Bernie A., California
I have a dad who is moving to Indiana to become one of the assistant. coaches for Notre Dame. They’d like to continue lessons with me by webcasting? Has anyone ever done that? Tips and thoughts would help?
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
I have done this a few times with students who were out of town an extended time. I also have an adult student in Level 9 who snowbirds in FL. He is there now, and plans to move there permanently – he wants to continue lessons with me via webcasting.
I use my laptop which has a built-in camera, but will probably buy a webcam, because it is difficult to position the laptop over the piano. There are different programs you can use. I am by no means an expert in this area. I used Skype last summer, which is free. The sound quality was so-so. Right now I am using Sight Speed, which is a software that came with my student’s webcam. It didn’t cost me anything to set up my end. If both people have a Mac, it comes with iChat. (I wish everybody else would buy a Mac so I could use it!)
Basically, both parties set up a user account on the same program. Once you have an account, you add your students’ name (like adding an e-mail address to your address book). When it’s time for the lesson, one party gets into the software and calls the other. Their computer “rings”, tell them who is calling, and asks if they want to answer. If they click “yes”, you will get the video and audio from the other person. You will see on your screen whatever their camera is pointing at.
In my experience, there is a slight sound delay, but it is still workable.
Sorry if this information is too basic. While not ideal, I think it’s a good solution for students who move to an area with no SM teacher. The thought has crossed my mind that remote groups could be taught in this way if you had good enough equipment with professional setup, but that’s as far as it has gotten. It would be better to have live teachers there.
Mark M., New York
You may recall that I’d been testing videoconference lessons. If the trial group proved successful, I was going to offer this more widely. We are closing in on the end of Level 1, the point where we were going to assess, and we just declared the test a success, comparable in results to my in-person students. The medium has its challenges, both technological and pedagogical, but I do believe that a group video lesson is better than an in-person private lesson, and so it seems well worth pursuing.
Coincidentally, I find myself wanting to expand my studio by about a couple dozen students. While I could and maybe will pursue other avenues for that, the videoconference option seems a compelling one to take advantage of since I now believe it’s ready to expand. In the countries where Simply Music is approved to be offered, they are likely many people who have wanted to do SM lessons but couldn’t/wouldn’t travel to in-person lessons, and many others who’d be interested in videoconference lessons more generally for any number of reasons. On this note, then, there are four things I’d like to say/ask you all:
First, I want to assure everyone that I have no intention whatsoever to take business away from any other SM teacher. For any student in proximity of a licensed SM teacher, I would not want to start videoconference lessons, encouraging them instead to go in person. Likewise, for any student not in proximity who starts videoconference lessons with me but then has a licensed SM teacher start teaching in proximity, I would be in touch with that teacher with the express purpose of working together to encourage the student to switch from videoconference with me to in-person lessons with the other teacher. Of course, “proximity” is a tricky issue, since it’s up to the student, not the teacher, to decide how far they are willing to travel. Likewise, if a videoconference student wants to stay on even when another teacher opens up shop close by and I encourage them to switch, I don’t believe that I could end the relationship. But hopefully at least in this latter situation the student will still help create good local word of mouth that can benefit the local teacher. In any case, I just want everyone to rest assured that I only want to pursue this option in a way that benefits me without hurting any other SM teacher.
Second, if anybody has particular ideas on how I might market this service or otherwise perhaps more directly find prospects/students, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Third, and I hesitate to bring it up in case it may be construed as a kind of solicitation that may not be appropriate for the ECL, but if any of you actually yourselves know of people interested in lessons but who have been unable/unwilling to do so because of travel, I would certainly be quite happy if there was a way for me to connect with those people to see if they’d be interested in doing lessons via videoconference. Please feel free to be in touch off-group.
Fourth, I’m aware that I’m not the only SM teacher who has taught remote lessons or is interested in doing so. it occurred to me that, just as there are many geographic areas where SM teachers work cooperatively, perhaps all SM teachers globally who give or intend to give videoconference/remote lessons could also cooperate. Rather than see ourselves as in competition with each other any more than SM teachers within the same geographic area area, perhaps we could create a single virtual Simply Music studio together. We could divvy up students/groups as appropriate based on our own varying availability, need to take on additional students, time zones and schedules, etc. I imagine that we could then easily go in on a single really decent web-based videoconferencing solution that would end up being probably pretty affordable to everyone involved, good performance, reliable, instead of using free solutions like Meebo and the AOL IM network, etc., which are at best limited in size. This would give the entire concept of SM video conference lessons a much stronger presence in the marketplace, perhaps gaining tons of students and really contributing to the enhancement of the world’s awareness of SM in general, and all while carving out a nice new niche for those of us who are motivated to handle the technological/logistical hurdles of this method of giving lessons. Obviously it wouldn’t/couldn’t be a requirement that any SM videoconference lesson teacher join this virtual studio, but I’d imagine that once it was in place most or all such SM teachers might find it beneficial to associate rather than go it on their own. Throwing it out there.
Bear in mind these caveats for what I’m about to say about group size:
1) My experience is limited to a single test group of videoconference students.
2) My experience both in person and videoconference is limited to groups of only 2-3 in size so far.
3) Depending on the videoconference method/system used, there will be different technological limitations to group size. As you can imagine, some free systems (like the ones I’ve used so far) are more limited than many paid systems. I’m not sure if there’s any system that truly has no limits, but I know of paid systems with limits that I believe would not come into play in practice, meaning that group size would be, in effect, limited only by what each teacher was comfortable with as opposed to technology creating a limit. My hope is that in the end there will be a group of teachers who could go in together on such a paid system.
Once I got used to the unique needs of videoconference lessons, I felt that the experience was, on the whole, fairly comparable to groups of the same size in person, with the main upshot being that, to cover the amount of material that seemed appropriate for the students and comparable to that of in-person students, videoconference lessons tended to need a little bit of extra time compared to in-person. Sometimes no extra time, sometimes maybe 1-3 minutes extra per student per lesson. Not that I measured interaction time per student, just averaging out based on lesson length.
My belief, then, limited as it is by the above caveats, is that whatever size group one is comfortable teaching in person, a teacher could likely handle that same size via videoconference, granting that the lesson would generally need to be extended a bit in length compared to in-person.
Bernie A., California
Hi all: I did start teaching 3 students out of state. One is at Level 4 (9 years), the other is at Level 2 (7 years) and the last one is just starting – Level 1 (5 years). They are brother and sisters. They will not as a family consider traditional lessons at this point. It has been a profitable venture for me although not without its challenges/glitches. Above my piano, I hang the webcam off of my heating vent so they get a birdseye view of my piano. Mom is thoroughly and completely involved and I conduct lessons with a few adjustments but content is still the same. It was told to me that I would need to be committed to carrying through with videoconferencing and that has been the case. But again, it has been profitable. It is possible and doable.
Original discussion started December 30, 2009