Where we may be headed with tech and music learning

I had the privilege of hanging out in the VR lab the other day for the sole reason of exploring how tech can help us learn about music. Who knew researching music could be so much fun and engaging? I was transformed into a 3D space with symphonic music where I had to use my light saber to strike exploding blocks on and off the beat. What did I learn about music from this integration with tech? In short, the tech had me totally immersed in listening and playing along with the music. I’m not about the sparkly tech tools; I look for tech that supports music learning. Have to say ‘tho, I do see some VR apps having a place in teaching us about music. 🙂

Current state of learning music online

I was asked the other day to share a bit of an update as to where the research in online music pedagogy (aka teaching music online) is today. The short statement is: we’re learning music online.
We now have data that shows us there’s been an exponential increase in higher education adding online music classes in their offerings since 2012 (Johnson, 2017). This adds up to about 40% of our class offerings taking place online. While it doesn’t always mean a financial savings to the universities, it does mean that students can learn music in ways that support individual student learning. These online learning spaces aren’t created overnight, but they are well worth the effort.

Challenges to Online Teaching

More on the research front of online teaching and learning today…

Here are some challenges that I will need to look into as I continue to develop my literature review for online teaching and learning

  • faculty time to develop new online content
  • faculty and student need for technical support
  • perception by many that online content is not rigorous
  • identifying ways to assist faculty in organized online teaching workshops
  • training faculty in pedagogical theory (Lorenzetti, 2009)

Lorenzetti, J. P. (2009). The virtual faculty lounge: Providing online faculty development for adjunct instructors. Best Practices for Training and Retaining Online Adjunct Faculty, Distance Education Report. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com

Online Faculty Training Strategies

Still looking into the PD aspect of online teaching and learning, I came across a number of interesting teaching strategies:

  • inclusion of adult learning theory in training
  • build upon current expertise of faculty member
  • just-in-time mentoring supports
  • a phased approach, i.e. teacher as learner to teacher as adopter to teacher as co-leader to teacher as re-affirmer to teacher as leader (Palloff & Pratt, 2011)
  • community learning approach, i.e. use of brown bag lunch workshops
  • use of faculty topics of interest

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2011). The Excellent Online Instructor: Strategies for Professional Development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Looking in PD for Online Instructors

Sometimes our research takes us down rabbit trails that can be very helpful for our research, providing that time is not lost in the vacuum of discovery. As I continue my research focused on online music education, I came across an avenue that very much intersects with online teaching and learning – professional development for online instructors.

PD for teachers can be a very challenging topic due to the fact that teachers already know a wealth of information on how to teach, combined with the ever-changing landscape of technology. While it can seem overwhelming for an online teacher to embrace some of the new research taking place in how we can better help our online learners, the fact remains that PD is an important component for all of us in the education field.

Palloff & Pratt (2011) have highlighted a number of characteristics that remind us of what skills we as educators need in regards to online teaching readiness: visibility, compassion, communication, commitment and organization (p. 19). While these inherent skills are critical for connecting with our online students, there will always be ways to improve our online teaching through training: personal establishment of online presence; online teaching pedagogy; how best to disseminate subject-specific content and how and what technology (i.e. LMS, apps, etc.) to use in online teaching (p. 21).


While Zhu (2008) cites that many faculty attending technology training for teaching are not known for trying new things or change, we can all be part of the solution by building communities in our faculties that support collaborative learning. My goal for this week is to make one concerted gain in being more collaborative… how about you? 🙂

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2011). The Excellent Online Instructor: Strategies for Professional Development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Zhu, E. (2008). Breaking dow barriers to the use of technology for teaching in higher education. In D. R. Robertson & L. B. Nilson (Eds.), To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instruction, and Organizational Development, 26, 305-318. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Improving online courses

With my research going in the direction of searching for a framework for developing online music education courses, I have come across a number of educational models in use and how, as teachers, we can improve our current teaching. That said, Palloff & Pratt (2003, 2007) have developed a number of online teaching strategies and methods for improving online courses. In particular, the use of inclusion of self-assessment and application of skills/studies is a need for encouraging students in online courses.

Another helpful resource is the Quality Matters rubric. This rubric is helpful for online teachers to evaluate their courses in adherence to design of the actual course. The Illinois Online Network (QOCI) also has some helpful evaluation tools for course evaluation, plus its also attends to elements of collaboration and interaction.


Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass.
Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2003). The Virtual Student: A profile and guide to working with online learners. Jossey-Bass.
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