Online Lessons: The New Frontier of Teaching
Updated: Apr 4, 2020
Online Piano Lessons ... The Final Frontier!
Online coaching is starting to catch like wildfire. The idea has been adopted by many professional fields: Therapy, life coaching, foreign languages, fitness and even some branches of medicine.
People love convenience and they love learning in the comfort of their own home. That's what makes online piano lessons such a win-win.
I was a skeptic at first when it came to online piano lessons. However, after moving recently I was forced to try online teaching after realizing my students had no other teacher to turn to. I was so worried that online lessons would pale in comparison to live lessons, but I decided to try it out for my students.
What happened? I was AMAZED! I couldn't believe how successful the lessons were. I actually felt that for some of my students online lessons meant they listened better! Something about the interaction of listening to the teacher via a device made it exciting and unique.
Pros of Online Teaching:
- Reach a BIGGER client base: You're no longer restricted to your immediate area this opens up a WORLD of possibilities (I have students in Oregon, California, Utah and Michigan)
- Easier for the commuter student: For my students that drive loong distances just to take lessons from me, having occasional online lessons really helps Mom and Dad. I've got one student that has to drive an entire hour to get to lessons. Now we alternate between online lesson and live lesson every other week. It really helps!
- Kids listen BETTER: I don't know what it is about kiddos and screens but holy cow did I notice a difference between my online teaching vs. live. My kids pay close attention to what I'm saying when I'm teaching them via facetime/skype. I've noticed they listen more, don't play around on the piano while I'm talking as much and are overall more attentive. Again, I can't quite explain it other than I think screen time is captivating for young learners. The novelty of it is interesting to them.
TIPS for online teaching:
1. Student tripod:
I use my iPhone to connect with students via Skype or Facetime so having a tripod is extremely helpful for me to stay hands free. However, I think it's even more important for the student to have a tripod. I have the parent set up the tripod so I can see the full length of the keyboard as well as the students hands/body (as pictured below).
This is pretty much a MUST if a student wants to do online lessons. I suggest purchasing this tripod to parents (Very affordable and does the job well). However, for my students using iPads to connect there are other options like this one pictured below.
2. Parent Involvement is Crucial:
Online lessons can take some getting used to. Because you're not able to demonstrate easily via Facetime/Skype you need to be very specific with your language and direction. That's why having parent involvement is so critical to the students success. When the parents are there and listening they can help with directing the child. Not to mention, they often learn a great deal from listening in. I always recommend parent involvement with online lessons I almost always require parent presence.
I'm continually stressing to my parents that their child's success depends SO much more on their involvement and waaaay less about natural talent or ability. Give me a involved parent and I'll give you a child that's going to succeed!
3. ACTIVE Learning
I also like that the online lessons forces the student to become more of an active in the learning process. Typically in a live lesson (just because of time constraints) I make markings in the music for my students - circling notes that need correcting, putting stickies on drill sections, highlighting dynamics or articulation marks, etc,. But online teaching forces you to put that responsibility into the students hands.
THEY have to make the markings. They get a more active roll in deciding what to write, highlight, make note of and observe in the score. I absolutely love that!
I say things like...
"what is something you could write/draw in your music here that would help you remember to play this articulation?"
"what dynamic/articulation marking needs to be highlighted on this page?"
"where are some parts that need to be marked as drill areas? How should we mark those?"
"How can we analyze this piece? Where is theme A? Theme B? What are the harmonies? Key signature?"
These of course are all great examples of things to be touching on even in a live lesson. But online lessons force the student to have to notate these things on their own with less assistance.
4. Communicate Clear Goals
Be sure you have a way to communicate clear goals to the student even if they aren't there live with you. This means you need a system in place to make them assignments since you won't be able to write them down yourselves. Having a good practice log helps immensley here. I use this one from myfunpianostudio.com
During the lesson I make note of the assignments and specific things I want them to address - all of it gets written on the log. After the lesson I text a picture of the log to the parents. After the lesson this is copied onto the students own personal log at home (I have my parents keep these on hand in their own homes by giving them the above link). It's best if the student themselves copy the assignments down - this reaffirms to them what is expected.
I like this log in particular because it specifically tells the student how many times they must practice the piece everyday. This works really well for my early elementary-late elementary pianists.
Overall online lessons aren't as difficult as you may think they may be. It's a fairly straightforward and viable option for teaching music once you get comfortable with the platform.