Over the last two months, the coronavirus pandemic has forced universities around the world to shut down campuses and rethink how classes are held. As an Assistant Professor of Music Education here at Butler University, I and my fellow faculty have faced unique challenges in moving typically hands-on experiences to an online setting, but we are making the best of this and learning to adjust.
For instance, several of our courses involve a practicum component with local K-12 schools that have also switched to distance learning. But that doesn’t mean we are eliminating this important experience for our students. Instead, we have found other ways to engage with these schools, in some cases providing even richer opportunities. Our students have been teaching small-group lessons via Zoom, helping K-12 teachers design online modules, providing feedback on submitted videos, and recording instrument demonstrations.
My Brass Techniques course also posed a challenge. Back on campus, this group met in-person at 8:00 AM. But about half my students now live in other time zones. If we held the class synchronously over Zoom, they would have to be up and playing brass instruments before their families are even awake.
So, we adapted. I’m using many of the same tools our partner K-12 teachers have been using to provide flexibility for students. We’ve experimented with Flipgrid, Acapella, and various social media platforms, reflecting on how these tools enhance Butler students’ own learning as well as how they might use these resources for their own teaching in the future.
Perhaps the biggest challenge has been recognizing that music courses are simultaneously academic and social. Many of our students are hurting from the social disconnect of this experience, and the music education faculty—along with our student National Association for Music Education (NAfME) chapter—have been working to bridge that gap.
Every day, we now have an open Zoom call at lunch time. At least one faculty member is there to chat with any students who want to join. On Fridays, our NAfME chapter hosts activity lunches. These have included cooking classes led by my children, yoga with one of our flute professors, and trivia. We have also stayed connected through social media and started biweekly “living room concerts” where anyone can share a performance or listen to others perform.
No online platform can replace being in the classroom with one another, or the opportunity for spontaneous chats in the hallway. Still, we are doing all we can to maintain the experience of being a Butler music student—even while miles from campus.
To stay connected during the switch to online learning, music students from Butler University’s Jordan College of the Arts have been holding biweekly “living room concerts” through Zoom—providing a chance for anyone to share a performance or listen to others perform. Here’s a look back at some moments from their concert on April 9, 2020.
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