Most educators are facing a similar situation across the world – how do I navigate online education and make it the same, if not better, than in-person teaching? Information on this topic has become clearer yet endless and can be overwhelming.

One of the best ways to organize your online teaching is to have clear goals.

First and foremost, creating personalized learning, emphasizing that this is still face-to-face learning, and making your learning objectives and assessments clear and concise is the first step in creating your teaching plan. It is important that we don’t try to “reinvent the wheel” and emphasize to students and parents that we are REFORMATTING in new, wonderful ways. Online teaching doesn’t have to be an unfortunate, less-than, situation, but can be illuminating in ways we never would expect. Behind all of these things, is a high level of Care – the most important thing we can offer as teachers.

After creating your own learning objectives for your ensemble, the next step is concluding how these objectives can still fit the framework of personalized learning. Creating individual student goals, technical or musical, is vital, but many teachers may come to realize that being flexible with your student goals is crucial in online teaching. Understanding that every student learns differently, and no one will respond to online teaching the same way. This is where screencasts are perfect for the flexible teaching model because they allow the students to learn at their own pace. It can’t be emphasized enough that varied plans for assessment are important – whether that be through Zoom/DX face-to-face sessions, or more “traditional” ways, such as submitting a recording, compositions, or written assignments on music history and theory.

Although we are not in person, students don’t need to feel like they are learning alone. This is where feedback and student interaction is crucial. As a teacher, feedback is already a large part of our job, but when it is an online learning environment, feedback will be where you can make students feel like they are getting personalized attention. Face-to-face individual sessions should be occasionally included with more formative feedback. Peer feedback is also a great motivator, and one strategy for encouraging student interaction.

Let’s be honest, most students love school because of the social interaction they engage in. How do we make sure students still feel like they are communicating and seeing their classmates? There are many strategies for continuing student interaction, like breakout rooms for sectionals or group work. Throughout the school year, encourage students to participate in group discussions, giving positive and constructive feedback, and making virtual performance videos for sharing. Being a larger part of the discussion and their learning, it more important now than ever. Discussion-based projects can include a music composition group, composing activities, and chamber groups that give and receive feedback.

Going back to Care, which I previously mentioned is the most important goal for your teaching. This is an unprecedented situation we are facing right now – a pandemic amongst the technology age. Most students engage with the internet often, but they are rarely being seen or listened to. This is where the teacher’s importance in students’ lives is apparent. Students need to feel like they are interacting with others outside their immediate circles. Check-in with your students, start Zoom sessions with updates on your life and theirs and don’t wait on giving feedback. For many, school is the most stable thing in their lives right now. Music education and learning how it can be a much-needed creative outlet is important. Giving feedback as quickly as possible, and encouraging students to stay engaged with each other, their instruments, and their learning, will help everyone feel connected to each other and grow.