Transitioning to online teaching can seem daunting at first, particularly if you feel you are not particularly tech-savvy however as with most skills, everything is learnable and we are so lucky to live in a time whereby a Youtube tutorial for almost anything is available at our fingertips. We are also very lucky to have a friendly community of experienced teachers who are only a message away through platforms like Facebook and are usually more than happy to help.
Nothing quite beats in-person lessons however teaching online has a number of benefits including:
* Lessons can continue in the event of illness without the risk of spreading infection onto other members of the studio, minimising schedule disruptions and potential loss of income.
* Most students, particularly children are already quite tech-savvy and used to communicating online and can often assist you if you need tech support.
* Students tend to listen more attentively to instructions and watch closely as they have to be able to replicate what they have heard and seen.
* Lessons are recordable which can be a useful tool for both parties to review.
* You can teach anywhere as long as you have an instrument, a device and a reasonable internet connection.
* Your ability to communicate as a teacher is likely to improve dramatically as you need to be more effective and efficient in your delivery of concepts as well as extra prepared with your lesson resources prior to the lesson.
Things you need to get started:
● Your instrument.
● A stable internet connection.
● A device with video capabilities such as a computer, tablet or smartphone. It’s better if you can use a device with a bigger screen yet not essential. Note that your students will also need one of these devices positioned where their hands can be seen (note that a music stand makes a great tripod! See image below for an example).
● A videoconferencing application such as Zoom, Skype or Facetime. We recommend testing this with a family member or colleague to familiarise yourself with how to use the software confidently before using it with your students.
● For pianists, an overhead camera is highly recommended as it is helpful for students to see a birds-eye view of your hands and the keyboard when demonstrating. There are many different options for these and quite often you can use your phone in a suitable mount if you do not wish to invest in another piece of technology.
● Another optional recommendation is a reasonable microphone input to your device if possible, as the better the quality of sound the more enjoyable the experience will be for your student and for your ability to work on sound together. Often quality wireless headphones can be another solution to minimise background noise.
● Reasonable lighting as it will also improve the quality of your videos, consider extra lamps.
Tips for setting up:
● Ensure you are familiar with the platform you are using, whether it be Skype, Facetime or Zoom and make sure it is compatible with your student’s devices (eg. Facetime will only work from one Apple device to another). Ensure you know the procedure for connecting a call and have communicated this effectively with your students prior to the lesson so they know what to expect.
● Make sure you are familiar with how to switch cameras if you are using multiple and how to share your screen if you use any programs that you would like them to see.
● Be prepared with all of the resources you may need within arms reach and ensure you have sent any potential resources such as sheet music or worksheets via email prior to each lesson. This is important as we need to be as professional as possible and you do not want to waste lesson time with being unprepared as we are already dealing with families who may be questioning the value of online lessons. You might also want to allow 5 minutes before the lesson to call families to iron out any potential tech issues prior to the lesson beginning.
● Ensure your camera/s and microphone are set up in the best position to achieve the best quality video and audio. You may need to experiment with placement and lighting to achieve the best outcome.
● Consider downloading a call recording application and videoing a few of your lessons so you can watch them back and review for quality and training purposes. If you choose to do this, make sure the students are aware that the session is being recorded and offer them a copy of the recording afterwards. Ensure you have this agreement in writing by parents if you are teaching children to reassure them of your intentions for the recordings.
● Consider a method for recording lesson notes electronically if you do not already. Platforms such as My Music Staff have this feature inbuilt already and there are many other platforms which out there to explore, however, you could use something simple such as Google Docs which is a free platform for sharing documents (similar to Word). It is recommended whichever platform you choose has the ability to see a student’s progress at a glance and you can set up sharing settings so students can also add to the document if they have any further communication. Standard email is also a perfectly sufficient and effective method to begin with if you are not comfortable using any of the methods above at this stage or simply ask the student to write their own notes in their physical journal and read what they have written to you as they write (a quite revealing exercise!).
We wish you all the best with integrating these new online teaching strategies into your lessons!