The pros and cons of Online Study
July 2020 was the month from hell, where I questioned life and my place in it. The coronavirus pandemic was taking its toll on my mental well-being and added to this was my Father’s death, who I was unable to say my last goodbyes too or attend his funeral.
As my family went through his house, things were found that I’d buried along with my dreams of long-ago. Old music scores and essays and transcripts and subjects for a bachelor of music started twenty years earlier. On a wing and a prayer and some quick preparation, I decided to fly from the nest of fear and start my degree. So began my journey.
But first, I had to decide which school to study with and without delay, as I wanted to start immediately! A prompt start, an established institution with experts in the field, flexible learning style, student interaction and a mostly online approach was what I was looking for. To my surprise, my audition was accepted, and I began my studies.
The online world can be an extremely powerful way to reach others – I taught some piano students online who could not enjoy lessons in person due to physical issues, making them house-bound. I’ve had students weep as they played their mother’s favourite song and another student gain confidence in playing after not having lessons for years due to their remote location.
That wasn’t my only online experience; I also studied tafe online. The experience was fantastic – I could work at my own pace, and all materials were already provided, keeping the costs down.
But the experience for my degree was quite different – Lectures are mostly self-paced with a weekly voice lesson and a little online attendance here and there. Self-paced learning is excellent for me, as I can learn in a way that suits me. For example, in musicianship, I can take my time to write the exercises
In braille music notation and not struggle to keep up with everyone else or try to write quickly using standard notation software which is not quick with a screen reader. And in history, I can work through a large chunk of material and write in bed, or when on the go, when I am feeling relaxed. Materials are mostly provided online, making it easy to convert most of them to formats I can read.
However, I had noticed some quirks of studying online that I did not think about before I started my degree. When I began my studies, I was shocked when I considered a low-key approach to lectures attendance. I attended lectures only to find no one turned up; this got to me as I am a meticulously organised person and expected others to be the same. The online study environment creates a situation where people of many backgrounds attend; people working full-time in or out of the music field can study, which I found refreshing in one sense and dismayed in another. I am one of those musicians who are obsessed with performing, speaking and writing about the craft and was disappointed that others don’t appear to have the same passion.
I found a similar situation in my performance lectures. I submit videos, but due to lack of students in my intake, could not receive feedback from many others, and I also could not interact with others. Due to the covid-19 crisis and Victoria’s lockshjn policies, I could not perform in person. As a result, I became obsessed with creating the perfect video, which became quite anxiety-inducing.
I realise that I am a person who needs constant mental stimulation to receive ideas but also to discuss ideas and approaches to music-making. It isn’t so much about interacting with people, as I am a very introverted person in real life – except when expressing my deepest feelings through music and writing. I do like to be exposed to ideas about music, both musicology and performance and do want to share my own views on as well.
Going forward, I realise it is up to me to create my own ideal learning environment. Unlike a traditional university, online space gives me the flexibility to develop and be responsible for my own learning. This is a blessing as it will teach me how to think on my feet and be creative in the real world once I complete my degree. In this day of re-vamping of the music industry, these skills will become more vital.
I have already started this process by changing my lectures to reflect times when I will be with other students; this allows me to receive and share ideas with others and to develop my critical thinking skills. Once the covid-19 pandemic is over, I will do my voice lesson in person some of the time and my performance workshops in person. This enables me to develop performance skills and receive hands-on teaching from my voice instructor while maintaining the flexible self-paced learning I love.
Online study can be extremely beneficial, providing access to music education that could otherwise not be available to many. It’s self-paced, flexible and all materials are provided. It is up to the person to create the desired learning environment to suit their needs; for me, that means interacting with students to share and exchange ideas, and working at my own pace.