When teaching online, one of the hardest things to get a handle on is your audience. This is especially true if you are teaching a class with high enrollments. Before teaching online I was an experienced face-2-face music theory/history instructor. I assumed that this experience would provided me with the knowledge needed to teach online, but I was wrong.
The first time I taught Music Fundamentals online, I was obsessed with the time my non-major students were spending on different tasks. In particular, I was troubled by the lack of time they spent working through Unit 1’s written lessons on “Pitch“. On average, students were spending less than 3 minutes in each lesson. I assumed that there was an issue with my lessons (despite careful copy editing, audio, animations and graphics), and decided that I needed to quickly create alternative presentation materials. I spent the next three months making hours of video content, trying to more directly engage student interest.
As it turned out, 85% of my students had some experience reading music. Because of this previous knowledge, a large number of students didn’t feel the needed to read these early lessons. In short, a lack of specific knowledge about the student population lead me off in the wrong direction.
[title size=”2″]The Entry Survey: Know Your Audience[/title]
The quickest way to get information about your students is to ask them, and one of the best tools for gathering this information is an entry survey. An entry survey can elicit a variety of information including: previous knowledge/training, educational levels/experience, and expectations for the course.
Here is a sample of questions I’ve used in the past:
- How well can you read music?
- Please describe your previous experiences with music performance.
- Please describe your reasons for enrolling in this class.
- What are your expectations for this course?
- What are you hoping to learn in this course?
- Have you ever taken private music lessons? Please describe…
- What have you heard about this course from your friends?
[title size=”2″]Tips on Survey Creation[/title]
- Free surveys can be created in Google Forms and easily embedded into an LMS (Music Toolbox will be demoing this soon).
- Make sure you ask the “right” questions. Deciding what information you want/need, before creating your questions, is the key to success.
- Be specific! Vague questions generate vague data.
- When possible, give students a series of specific choices instead of blank text fields.
For instance, “how well can you read music?” followed by a blank text field will elicit an endless variety of answers. Giving students a range of possibilities, say from “not at all” to “fluently”, will create a clearer picture.
- When asking questions with numbers (ex. “How many years did you play in band?“), it’s best to use single numbers instead of ranges of numbers. This will make data crunching easier.
- Make your entry survey a required HW assignment. You will get the highest level of student participation this way.