I found when I first started teaching online that my lessons we less effective than in-person lessons. I have since learned some significant teaching strategies and tools that have increased how fast students learn. Now I say that students learn 8-10x more effectively online, for a variety of reasons that I will address in this article.
It took me 10 years to learn to get to this point. I now have a mission to help teachers achieve in months what took me 10 years to learn. I am now creating a resource for teachers that walks them through step by step, the most valuable teaching skills. If you are a piano teacher and would like to help pioneer a new era of piano pedagogy, visit the link below to begin your journey into an exciting world of possibilities made possible only through modern technology.
The first time I tried teaching piano lessons online, I found myself in a bit of a conundrum. I had a variety of teaching experiences already under my belt. I taught private lessons for 25 years, I taught 10 years in public schools, 5 years at a university and 4 years at a community college. I taught in all groups and sizes, but I was unprepared for the frustration that I first encountered when I tried my hand at teaching piano online. I had decided that teaching in person was both more effective and more enjoyable, and I was ready to ride off online lessons as a failed experiment.
Luckily I kept at it and started thinking outside the box. I realized that my frustration stemmed from not being able to use the in-person tools I had developed over the past 25 years. I had to start looking at this through new eyes like I did when I first started teaching. The difference was that now I had 25 years of experience that I could draw from.
Now that I have over 5 years of experience of teaching lessons online, I can share with you some of the things that I have learned. There are many ways to teach online. I feel confident because I have experimented and practiced with many different methods of online lessons, so I feel comfortable with switching as circumstances warrant. I highly recommend that piano teachers experiment with all of the following methods. Some of the methods produce superior results as they are much more effective than others.
Solution 1 - Simple Video Conference (50% Effective)
This solution is a quick way to check in with students. The student and teacher can see each other from the side angle. Make sure that the face, hands, and keys are visible. This method is not quite as effective as an in-person-lesson because the teacher cannot write on the student's music, point to notes on the page, or lift the students' arms into proper position to demonstrate technique. You will find there are another dozen things that you miss from when you were there in person.
Solution 2 - Email or Post the Lesson (50% - 2X Effective)
I use Piano Marvel for the online content and interactive learning environment that you will see below. You and your students can set up a free account of Piano Marvel and get started right away. This can be a great way to start off. We have created some Ready-to-Go Lesson Plans for your convenience. You can send students the PDF or just the video that will show them what to do. Click the link below to get your premade lessons.
This solution is especially easy and can be extremely effective. First, do the lesson yourself so you can see how it works from your perspective. Let students know that they can do the lesson with an acoustic piano, but if they have a midi enabled piano or keyboard they will have the benefit of interactive learning, which will enable them to learn at an accelerated rate. They may want to acquire a midi enabled piano specifically to enhance their experience learning piano.
Suggested Pianos - Link Coming Soon!
Solution 3 - Interactive Video Lesson with Optimum Setup (4X - 8X Effective)
Click the image above to watch a 7-minute sample of a highly effective online piano lesson.
This solution will allow your students to learn 4X - 8X more effectively than the traditional in-person-lesson. Why do students learn so much faster? There are many reasons, but let me share with you my favorite three reasons.
Reason #1 - As you saw in the video, it is easy to train a student to use the interactive learning tools if you have remote access to their computer. TeamViewer and Zoom both offer excellent remote access control. It is almost like you are in the same room with the student because you can point to notes on their screen, highlight passages of music, start and stop the music as you see fit, change the tempo, zoom in on the music and hundreds of other helpful tools that you could not do without remote access. This saves an enormous amount of time and frustration that comes from trying to give verbal instructions.
Reason #2 - Students, by nature, do not have the patients to practice slow and methodically. It normally takes years to teach a piano major how to practice effectively. With the interactive tools built into Piano Marvel, especially the Minced slicing coupled with Prepare Mode and the Progress tracker, you can train a student of any age how to practice methodically like a professional pianist in 5 minutes! You could see from the video how systematically the student learned to work through the piece.
Reason #3 - Focus!
If you can get your students to focus on a goal while they practice, the rate at which they learn increases significantly. Notice what happens with a student when they see the Prepare Mode Chart. In the image above, this student is learning the Tempest by Beethoven, measures 9-16. With the feedback from red notes, time spent and estimated score, a student instantly starts to focus on a goal. They take this small section of music and try to get fewer notes wrong, working to reach the target time of 14.4 seconds. This goal-oriented practice helps a student focus and learn faster.
Below you see the Assess mode score of 91% and red and black notes to indicate where he missed notes. From experience, I can tell you that I personally first think about beating that 91%, then I look at the red notes to see what I missed so I can fix it in order to improve my score. I am motivated to try again and again until I get 100%.
Perhaps the most effective tool is the Progress Complete Percentage that shows the student that he is 4% complete with this song.
As a teacher, I can ask a student to try to get to 20% by next week or try to progress 5% per day. This gives the student a large perspective focus. When you combine the Prepare Mode, Assess Mode and Progress Percentage together, students will find that their practice time is 4X - 8X more productive.
I recommend that you get certain apps to help you do quality online lessons.
Video Conferencing Apps: Skype, Zoom, and Hangouts can be used with any phone or device. All three have free versions that you and your students can use.
Remote Computer Access: Zoom and TeamViewer allow you to control your students' computer. Both have free versions that you and your students can use.
Marco Polo is a walkie talkie app that is indispensable for helping students get setup. You don't have unlimited time to video conference with students, and this app will allow you to communicate in groups and 1-on-1 most effectively.
You can create your own tutorial videos with a video showing what your hands are doing and also show the music on the page with the blue cursor following along so that people who watch your video will be able to follow along easily without getting lost. Click the YouTube Video below to learn how to create tutorial videos:
There are thousands of pieces in the Piano Marvel library preloaded that you can use, but there is also an option to load your own music. For more information on how to load your own files into Piano Marvel, see the video links below.
We will be adding more content to this web page daily to help you as you start teaching more online lessons.
Below are some of the items coming soon to this article.
Video Conference with Sheet Music
Video - Video Conference with Piano Marvel
Video - Group Online Lesson
Video - Creating Pre Recorded Lessons (OBS is Free)
Video - Creating and uploading interactive content for students
Video - The power of video teaching projects
Form for Online Piano Teacher Certification - So we can recommend students to certified teachers.
Items to discuss