While I don't consider myself an online music teaching "guru," I have been doing it for awhile and, in my past Learning Technology/Instructional Design career in the corporate world, I learned a lot about making online learning successful.
Here are some things I've found to be from helpful to essential when starting your online music teaching business. Also, as fast as technology progresses, I must also state that this information is good as of August, 2016.
Benefits of Teaching Online
- Your customer base is the world. If they speak your language(s), they can be your students.
- Students don't have to fight traffic or travel long distances to get to you - and you don't even have to leave home to get to them.
- Lots of curricula can now be found online that is easy to integrate into online teaching.
How to Start
- Teach online in same way as I teach in-person students
- Add some enhanced learning through technology to my live, virtual lessons
- Teach online group lessons with great student-to-student interaction
- Teach in a "blended" approach with students using supplementary online material, virtual sessions just to compliment in-person sessions.
As an example, my long-term goal is to establish something similar to an online academy where I offer piano, recorder, and native American flute courses with videos, audio files, printable components, and a messaging forum where they could video their assignments and submit to me for feedback. Students could also schedule regular live, virtual sessions with me or just occasionally when they need help. I'm not there yet but on my way. And, possibly, I could contract with other instrumental teachers to join me.
There are several directions to take in achieving the goals you have. They can range from a simple video conferencing tool to a learning management system where you can create self-paced online courses.
The good news is that I don't think one has to be a "techie" nowadays to accomplish these goals. The tools are more intuitive and automated than ever before. Here are some essentials and "nice to have" items you will want to consider.
The Essentials for Online Teaching
- Robust computer: Any computer may do okay since most of the processing comes from the Internet connection, however, the faster processors and larger internal memory (8 gb+) will offer a more stable experience.
- Wired connection: It can be slight but using wireless connections can present issues when trying to maintain continuous connectivity in a video-conferencing situation.
- Camera: At least on your end. I've done some without a camera on their end but the potential issues are obvious.
- Microphone : Essential for all parties participating.
- Headphones: This is almost essential to hear clearly. I don't use the headphones with a built-in mic, however as they cannot also hear my keyboard.
- Multiple cameras: If you teach guitar or flute, etc you may not need more than one camera. I want two because I have one always pointed to my piano keyboard. The other can be on my face (ugh!) or sharing my screen, etc.
- Separate microphone: Meaning separate from your webcam mic. Usually, microphones built-in to webcams are are very average to below-average quality. I use a Samson USB microphone because audio quality is simply better.
Video Conferencing Tools
Though it's essential, I left it to the last because, well, it's the big one. You can have the best equipment but if you don't have a good software tool to connect - no one cares.
Not sure why but I love researching technology tools in the learning and educational areas. I also enjoy experimenting with various learning management systems software to the point of near confusion. We'll call it "quirky." Video conferencing apps/services, of course, do different things and have various pricing, including free. My current favorite is www.appear.in. It offers better audio/video quality than most and is - so far - free. The following are others I've tried in order of my opinions (1 being most liked by me). I've also included a few characteristics of each.
- Appear.in: Great quality; no downloads/no logins. You can claim your own room name.
- Zoom.us: Download/login required; Free only for up to 45 min; Great quality; Easy to switch multiple cameras.
- Google hangouts: Free and easy to change cameras during call.
- Adobe Connect: Haven't use it but heard good things; does have cost.
- WebEx (Cisco): Free for up to 3 people; stable quality.
- Vidyo: Download/login required; Cost but good quality.
- Oovoo: Download/login suggested; Free for up to 8 people; fair quality; allows only 1 camera
- Skype: Download/login required; Fair quality; 1 camera only (my least favorite).
Late-breaking addition: I just tried the video-conferencing tool (Jam Session) in the Drooble.com site and I was VERY impressed. Though I was having microphone issues, the audio and video quality for my testing partner (in Austria) was incredible! I will be testing this one again. FYI, Drooble.com is like a Facebook for musicians, a very interesting site and they have some teaching features already integrated into their Jam Session tool.
Tips and Tricks
- Don't expect things to be the same as your in-person lessons. You will need to talk a little slower, leave more time for student responses/feedback, and you won't be able to hear and see as well as if you're sitting there beside them.
- Activities must go faster and be shorter in length - even with adult students.
- For children students, parents still should be physically close by and be updated so they know what's expected of the student between lessons. I send Lesson Notes out to all students/parents, both in-person and online (I use mymusicstaff.com).
I hope this information helps. Please let me know how your experiences go with online teaching.