Virtual Learning and Technology in the Music Classroom
One of many teachers affected by the switch to remote teaching, Andrew Shahriari, Ph.D., is someone who is experienced with online instruction. A professor of ethnomusicology at Kent State University, he primarily teaches graduate students. I recently had a chance to talk with Dr. Shahriari about his transition to remote instruction in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read our conversation below!
Alena Miskinis: How have you been able to facilitate the switch to online learning?
Dr. Andrew Shahriari: I’ve been doing online instruction for more than a decade. For me, the philosophy is, “What would I do in the regular classroom, and how can I transfer that into an online experience?” It’s the idea that you have to be creative and think about not only what’s feasible but also try to look at it from what the student’s experience is. The best teachers do that anyway, but now you’re forced to do that in an online environment. “How can I make this the best experience for my student as possible?”
AM: How do you structure your classes to encourage student success?
It’s the idea of having a lecture component, having your audio and visual materials, especially music for students, so they can listen and see what you're talking about. Then, also having discussion components and assessments as you would in the classroom. Some students like it, some students don’t. The biggest thing students don’t tend to like about online instruction is this lack of face-to-face interaction. But if you have a small class, you can work it out. If it is a big class, we do discussion boards so that students are posting things, and it’s asynchronous 24 hours. Every day I jump on there and respond to students' questions. The assessments are great, except I know a lot of professors are worried about cheating. I don’t think it’s different than an open book test in the classroom. A student who is serious is going to learn the stuff, and a student who isn’t serious isn’t going to learn the stuff just because they’re sitting in front of you.
AM: What kinds of resources do you like for online instruction?
AS: Here’s a good one! There’s an app called Masterclass. The teachers are people like Christina Aguilera, Hans Zimmer, Ken Burns, Samuel L. Jackson, Jodie Foster. I got interested in it because there’s one by Herbie Hancock, a jazz piano player. I thought that would be cool. The way it’s structured, it has to be ten minutes tops, otherwise, people just can’t focus for that long. I learn a lot from those classes! And I’m not going to say they don’t know what they’re doing, because most of them make millions of dollars to do what they do. So, that’s basically an online class, there are just no tests required, there are no papers you have to write, but they’re doing it in a very effective way. I wish that some would stop saying online learning is no good. This is the twenty-first century. You’re going to have to think about how to use this medium so that you can be an effective instructor.
Written by: Alena Miskinis, Writing Intern
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Andrew Paa, Marketing Assistant