10 Advantages of Online Learning

Mike Lawson • MusicEd: Mentor Minute • July 31, 2020

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This month, as many of us return to some form of teaching, tensions are running high. Many of us will be in school with students and many of us will not be. Either way, it seems there will be some form of online learning still happening.

This may not be our ideal, but it also shouldn’t be something that we stress too much about. First of all, you’ve already done some type of online learning already, so you have tools in your toolbox. Secondly, this isn’t going to be forever. It may be longer than we thought at first, but at some point this will all pass and ideally our education system will be ultimately improved.

Finally, there are some real advantages to online learning! The longer our mindset is stuck on the belief that online learning is inadequate or illegitimate, the longer it will be. To help with this paradigm shift, here are 10 advantages to online learning.

More focus on the individual. Too often in our big classes the quiet students may get lost behind the loud ones. With online learning every student is on equal footing, and may even feel like you are teaching them one-to-one. Some students who are shy in class may thrive in this more anonymous realm. It also means that students can work at their own pace.

Encourages self-motivation. Since students aren’t being physically routed into a learning situation, they have to be mentally and emotionally driven to participate.

Improves our teaching. Creating online learning lessons and projects that will engage students, push them forward, and meet their needs challenges us as teachers to refine our craft. It encourages us to be more creative and to develop student-centered learning that will motivate and excite them to participate.

Provides constant access. Students can practice and learn as often as they like, without being limited to the time and space provided in a classroom day. As music educators, this is what we’ve always wanted – for them to love music enough that it doesn’t become something that they do, it becomes something that they are. By doing it at home and anytime, it expands music-making beyond the academic realm of their life.

Quantitative data about participation and growth. Most of the tools you’ll use for online learning make it easy to track participation and application. This is data you can use to further craft the learning activities you’re providing, and to advocate for continuous music classes in your school.

Gives students ownership. Beyond encouraging motivation to learn, online music activities and remote learning put the onus on students for their own learning. They get to take ownership of their development and progress, which is something most students will absolutely embrace!

Immediate independent feedback. This goes alongside the focus on the individual. Many online options for grading you’ll be using provide instantaneous feedback. Students won’t be able to hide in the back of an ensemble and only have to demonstrate proficiency now and then. Every assignment can provide them with instant feedback which helps drive constant learning.

Replays and resources. Video lessons can be revisited as many times as a student needs to. Resources are in abundance! Heck, you can even use people from across the country or the world as resources since it takes the time and expense of travel out of the equation. Collaboration is rampant in our field right now!

Expands the curriculum. Whereas the bulk of our music classes were heavily focused on ensemble performance, online learning fosters individual musicianship, music creation, and expansion of knowledge in music meaning, aesthetics, and history.

Teaches real-life skills for the future. Self-efficacy, motivation, focus on feedback over grades – all of these are the skills that our students will need to be effective life-long learners.

If we add to that their desire to create music independently, we’ve now created advocates and music lovers, and isn’t thatcreally our end goal? There are many, many more advantages to online learning, but until we embrace them we won’t achieve them.

One final note: online learning is legitimate learning. There is nothing “virtual” about it. The other day I was running an online conference and in the closing session one of the speakers expressed surprise that they had learned so much, experienced so many real emotions, even though it was all online.

This was absurd to me. The online world that we get to experience every day is far more real than books, movies, or podcasts, and yet you would never say that reading a book isn’t legitimate learning, or that watching a movie created fake emotions, or that a podcast wasn’t informative or transformative.

The online world is here to stay and we can shun it, or embrace it. And if we embrace it, we can create it in the way we want it to be for us and our students.


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