I first tried online piano teaching in 2016, when I stopped teaching in Bandra and started teaching full time in Kharghar Navi Mumbai.
My student, a 9 year old boy, wasn’t yet ready to move on to a new piano teacher and needed to continue lessons with me until he was. He therefore decided to take a combination of weekly online lessons via Skype, with a once a month in-studio lessons for a while.
The first class took longer than planned due to set-up & connectivity issues, but the next was great! I was surprised to see benefits to online teaching that had not occurred to me until I tried it.
Online teaching is usually the less preferred option because :
- It restricts the teacher’s ability to demonstrate playing technique and correct the student when there’s wrong technique, posture, etc.
- Playing duets, which students really enjoy, can be a problem if there’s a time lag.
- Setting up needs more planning. Students need to have all their materials and device (cellphone or tablet) set up in advance, to avoid losing class time.
- And young students need parents around to manage the set-up & be around so that there are no distractions.
Until then, I had only ever taught in-studio, and teaching online was quite a big step out of my comfort zone at first. I realised this medium needed a different teaching style and did some learning to adapt.
There were benefits to online teaching that were quite a surprise to me. I only realised this when I tried teaching this way. They’re benefits that in-studio teaching does not have, and they’re huge!
The benefits of online piano lessons :
- Keeping the continuity : Online lessons help students attend lessons more regularly and are great when parents get stuck at work, or when students have minor coughs and colds and stay home, but are well enough for an online class. When students miss lessons, the break between classes is too long and practise quality goes down. Makeups in-between the students regular lesson can be difficult to schedule, and the student then, does not get enough time to practise. Having an online class keeps attendance regular, and the continuity improves learning.
- Kids find the online medium exciting : My student was very interested in anything to do with technology. So practise (with parent support) was not just regular, it was excellent!
- Super Attentiveness : He listened very carefully to what I was saying, or demonstrating. I think the online medium made him pay more attention to visual and auditory clues. This particular student usually was a very interested and cooperative student, and yet I was amazed at just how much more focused he was during the class. He was like this at both classes, but the second class went better, because his Mum helped him with the set-up, so it was quick, and without delays.
- I was able to see the way my student sits at home. I could see posture and the keyboard set-up at home, and it was easier to teach my student what he needed to learn and be more clear in explanations.
- Independent learning. The most surprising effect of this online lesson format for me, was the quick development of independence in learning.
I see online lessons as an excellent way to keep learning going when students can’t make it to class for in-studio lessons.
Learning new ways
Online teaching needs a slightly different skill set to in-studio teaching. I had to plan my lesson very differently, and work on the following :
- Explaining & demonstrating in this medium needed new skills & a flexible set-up, so that I could take my camera closer to the piano or away, as needed.
- Introducing the fun element was a challenge at first. Off-the bench activities sometimes needed to be replaced by fun, at-the-bench activities.
- I needed parent help for a ‘run around’ break so my student could get rid of excess energy. To ensure that the run ended with my student back at the piano bench, and not running to another activity!
Combination (in-studio plus online) lessons
I still like teaching in-studio, and will continue to teach that way. However, I’m excited about online teaching, as a supplement to regular in-studio classes. The benefits at my first few online classes made me interested enough to learn new skills to improve my online teaching skills.
Covid19 and the 2020 lockdown now means that all my piano lessons have now moved online.
I’ve learned a lot about online teaching since this post and am pleasantly surprised to see lots of progress. A lot more progress in fact, as compared to in-studio lessons.
I think it’s partly because the recorded assignments that are a part of my online lesson format make practise essential. And also, because online learning demands that students be more responsible and organized with their lesson set-up.