Tuesday, February 16, 2010

eLearning Will Save The Band

By Mark T. Burke

 As more and more students make a shift to eLearning, rethinking the way students learn to play instruments is a must.  In-school lessons provide the individual or small group instruction students need to build performance and musical skills.  Those skills enable students to participate in bands, orchestras, small ensembles, and jazz bands.  However, ten's of thousands of students are migrating to eLearning (often called online learning or virtual schooling) each year.  Here are the numbers.


 Number of K-12 students taking online courses
2002-2003 -- 328,000
2005-2006 -- 600,000 - 700,000
2008-2009 -- 1,030,000 (700,000 to 800,000 learning full time online)

Data Source 1 (Education World), Data Source 2 (Fox Business)

Now let me go on record as saying I support eLearning 100%.  No surprise there :-)  Having worked in both public and private educational organizations, I have witnessed the reality that for the 1000's of students represented in the statistics above, traditional brick and mortar education is not the best option.  On the flip side, for the other percentage of students, brick and mortar education is a perfect fit.  Students should learn how they learn best be that online, or live, or a combination of both (hybrid).

As students make the choice to enroll in eLearning courses and programs, they place their musical experiences at risk. Having spent my last 11+ years in the K-12 eLearning field I know there are few options for continuing their instrumental music study, that's why we opened viaAcademies. Simply put, as students make the shift to eLearning, the chance that they will drop their musical lessons is extremely high.

What can we all do to "save the band."  To save the band, we must ensure students who make the choice to enroll in an eLearning programs have options like viaAcademies.  Most eLearning programs are focused on the core subjects, leaving students and families to find community based solutions for music.  While that may sound feasible, doing so is not always possible.  Second, we must make the decision to ensure these students can participate in school band programs.  I know that statement alone is controversial with many passionate professionals against allowing virtual school students to participate in school music programs.  All I know is that when I conducted my band, I saw student musicians sitting in front of me who wanted to be there.  Ensuring they had a great band experience was my goal.  I could have cared less about where they came from or why or how.  At that moment, they wanted to make music and it was my job to make that happen.

I believe students making choices to ensure their own educational success is a good thing.  I also believe in the power of eLearning. The musical community must be proactive to ensure attempts to improve education for students doesn't mean the end for Band.  We've taking the first steps at viaAcademies by working for the past 14 months building an innovative solution to providing quality beginning instrument lessons through eLearning.  We are continuing to build our program while reaching out and educating others on how our program can benefit students and the field of music.  I know our team doesn't want to wait until band programs all but disappear because we weren't looking to the future.  Look at the numbers above and consider how a 40% growth over the next 1-2 years in the number of students migrating to eLearning could impact in-school band programs and music in general. 

Will eLearning save the band rather than hurt it?  It's up to each and every teacher, band director, parent and student.  We must innovate together, share ideas, discuss solutions and move forward.

How has eLearning affected your school music program?  What about your school in general?  If you're a teacher, can virtual school students participate in your ensembles?

Visit viaAcademies at www.MakeMusicClick.com.  We provide online demonstrations to fit your schedule. School pricing is available upon request.  For questions, email us at info@viaacademies.com

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