Making the Most of Online Learning

Making the Most of Online Learning

Online music lessons and classes provide convenient opportunities for learning and growth wherever you are. While the online learning experience will be somewhat different than in person, it can be equally as productive and potentially more efficient. Consider these 10 factors to make the most of your online learning experience.

Switching gears and setting the right expectations. 

Switching to online learning entirely, or making it a staple in part of your overall learning experience certainly takes some getting used to. Having the right expectations will go a long way in setting yourself up for success. 

Understanding the teacher’s challenge will help you make necessary adjustments, in order to help them do their job. Creating a positive atmosphere and paying very close attention will undoubtedly help ensure productivity. An extra gear of concentration may be required to stay focused. 

Be patient, as the learning curve may be slightly, temporarily flattened. Learning takes time, and the lack of in person demonstrations may make it difficult for more visual learners to grasp complicated concepts. Acknowledge the limitations and embrace alternatives to find the most success. 

Pay attention to logistics and technology.

Obviously, some lessons or classes may require the use of specific software or hardware. Ensure your computer or device has the necessary components and operating system requirements prior to taking the class. Spend some time getting to know the software systems and their basic functionality, so your class time is effortless. 

Reduce the dependency on WiFi, if possible. Using an ethernet cable and plugging directly into your internet port will ensure a strong connection throughout the class and mitigate latency. If WiFi is absolutely necessary, make sure you’re close to the router and have as strong a connection as possible. If possible, avoid shared networks or multiple users taking up bandwidth during class time. 

Consider investing in technology, where appropriate, to give you the best experience possible. Headphones will help you eliminate background noise and distractions and stay focused on the class. External audio devices can help cut down on background noise through your mic, and ensure clean, crisp audio signals are sent. Your teacher will appreciate this and help them help you, especially if you’re singing or playing an example with your instrument! 

Your class may require you to position yourself or your camera in a way that helps the teacher get optimal visuals on your performance or technique. Make adjustments, as needed, and ask for feedback to make sure your adjustments are helpful. 

Set up the right space. 

Where you take the class can have a profound effect on your success. Cluttered spaces, littered with distractions, will ultimately spell doom for even the most motivated learner. Find a quiet, private space that is well lit and well organized. 

Organization will help you find what you need when you need it, from notes to accessories. Poorly lit rooms or spaces will make it difficult for music teachers to see what is happening, and will likely strain your eyes when looking at the computer screen. 

Block or close unnecessary websites to reduce clutter and distractions. Pop ups, unwanted audio interference, and social networking sites are distracting and will impede your ability to follow what is happening in class. Shut off notifications from any websites or devices that will distract you or pull your attention from the task at hand. 

And lastly, turn your phone off. Avoid taking calls or responding to messages. It’s difficult to have a productive private music lesson without full attention. And in online group music classes, time may be limited. Teachers will not have the luxury of explaining entire concepts a second time for students who were distracted by phone calls. 

Set goals and stick to them. 

We all take music lessons or classes for a reason. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves what that reason is. Give context to your initiative by setting clear, specific goals that are measurable, attainable, and realistic.

Outline your objectives, and communicate them to your teacher(s), so they can make sure the content of the lesson or music class is in line with your ultimate goal. Setting goals helps maintain focus in order to achieve your outcome in a timely fashion. 

Learning to play music is not an overnight endeavor. But lack of focus and unclear objectives can lead to a loss of motivation and poor skill development over time. Students who set clear and specific goals, and maintain the focus necessary to achieve them, will find success in far less time than those without goals. 

Effective planning is invaluable. 

Effective planning can help anyone stay on course to achieve the goals they set. Life gets busy, and weeks fill up with activities before we know it. We have to make the time to take classes and practice the material, in order to get the full value of any new endeavor. 

Create a calendar of classes and practice or study time. The calendar should be somewhere readily accessible to you, whether digital or hard copy. If you use online calendars, be sure to add your music classes as events and set aside practice time for yourself. Create reminders for yourself so nothing is forgotten. 

There may not be a lot of time to devote to mastering the course content. Create practice logs and to-do lists, so the time isn’t wasted and you’re as efficient as possible. If you have a lot of time to commit to practicing, set time limits and take brakes to keep your mind fresh and alert. Stay on schedule! 

Communicate with your teacher. Often.

Without face-to-face interaction, frequent and well-articulated communication is the key to aid in understanding of complex material and concepts. Online learning will limit the ability to deliver highly nuanced, demonstrative interactions. So communicating clearly and effectively is incredibly important in the learning process. 

To that end, it’s critical to build a relationship with the teacher so the teacher can better understand your learning style, any technical tendencies, and stylistic interests to help guide you in the right direction. 

Most importantly, ask for help when you need it. Studies show (and common sense concludes) that misdirection and misunderstanding happens when the teacher is no longer there. It makes sense that students follow the right path while in class, but can often struggle when left to their own device. For that reason, it’s important to not let any confusion or questions fester or lead to serious problems. At the slightest hint of uncertainty, reach out to the teacher and ask questions! 

Book time with the teacher outside of class. Attending office hours is a great way to get extra help when you need it, clarify any uncertain points, and strengthen your overall understanding of material covered in class or private lessons. For those who wish to get extra help without paying for private lessons, booking office hours can solve the problem of getting quick help. 

Actively participate. 

Participating in class discussions will go a long way in making sure you’re clear on subjects and concepts brought up in class. Often, class discussions can bring up questions that you may not have realized or can answer questions others may have but are too shy to ask. So ask a lot of questions, raise your hand when the instructor asks questions, and do you best to answer questions when called upon. 

Sometimes, the best way to make the most of your online learning experience is to engage with your peers (and teachers) on social media or community sites to ask and share information. Create social media groups focused on the class content so members can share their knowledge and understanding. The more information you have, the better. 

Also giving class suggestions and feedback is a great way to make the most of your online learning. With your feedback, content may be optimized and updated to reflect best practices. And suggestions may lead to new classes or improved class topics that are more relevant to the needs and preferences of students. 

Stay motivated. 

Staying motivated is a difficult task for those not used to self-motivation. Without an instructor in your ear, some tend to lose interest. There are many ways to keep your motivation high. 

Like exercising, creating a routine will help make your class participation or practice part of your norm. As creatures of habit, this can become vitally important. Stay positive and create reward systems for yourself. Who doesn’t want a little ice cream for a practice session well done? 

Seeking advice from others can be helpful to maintain motivation. Further, encouraging others can psychologically help us to keep our own standards and motivation high. So, don’t forget why you started in the first place, and remind others the same.  

Maintain Accountability. 

Staying accountable will help you force yourself to stay on task and reach new heights. Motivation is important, but without accountability, you will always let yourself off the hook. Maintaining self-discipline is a challenge but well worth the effort. From routines to reward systems, keeping motivation high still requires the discipline to stay focused on following through. 

Create regular, self check-ins to take an accounting of how you’re progressing and understand what may be causing issues, if any. Get an accountability buddy to help keep you on track. Take music classes or lessons together so you can use each other to ensure you’re not veering off path. 

Be certain the goals set are realistic. By setting goals that are unrealistic, motivation will wane and it will be difficult to keep accountability when the efforts will be for naught. With realistic goals, after the follow through, you will see the fruits of your labor. What else could you ask for to keep the motivation high? It all works together.

Treat it like an in-person class or lesson. 

Treating your online lesson or online class as if it were in-person may give you the extra incentive to get your practice done, stay positive, and take it seriously. Just like the in-person class, treat your fellow students, peers, and teachers with the same respect. Do not interrupt, and make certain you are muted during another person’s questions or performances. 

“Show up” – meaning be punctual, be prepared, and be positive – to the class or lesson, the same way you would in person. This will help you get the full value out of your purchase. And last, remember that you’re paying for this class. That should be reason enough to give it the attention and respect it deserves. 

In summary…

Online learning can be fun, flexible, and very rewarding! While classes and lessons may be the same in terms of content, the experience will be different. We can all take steps to make sure the learning experience is still exceptional, and exceeds our expectations.