the lesson, ideally a phone number.
Check whether the pupil has any additional needs or disabilities that you need to take into account.
Send over any links, information or resources in advance, or make available in a shared folder during the lesson.
The teaching space
Keep your teaching space as neutral as possible – with a plain background, no personal details or items in view of the camera, and good natural lighting. Teach from a living or study space, not a bedroom.
Make sure you aren’t in front of a window or light, or the pupils will just see a shadow
Keep your clothes plain too – avoid busy patterns and bright colours and no jangly jewellery – these sounds will be louder over the microphone
Make sure you are in a space where you will be free of distractions, people walking past, noises from outside or in the home
Practice with your software, equipment and instrument in advance by doing a trial lesson with friends or colleagues – can they see and hear you? Is everything in view of the camera?
Consider the safeguarding issues
Clearly, your duty of care is the same whether you are delivering an online or face to face lesson and you should revisit your own policies and procedures to look at how online delivery might affect the safeguards you already have in place.
Your choice of platform needs to bear Safeguarding and data protection in mind. Will lessons be recorded and/or stored and how will this be managed? What personal information needs to be shared in order for the platform to be used?
What supervision will there be of lessons a) in person (parent or guardian nearby) b) online – who has access to the data (video, chat, files) to be shared and how will you manage this?
The situation will vary as to whether you are a private teacher, working for an online teaching organisation or for an educational organisation (Music Service or school) NYMAZ has created a comprehensive set of guidelines for Music Education Hubs in England, which also has useful checklists that are relevant to those in other contexts. www.connectresound.org.uk/resources
Teacher and pupils’ devices should be set to ‘do not disturb’ so that no messages pop up onscreen (or distracting sounds!)
Teaching skills and tips
As with everything in music, practice makes perfect and you have all the skills and creativity you need to make this work!
A few things to remember:
- Encourage your pupil to warm up and tune up in advance (if not a first lesson)
- Download and share a tuning app with your pupil and demonstrate tuning in the first lesson
- Involve parents/guardians in set up and tuning – online learning tends to nurture independence in learners, and more involvement from parents/guardians/teachers at the pupil end.
- Don’t move your hands too much – keep gestures clear
- There will be a delay to get used to – watch and listen and leave space for the pupil to answer
- Use the first few minutes to build rapport and get the set up and the pupils’ end just right
- If things go wrong, don’t panic, but have a plan. Try switching browser or platform. Check the settings on your software. If you can’t fix it, reschedule, don’t waste the whole lesson on troubleshooting.
- Check in, how did it go, what do we need to learn/change?
- What apps, video and web based resources can I use and/or create to support my pupils between lessons?
Connect: Resound has an ongoing programme of online CPD and resources – please use it and tell us more about what you need to deliver your music lessons online!
We are currently delivering regular FREE training and advice sessions www.connectresound.org.uk/training
Thanks to all of our Music Education Hub Partners, Grant Golding, Cliff Manning, Your Space Music Lessons and musictutors.co.uk who have all shaped this guidance.
Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio and Cleyder Duque