K-12 School Computer Networking/Chapter 25/Distance Learning and K-12 Music Education

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to: navigation, search

Distance Learning and K-12 Music Education

Standards in Music Education[edit]

In a 1991 report titled Growing up complete: The imperative for music education, the National Commission on Music Education made the following statement:

“Music is a highway for exploring the emotional and aesthetic dimensions of experience. Indeed, here is where music and the other arts make their unique and most visible contribution. Education without music shortchanges our children and their futures.”

K-12 music education encompasses general music classes, vocal instruction, instrumental instruction, performing ensembles, music theory classes, and music history classes. The Consortium of National Arts Education Associations (1994) has established nine national standards for K-12 music education:

  1. Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
  2. Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
  3. Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments.
  4. Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.
  5. Reading and notating music.
  6. Listening to, analyzing, and describing music.
  7. Evaluating music and music performances.
  8. Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts.
  9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture.

The Consortium also provides specific goals that students should achieve under each of the nine standards at the K-4 level, the 5-8 level, the 9-12 “proficient” level, and the 9-12 “advanced” level.

However, state music education requirements vary widely and do not always honor these standards. Within a given state, there are also large differences between school districts. The quality of music education can be affected by socioeconomic issues or by problems of access (for example, in remote rural areas). One district may have a thriving program, covering everything from elementary instrumental instruction to AP classes for high school students, while another may have no formal music instruction at all. Even in districts with strong programs, instrumental teachers are sometimes shared between several schools, spending what could be instructional time on commutes.

Distance learning has the potential to level the playing field, giving more students the chance to experience music education. It also opens the opportunity for music educators to learn new skills without physically returning to school.

Non-interactive online lessons[edit]

A program at the Berklee College of Music called “Berklee Shares” offers a library of free music lessons under the topic headings “Production & Technology,” Songwriting & Arranging,” “Music Business & Careers,” “Music Education,” and “Music Improvisation.” The library also includes lessons on specific musical instruments. The “Music Education” topic consists largely of lessons on music theory; in K-12 education, these lessons would be most suited to advanced high school students. This section also includes resources for music educators. The lessons are in video, audio, and written formats; the books and DVDs from which the lessons are derived are available for purchase at http://www.berkleepress.com/.

The stated goal of the program is “to provide free access to faculty-authored Berklee music lessons designed for musicians, music students, and music educators” (http://www.berkleeshares.com/faq). The college also has an online school at http://www.berkleemusic.com/ - the school offers individual 12-week music courses as well as college credit certificate programs.

While programs like Berklee Shares are great online resources, they lack interaction with and feedback from a live teacher.

Semi-interactive online lessons[edit]

The Australian National Training Authority created an action learning research project to explore the use of the internet to teach instrumental music to students in remote regions (Bond, 2002). A website was set up with 14 graded lessons, which included video and audio demonstrations; students were able to choose the order in which they accessed the lessons. The site also included notes on technique and theory and links to other music resources. Students submitted video and audio materials for assessment by the tutor, who then provided feedback.

The 12 students who participated in the study were assigned to three groups:

  1. Local group – a control group. These students used the same online materials as the others, but were able to make in-person contact with the tutor.
  2. Regional group 1 – this group’s program was based on a constructivist methodology; students were encouraged to approach the learning materials holistically. The students formed groups and were expected to work together by playing for each other, discussing the lessons, offering feedback, sharing information, and providing support. Contact with the tutor was irregular and took place via telephone, email, or fax.
  3. Regional group 2 – This group’s program was based on an objectivist methodology; these students were given a more defined learning sequence and worked as individuals. The tutor monitored these students more closely.

Despite great publicity efforts, the researchers had difficulty recruiting subjects, indicating that many potential students may not have been prepared to learn music this way. The results of the study demonstrated that both regional groups performed less effectively than the local group. The researchers attributed this, and the recruitment difficulties, to several factors, including technical barriers, the cost of equipment, lack of a strong support infrastructure, student difficulties in maintaining regular email contact and preparing video material for feedback, and difficulty with the more open, unscheduled learning environment (e.g., other obligations interfering with the program).

The researchers concluded that increasing the physical distance between instructor and student has a negative effect on the quality of performance, the level of student engagement in learning activities, and the development of knowledge and skill. However, they remained optimistic about the potential of this type of instruction, suggesting further research into web pedagogy and student learning styles, and a larger component of synchronous and face-to-face communication between instructor and student in future distance learning models.

Semi-interactive online lessons for younger children[edit]

As part of her master's degree program, Florida Atlantic University student Joline Long created an online distance learning music course for students in grades 3-5 called “Recorder 101” (Musgrove & Musgrove, 2004). Long used WebCT, a distance learning software program often used by colleges and universities. Although Recorder 101 was designed as a completely online class, it was offered as a pilot study in a classroom environment with guidance from an in-person teacher (Ms. Long). Students initially needed assistance with the technology but were soon able to navigate the site and use WebCT features like discussion boards and chat rooms. They also benefitted from face-to-face collaboration with other students. In a survey given at the end of the class, 98% of the students responded positively to the program.

After reviewing this pilot study, Musgrove & Musgrove (2004) drew the following conclusion:

“Where a fully online, autonomous program may be satisfactory for high school or adult learners, it may not be beneficial for younger children. It makes sense to combine the best of both traditional face-to-face and online delivery to produce web-enhanced learning environments for the younger end of the K-12 spectrum. Ideally, distance learning programs should augment, rather than replace the existing classroom expanding the elementary curriculum and filling gaps in traditional course offerings while keeping learning firmly centered within the school.”

Interactive lessons through videoconferencing[edit]

“Technologies such as videoconferencing used for distance education are creating ways for schools to extend their learning communities to connect youth with professional communities of practice that approximate the face-to-face interactions in traditional classrooms” (Knight, Dixon et al, 2004)

Videoconferencing can be an effective way to create opportunities for K-12 students from disadvantaged backgrounds to learn from professional musicians. One study examined a distance learning program in which faculty members and music education students at a music conservatory taught sessions to high school students through videoconferencing as educational outreach to the community (Knight, Dixon et al, 2004). One of the partner high schools served a population consisting primarily of economically disadvantaged Black and Latino students; the students who participated in the program were chosen because of their talent and interest in the areas of music that were emphasized by the conservatory outreach instructors.

The teachers, administrators, and students at this high school all viewed the program not just as an opportunity to extend the students’ learning community, but also as a motivator for the students to attend college. Positive aspects of the program mentioned by teachers and students included the musical information provided, the inspiration of seeing skilled performers, the convenience of not having to leave the school building, the ability to ask questions of the college students, the different styles of music to which the students were exposed, and the advice the students received. Negative aspects included the limited time, the density of information packed into each lesson, the poor sound quality, and technical glitches.

A case study by Dye (2007) examined desktop videoconferencing as an environment for applied music lessons. “Applied music” is defined as individual instruction in an instrument or voice. The study focused on comparing behaviors seen in these lessons to those found in prior studies of applied lessons. Three experienced music education majors taught lessons to six middle school band students, using Apple Macintosh computers and the iChat software program.

The results showed that most of the behaviors observed in these lessons were consistent with those found in previous applied music research. Some differences were that the instructors modeled music less often and the students asked more questions than in traditional lessons. There was a high degree of focus in the lessons, with little time spent off-task. Other positive elements mentioned were convenience, good rapport between teacher and student, and the fact that students reported feeling less anxious in the distance-learning environment. Negative elements included technical obstacles (e.g. malfunctioning hardware, poor sound quality); instructors felt that they were less effective because of these problems. Instructors also felt limited by their inability to physically assist the students.

Dye concluded that videoconferencing has the potential to become a reasonable substitute for in-person learning if certain obstacles can be overcome. In particular, he mentioned the need for reliable technology, appropriate training in the use of the tools, and careful instructional design that includes an awareness of how given instructional strategies might be affected by the distance-learning format.


Distance learning of music is still in its infancy, and it may take time to overcome the traditional paradigm of in-person instruction. One of the biggest obstacles to acceptance is the availability of necessary technologies and the deficiencies of those currently in existence. Because music is a sound-based art, there is a strong need for clear audio; this is frequently mentioned as one of the biggest drawbacks to distance learning. As technologies improve, this obstacle is being overcome.

It also seems clear that while some music subjects can be taught by accessing online learning modules, applied music instruction requires a synchronous interpersonal element. Videoconferencing appears to have the most potential for this subject. Hybrid instruction, combining asynchronous materials with live videoconferencing, may also be a method with potential in the area of applied music.


Bond, A. (2002). Learning music online: An accessible learning program for isolated students [Pamphlet]. Syndney, Australia: NCVER. Retrieved October 28, 2009 from http://www.ncver.edu.au/research/proj/nr1013.pdf

The Consortium of National Arts Education Associations. (1994). National standards for arts education: What every young American should know and be able to do in the arts. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference.

Dye, K. (2007). Applied music in an online environment using desktop videoconferencing. Ed.D. dissertation, Teachers College, Columbia University, United States -- New York. (Publication No. AAT 3259242).

Knight, M.G., Dixon, I.R., Norton, N.E.L., & Bentley, C. (2004). Extending learning communities: New technologies, multiple literacies, and culture blind pedagogies. The Urban Review, 36(2), 101-118

Musgrove, A., & Musgrove, G. (2004). Online learning and the younger student: Theoretical and practical applications. Information Technology in Childhood Education, 2004, 213-225

The National Commission on Music Education. (1991, March). Growing up complete: The imperative for music education (excerpt). Retrieved June 24, 2006, from MENC: The National Association for Music Education Web site: http://www.menc.org