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In Defense of Online Education

A University of Virginia professor, Mark Edmundson, recently published an editorial for The New York Times titled “The Trouble With Online Education”, where he poses this question: “can online education ever be education of the very best sort?”. 

Edmundson is of the opinion that online learning cannot do what in-person learning can. While many online education programs do not deliver what they promise, when it comes to learning music, online education can actually be more effective.

Mr. Edmundson only mentions online education for universities and does not consider its role outside of the traditional classroom. He's also (incorrectly) assuming that all online education programs operate the same. While he is correct that online learning can often be an impersonal and less effective learning experience, he is not taking into consideration new advances in education technology. Moreover, just as the quality of education from a traditional universitiy varies depending on the institution, so do online education programs. 

There is a new wave in the growing field of online education that combines elements of traditional classroom learning with education technology to create an entirely new platform. At ArtistWorks, we use a patent-pending education technology called Video Exchange™ .

I doubt Mr. Edmundsonh has ever tried to learn an instrument at one of our online music schools. If he had, he would not be so narrow minded about the use of online learning when it comes to music education. 

Let’s examine what he says point by point.
"Online education is a one-size-fits-all endeavor."

That’s not true – online education can (and should) be custom designed to fit the needs of the student. It is widely accepted that interactive experiential learning is more effective than traditional classroom learning, which is why we place such an emphasis on Video Exchange for our online music lessons. 

"It tends to be a monologue and not a real dialogue."

Again, not true. That’s the beauty of Video Exchange, they are actually ongoing dialogs between student and teacher, as well as the other students in the community who watch and post comments. Students watch the teacher's response, then post additional questions and comments beneath the video. The student who submitted the video can practice the teacher's suggestions and submit another video once they are ready. The dialog between student and teacher continues as the student progresses and continues to submit videos. 

"The Internet teacher, even one who responds to students via e-mail, can never have the immediacy of contact that the teacher on the scene can."

Mr. Edmundson is implying that traditional classroom learning is a more effective way to deliver information. However, studies show that traditional classroom learning has a low retention rate. This makes sense, given that in-person lectures cannot be repeated and are typically not recorded - demanding that the students learn at the pace of the instructor, and making the material less effectively comprehended. 

There's another disadvantage to the old model of traditional classroom learning: everyone needs to be in the same place at the same time. This doesn't benefit our increasingly global community however, and as the population becomes life-long learners, traditional classrooms are ineffective at serving the needs of a dispersed, global, mobile learning constituency.

So using our example of online music lessons, while interactions between student and teacher don’t occur in real time, they still do occur – whether through Video Exchange or in the Forums. One could argue that these interactions are actually more valuable – because they allow students to reflect on their teacher’s advice and access the music lessons as many times as it takes to grasp the material. 

"It doesn’t matter who is sitting out there on the Internet watching; the course is what it is."

Not true. While the prerecorded lessons serve as the “text book” for students to go through and study at their own pace, Video Exchanges allow teachers to answer students’ questions in personalized video responses. The course is as fluid as it needs to be – the teacher will record additional lessons to address student needs, as well as elaborate further on any requested topic through Video Exchange.  

online education

What we create are relationships between teacher and student. We give our students access to musicians who are the absolute best at what they do. We give students everything they need to take their playing to the next level, all they need is the motivation. Online education allows our music instructors to remotely see what students are doing, and teach a greater number of students more effectively and efficiently than they ever could in a traditonal classroom. 


Affordable Plans

Each subscription is for a single school. Pricing and features can vary slightly per school.

1 Month membership
renews monthly
Unlimited Access to Lessons
Unlimited Video Exchanges
Exclusive Content
$35/month (prepaid)
3 Month membership
renews every 3 months
Unlimited Access to Lessons
Unlimited Video Exchanges
Exclusive Content
$30/month (prepaid)
12 Month membership
renews every 12 months
Unlimited Access to Lessons
Unlimited Video Exchanges
Exclusive Content
$20/month (prepaid)