Asynchronous Learning - the Good, the Bad and the Temporary Solutions
Shifting to online, remote learning and its many challenges, as described in previous articles, has brought asynchronous learning into sharp focus. This means teaching by assigning tasks - giving feedback - assigning more tasks and so forth.
Does it Work, in Theory?
Teachers of theoretical study disciplines, such as ear training and harmony, have experimented with using software which allows them to digitally send assignments and receive students’ submissions. Opinions regarding these software programs were divided. Some teachers have made frequent use of the programs and found them valuable, while others noted that they and their students have found the experience complex and cumbersome and that the benefits did not outweigh manually sending a PDF and receiving an image or scan of the students’ handwritten answers.
In practical music lessons, teachers frequently use videos as well as writing assignments. Many teachers have praised using video as a tool - especially for pianists and secondary keyboard students. They argued that using videos has allowed them to better follow the progress as well as the difficulties students faced while learning. If usually, teachers would only learn about a student’s progress from their participation and questions in class, now teachers can get a fuller picture of each student’s level of knowledge. The impact is felt even more significantly in group sessions, such as keyboard proficiency and keyboard harmony classes.
The Professor’s Perspective
Still, while sending video recordings helps, it’s far from being the perfect solution. The vast majority of professors who spoke with us reported that this method requires extensive effort and time investment beyond the time dedicated to the lesson. The math is pretty straightforward: If there are 20 students per class, with each of them sending a 10-minute video recording (on average), it would take the teacher a long time to review all of them from home. Moreover, students usually record themselves using their phones which produce a less than optimal sound quality, again making it difficult for the teacher to identify the student’s mistakes. In piano lessons, for example, a better way to solve this would be making sure to also film the keyboard as part of the video recording, but the angles at which students film themselves tend to be overly creative. Several teachers have given the same example: students filming themselves in selfie mode, at which the piano is presented in mirror image. as a musician, this is unwatchable to the point of inducing headaches!
Another significant challenge players have faced is lack of proper rehearsal space. Some teachers, worried about students losing the connection to the music world at large, suggested that students use the time during which they’d otherwise practice (which in many cases they can’t do at the moment) to explore and familiarize themselves with more works connected to their musical world, listen to performances by famous musicians, learn by watching performances and more. These methods aren’t new - they are an important component of any performing musician’s development, but the shift to remote learning has cleared up more space for them.
Still, it’s important to note that teachers’ workload grows in direct response to asynchronous learning becoming more prevalent. Thus, a one-hour class course can translate into 5 additional hours of preparation and assignment review. It’s common knowledge that this is the best way to cope with the current situation and that there are no better solutions at the moment.
Professors across the board agree that the primary concern is making sure students don't feel that the level or quality of studies have suffered during the pandemic. This consensus leads professors to be more committed than ever to invest as much time and effort as needed to meet this goal.
Have you found effective methods for Asynchronous Learning? Share your innovative ideas in the comment section.