Online Lessons Long Term Success
Like many teachers on here, I had to switch my students to remote lessons. I am thankful to be able to keep working, but online is not ideal for me or my teaching style. I've gotten myself through the last few weeks with "this is a good temporary substitute for the real thing...only temporary...only temporary...". In a conversation with another teacher the other day, I was told that parents might like the convenience of online teaching so they might continue with it forever. I know in this century everything is online and I should be adaptable, but I really am hoping this is not the case.
What are some thoughts? Is it ideal? Can online lessons long term be as good as the real thing? Has anyone had or heard of students that started out as a rank beginner and took only lessons online and could play well? Are there teachers that are skilled at teaching long term online and like the idea?
I don't want to lose students because they like the convenience of remote learning, but I also dread the thought of teaching over Skype the rest of my life. I'm just having a moment of panic and wanted to reach out to see what others were thinking!
As an adult student, I am very impatient for the day that in-person lessons can once again become the norm. I can’t imagine how virtual lessons will ever replace the attributes of actually being there.
I sympathize with your concern. And I am in agreement with Charles. I can't wait until I can once again have in-person lessons with my violin professor.
I think there’s two ways of looking at this. For me as an adult student ( but with decades of experience and classical training on another instrument), I can’t see online lessons as being effective compared to in person lessons. I chose to stop lessons rather than continue online, though I’m also at a point where I can guide my own development fairly well. I do still miss having a good teacher provide hints and help and guidance that comes from years of experience though. And for students who aren’t able to guide their progress yet, online lessons are pretty much necessary if they want to continue to progress.
Parents may be thinking they have to pay less for quality reasons, but I would want them to pay more for my misery. I know it doesn't work that way though. I just saw what online shopping did to brick and mortar stores, and wonder if it's going to spill over into music lessons. Not only would I be out of my comfort zone, but I would be competing with teachers all over the world who had a knack for online lessons.
I debated starting a new thread related to this but was going to be tempted to throw shade at the other recent related thread which was presumably deleted because the OP didn't like some of the very reasonable and cautionary suggestions, that were freely offered by others who are long-time contributors and generously willing to share their considerable expertise...well, so much for avoiding the temptation. Anyway, I happened to still have the page open in my browser if anyone has any need to refer to what they wrote.
Mengwei I think it was that other thread that made me wonder even more if that would be the norm. Not only do I not feel like the lessons are not as good quality, I do feel like for the younger kids I don't have as much control- they are in their home and I'm just a face on the screen. As an example, a seven year old student just disappeared from the screen unexpectedly. I had to call out to her several times to come back, and when she finally did, her mouth was stuffed full of a blueberry muffin!
About cost: (keep in mind that my structure is "Suzuki program" - lessons, groups, events, the whole package)
"Has anyone had or heard of students that started out as a rank beginner and took only lessons online and could play well?"
@Andrew, I think it also depends on your definition of “play well”. A motivated student could have had as much as 8 to 10 years of online learning, which would be enough to see how they are progressing; what pieces they’re playing and how well, etc.
I think it was Mary Ellen in an another thread who said that one of the hardest things would be to start up a new student without being in-person. There are just so many aspects of setup that you have to see from every angle and help adjust with your own hands. I agreed that this would be difficult.
Richard: I suppose that's true. It's just that I don't personally know anyone who took any online lessons before 2015, and I get the impression it didn't really take off until later than that?
I realize I'm in a very fortunate position to 1) be able to continue working and 2) be able to absorb *some* income loss, and there are many who cannot say that. It's why when faced with nearly 50% musical babysitting via screen, I could choose to radically change my program structure. The percentage by students is actually less now because most of the 20% who left were in that category and at least one turned into a super-practicer. The percentage by teaching hours (screen time) is MUCH less, within a tolerable range. (Percentages don't tell the whole story though - for example, half of 10 is acceptable but half of 40 isn't.)
Rebecca's observation about young children is interesting. One way of looking at this (the blueberry muffin incident) is that for adults and advanced students, virtual lessons seek to emulate an already established and familiar structure, and may be quite effective for that reason. With prior experience with the traditional lesson encounter, teacher and student might adapt to virtual lessons as a possibly less satisfactory, but acceptable facimile of an in-person lesson - including established expectations of conduct. For a child, everything they encounter is new, and virtual lessons are almost instantly accepted as normal. The downside of this is that while adult would never stop either kind of lesson to get a muffin, the child has no such established expectations, and if the muffin is there, well...
I have several students who had only 6 in-person lessons before going online and I have been pretty impressed by how well they have been doing with online lessons. 100% of them signed up for summer lessons-which will also be online. For whatever reason my teaching style seems to work well for online lessons, but I haven’t started any students from scratch online yet. I definitely prefer to teach in-person, but I could see the potential for decent long-term outcomes online. (I don’t plan to stay online after it’s safe to go back to in-person though). I hope it will remain a good backup plan for weather and minor illnesses.
Online lessons IMO are much better than nothing and I am hoping that when the dust settles, what would have been a canceled lesson due to transportation issues or minor illness can now become an online lesson. But I’m looking forward to returning to in-person lessons when safe to do so and I think my students feel the same way.
Sorry I misremembered your comments Mary Ellen. Perhaps I confused yours with some others, as I think the issue of starting up beginners online was mentioned as well.
Well, during this COVID period I've managed to injure myself, and after some time off to recover, I discovered, when trying again and experiencing pain, that it's a motion that my teacher would have warned me against (because he has in the past), if he could have seen it.
My teacher has decided to have a series of 3 Zoom plus 1 in-person lesson as a monthly structure moving forward. Who can say when there will be an effective treatment or successful vaccine, and he is rightly concerned about getting the virus. I'm ok with this, given everything, especially as there will be at least one face-face lesson a month. I've too many physical issues myself to stick with a 100% virtual environment.
Although I have not had any 1-1 online violin lessons, I have been following a few online art lessons; there is a significant difference between teaching methods and teachers adeptness with the equipment set-up. Both factors require attention. Paradoxically, the best art teachers appear to be the least adept at handling the equipment: the right app, the right camera set-up and screen division, and the best sound. The teachers most adept at setting up equipment so it functioned well for the student had the least effective teaching ability! It is clear that teachers of any subject need time to STUDY and LEARN how to get the best platform, how to get good equipment, and how to get the best performance from it. If teachers are interested in seeing BOTH good equipment and good teaching methods, I recommend watching some Nathan Cole videos--he has both sides (equipment and teaching methods) covered excellently. However, he has been at it for like 10 years. Invest some time, and it will pay off. Once some of the bugs are worked out, I guarantee students will be more attentive!
As a parent of a 9 year old violin student (current pieces Viotti #22, Bloch Nigun), I agree that zoom lessons have been going much better than anticipated but they are in no way a substitute for in-person lessons. I will be pretty upset if our teacher decides to switch to zoom lessons permanently. We are able to work on intonation and fingerings, but it's been more difficult to work on subtleties in posture and tone, and overall musicality and phrasing. We also miss the social aspects of a studio. A Zoom playdate is not the same as a get together in person. Also for young kids, the formal educational setting of a studio is very important. The "blueberry muffin" example is a case in point. There's a reason that many students behave differently in school than at home. Boundaries and teacher authority are better projected and respected in-person and outside of the home.
I took a writing seminar with Cecil Dawkins, a wonderful writer. We got onto the topic of television. She said, "The problem with television (or any screen) is it makes everything the same size. Cartoons are the same size as a tornado. A war is the same size as a toothpaste commercial. it's all one size, and there is no sense of perspective, or dimension." Online lessons, Zoom lessons, FaceTime lessons, Skype, all of it is little more than having a substitute teacher when the real teacher is out of the classroom. Will it work? Well, it has to, doesn't it? But so what? There is nothing - absolutely nothing - like being in the same room with a good teacher. Online lessons are homogenized education and white bread. What's worse, is it's a screen, and that's probably the worst thing to have when experiencing something as real as music. I take lessons on FaceTime with my regular teacher. It works. It's fine, but both of us are more than ready to get back to face-to-face lessons. Now, we're not going to be stupid about it, and do it any time soon. Indeed, even next autumn will be too soon. However, the convenience of a computer screen or an iPhone at home, is little more than a shadow of the real experience of being with a good teacher.
We find ourselves in a peculiar position because her piano teacher tells us our daughter is doing so much better with online lessons. I don't know why that's the case but her piano teacher even used the word "thriving."
Thanks Liyun and Michael. You guys make this point much better than I could fairly early in the pandemic - I got no traction :-). I am not a fan of online lessons, and do this more to support our teachers.
Liyun wrote, "I will be pretty upset if our teacher decides to switch to zoom lessons permanently." I can't imagine a teacher wanting to do that. But there could be financial reasons. For example, suppose they don't have a space in their home where they can teach so they are renting a studio in a music store or a room in a church. That can get quite expensive.
I have already restarted in-person lessons with my own students, along with smart and reasonable precautions (everyone has to wear masks, keep physical distance, and I always wash my hands before/after touching their violins, if they must be tuned....and of course they're not allowed in if they have a cough).
"I must admit that teaching over skype and zoom has completed exhausted me."
I also find it exhausting to teach through a screen, but there was a definite learning curve and I find it easier now than I did two months ago.
Its certainly difficult to teach online, but with the right upgrades and tools, and practice, its possible to be setup well so that students can get all of the benefits of your expertise minus touch and mould technique/posture which has to be done through words and mirror copying.
I am almost relieved to have stopped all lessons since last September!
No words and a few subtitles will certainly work for some students. But not for all. We don't all learn in the same way, so one size of instructional video doesn't fit all students.
I think it's the more intense visual concentration that drains me - can't "feel" the student's energy (by that I mean subtle cues in body language), can only see what the camera shows, no peripheral vision, not accustomed to processing what is computer sound and what is from the playing. In a physical lesson, with better sight and sound, it's straightforward to evaluate, plan what question/demonstration/activity comes next, hold some mental notes about what should be addressed another time, and I even write down some notes while starting the next spot/segment. On the screen, it just takes much more mental capacity to process everything. I've also had students run off screen and cry and like to think I'd have picked up on the warning signs in person.
I agree with Mengwei about the draining effect of the intense visual concentration combined with the difficulty of picking up subtle cues that are easy to catch in person.
I guess one possibility (which has always been a possibility even with in-person lessons) is to schedule your breaks. Thus your students would come at 3:00, 4:10, 5:20, and so on. Of course, then your five-hour workday becomes a six-hour day, which you pay for if you're renting studio time, and which cuts into the time you have available for the rest of your life. And if your six-hour workday is five students instead of six because of your breaks, then of course it's the five that translates into income, not the six.
For what its worth, I'd like to offer some thoughts as an adult student. I had my first Skype lesson last night with my regular teacher. We're in the UK and when lockdown was announced, she cancelled all lessons. But as time has dragged on, she decided to offer tuition via Skype. So we had a trial lesson last week to make sure the tech was working OK and then we had a proper hour-long lesson yesterday.
From an adult student's point of view, even before the pandemic, I was already resigned to probably not being able to take in-person lessons for a long time. It doesn't appear there is a local teacher who can teach advanced viola repertoire, accepts adult students, and teaches evenings or weekends; plenty who meet two of those three criteria, but none who meet all three. (When I took lessons it was with a teacher who only had weekday time slots available, so I was only able to take lessons when I could clear time in my schedule in the middle of a weekday or when someone else canceled. I eventually stopped because I was never able to schedule a regular time.) Now that I've mostly recovered from injury and am practicing again, I'm looking for a teacher but have already mostly abandoned the search for anyone local. I think it will just have to be online for the foreseeable future.
I wish there were like buttons. I would put a like button on all these answers, they have all really helped. Thank you all for your input!
Your original post rates likes from each of us too, Rebecca. :)
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