Becoming an excellent online music teacher

By Lilian Simones, CEO of Enact Music

Teaching music online is becoming more than ever a ‘must have skill/experience’ in a music teachers’ portfolio. It can have a variety of advantages when compared to the more traditional music teaching and learning in face-to-face settings, where teacher and learners meet in the same physical space. Some of the advantages include enabling access to learning, for cases where learning in the more traditional setting described above would not be possible. For example, due to geographical distance, lack of transportation, or as a solution to tackle the social distancing required in the Covid 19 pandemic. However, capitalising on the advantages of online music teaching, needs to be done with a view of delivering high-quality music learning experiences for students, and therefore, quality in learning should never be compromised.

The steps below provide you with some guidance on how to balance some of the difficulties you might be encountering in online music teaching, particularly if you were ‘forced’ to move your teaching online quickly, due to the current pandemic.


STEP 1: Do not demand too much from students and parents in terms of dealing with technology or the purchase of new equipment. Instead, use platforms they are comfortable using, at least as a starting point. This requires that you develop technology related knowledge and skills by testing things out in your own time and have different online platforms that you can use. This will also be helpful in case there is a need to switch quickly at any point during the lesson (e.g., technical difficulties, unexpected software updates, etc.).

STEP 2: Always deliver humanised learning: give importance and time to building relationships, with both students and parents. This is something you would have done naturally in the more traditional teaching setting. Consider ways in which the ‘natural’ interaction you usually would have with parents and students can be maintained and developed in the virtual environment as well.

STEP 3: Co-create the learning outcomes with the student and set deadlines for certain accomplishments, in progressive ways (small steps at a time).

STEP 4: Be understanding of students' particular circumstances, particularly if the outcomes were not achieved as planned. In such situation, provide a clear student-centred plan for improvement (step-by-step approach), emphasising the development that took place prior to this, even if small (but make it sound big).

STEP 5: Be organised
• Have parents contact details including phone numbers and email address.
• Send lesson notes to parents.
• Email homework and resources.
• It is best to keep the lessons at the same day and time of the week.

STEP 6: Go above and beyond
• Send recordings of pieces the student is learning.
• Plan for online concerts (signed parental permission is required – do not upload any content to the internet without the appropriate permissions being sought and given).
• Continue challenging the student to do more (maybe preparing for an exam, online performance event?)
• Build a community environment between students: WhatsApp group etc, where students can interact with each other – signed permissions from parents required) –  the group should be closed to students, teacher, and parents ONLY and the teacher should moderate the group and set communication rules.

STEP 7: Do a risk assessment and have in place an online child protection policy and any other needed aspects to ensure a safe learning environment for you and the student.

STEP 8: Set out expectations from all parties from the outset, in the form of a contract/agreement to be signed between you and parents.
• What happens if technology difficulties on your side make a lesson very difficult?
• What happens if the difficulties were on the parent’s side?
• What happens if the student does not show up to the lesson?
• Etc….

STEP 9: Be patient with yourself and with students and keep learning from this new experience. Thank goodness we live in an era where there is internet! 😊

STEP 10: Continuously self-assess your teaching and keep engaged with communities of like-minded teachers to learn more and contribute your knowledge.
• Congratulate yourself on the great accomplishment of being able to switch so quickly.
• Check what are you doing very well?
• Check what are you doing that perhaps is not working?
• What requires improvement? And what could be the solutions?
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