Can Online Piano Lessons Be Effective?
Arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have been heavily affected and turned to online means for business continuity. This is no different for our community of piano teachers and students. Since the start of last year, piano teachers, parents and students have made the quick switch to an array of platforms (such as Zoom, Moodle, etc) to continue piano lessons. Yet the biggest question on our minds has still been - are online piano lessons effective?
To answer this question, let’s look at a few factors:
1) Students’ comfort Level
2) Mode of teaching
3) Ability of student to learn well
Students’ comfort level
The nature of interaction of face-to-face lessons is different as compared to online lessons. In face-to-face classes, students are able to observe the expression and body language of the teacher clearly, which shapes how fast the class progresses. In piano lessons, in particular, when students show what they have practised during the week, teachers are able to use physical cues of encouragement such as giving a student a high-5. This usually helps students, especially younger learners, warm up to their teacher more quickly, as the teacher might be able to interact with the students better and show positive body language. For instance, when students are playing the pianos during face-to-face lessons, the teacher is able to spontaneously show characteristics of the music and give energy to the students by embodying the music. This can help the students to stay comfortably engaged during lessons.
On the other hand, we observed that some students feel more comfortable to play or perform their pieces due to the lesson being conducted online, at the comfort of their home. They feel less pressure from having another person in the room watching them play. This potentially helps students relax and perform more naturally, and to the best of their abilities.
Engagement during lessons
During face-to-face lessons, piano teachers often try to come up with creative games and activities within the limitations of a classroom to get students interested in learning different musical concepts. The interaction between teacher and student in a “live” setting is perceived to be effective in retaining interest and attention during lessons.
However, for online lessons, teachers are able to tap on the large amount of resources and applications available on the internet. These applications, such as Tenuto and Theory Works, serve as teaching aids for students to understand and absorb musical concepts at an even faster rate. Using electronic means to teach also opens up opportunities to share information beyond just verbal communication and can act as a catalyst for more timely and faster learning growth for students. For example, using different apps to teach music theory can help students approach music theory from multiple angles and help them grasp the concepts much quicker as opposed to a lesson being taught in a classroom.
Ability of student to learn well
As compared to physical classroom settings, parents may be concerned about the potential distraction by other apps popping on the screen during lessons and that students might not be able to retain attention or listen to their teachers well during the piano lesson.
However, with the digital age, there are endless possibilities of how the current capabilities of digital platforms can help students retain interest and learn at an even faster pace. This is also given that students are much more adept at learning from various applications and interacting on mobile devices, even during their regular school time. With the recent plans by MOE for all students by 2028 to be equipped with their own digital devices, students have progressively started to use these devices for their education. Continued usage of electronic tools for piano lessons complements the overall e-learning experience of our students.
It is inevitable that COVID-19 has had a large impact on the teaching industry. While significantly different from face-to-face lessons, online teaching has its strengths. Online teaching has definitely improved the way teachers deliver their lessons and how students learn effectively from them. This is an on-going journey and let’s work together to make online lessons a more wholesome learning experience for our students!
Wen Jie majors in trombone at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore. Although his primary instrument is the trombone, he is always seen playing his favourite pieces on the piano. Being a music enthusiast, he also dabbles with other aspects of music such as music business and management.
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