I first tried online piano teaching with my Bandra students. It’s 2 hours away from where I live and during the monsoon this can extend to upto 3 hours at peak time, due to water logging, traffic jams & rail break-downs. I visit there once a week and teach a couple of students while I’m there.
I needed a break from the long commute for a little while and one of my students, a 9 year old boy, tried online lessons via Skype. 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.
- Introducing off the bench activities with children require a little bit of effort and innovation.
- Connectivity or set-up issues can result in a longer than planned class.
- Young students need parents around to manage the set-up & be around so that there are no distractions.
- Both the teacher & the student need to be very organised. With stationery, books & all material required for the class on hand.
- Teachers may need to email homework assignments to avoid confusion.
- It suits self-motivated older students or adults who are regular with practise.
The difference in the impact of the medium (online vs in-studio class) made me feel quite out of my comfort zone for the first few classes and I had to put in quite some effort to change my teaching style to suit online teaching. I could see the benefits to online teaching that did not occur to me until I tried it. They’re benefits that in-studio teaching does not have, and they’re huge!
Here’s a list of the benefits to online piano lessons :
- Keeping attendance regular : My students reschedule class quite often, because there’s no adult to bring them to class. I have a 100% make-up policy, but there’s a problem. If the break between classes is too long, practise quality goes down, and if the break is too short and the student does not get enough time to practise. Having an online class can take care of this.
- Kids find the online medium exciting : My student was very interested in anything 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. He’s usually 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 saw bad posture, an inappropriate piano stool, height & distance from the keyboard.
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 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 stool, 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.