A Design for Teaching Skill-Based Courses - Group Piano Online

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

This session will consider the challenges and opportunities of creating and teaching a skill-based class in the distance learning environment.


Susanna Garcia is the Coordinator of Keyboard at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where she teaches piano, piano pedagogy and lectures in the interdisciplinary humanities program. Dr. Garcia has presented workshops and papers on a variety of topics for the International Society for Music Education, College Music Society, Music Teachers National Association, National Association for Humanities Education, National Group Piano/Piano Pedagogy Forum, Louisiana Music Teachers Association and a host of state music teacher groups. Her work has appeared in such publications as Piano Pedagogy Forum, 19th Century Music and Interdisciplinary Humanities. Her article 'Learning Styles and Piano Teaching' was selected for inclusion in the 'Best of Piano Pedagogy Forum.' Garcia is the co-developer of eNovativePiano: Multimedia Resources for Developing Musicianship Skills, published online at eNovativePiano.com. Dr. Garcia holds the Masters and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and the Bachelor of Music from Texas A&M at Corpus Christi, Texas. She is Professor of Music at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she has taught since 1990. Dr. Garcia holds the Ruth Stodghill Girard Endowed Professorship in Music and in 2001 was named a University of Louisiana Distinguished Professor. In 2012, she was honored as a Foundation Fellow by the Music Teachers National Association, and in 2013 received the Outstanding Teacher Award from the Louisiana Music Teachers Association. In 2015, she was recognized by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, receiving the 'Research Excellence Award' for the College of the Arts.

Extended Abstract

Distance Learning has grown rapidly in recent years and is now an imperative in higher education. However, in applied (skill-based) courses, the pace of growth has been much slower. While there are many teachers inside and outside academe who teach one-to-one lessons via Skype, online instruction of group piano is still quite rare. I know of about five universities that offer online courses in group piano.

Because a high degree of individualization is required when teaching skill based courses such as group piano, it is necessary, yet challenging, to create online content that would be relevant for every user in the group. Moreover, in music pedagogy, the tradition of teacher modeling is normative. While content creation is a challenge, the real challenge lies in feedback and assessment when teaching skills in the online environment. Because both seeing and hearing the student performer is essential to proper assessment, some have argued that applied music instruction is fundamentally unsuited to distance learning. There would seem to be no elegant solutions for teaching piano in groups where many students need to be visually/aurally assessed at frequent intervals, and where the tradition of immediate teacher feedback is entrenched.

In spring 2014, I taught my first online group piano class, utilizing the Quality Matters rubric. I have now taught it four times. The first portion of this session will be a presentation of the challenges and opportunities that I experienced. Topics to be covered include course design and implementation, feedback and assessment, quality control and creating camaraderie among the students. Student video performances and student feedback will also be included. A PowerPoint slideshow will be available for any interested attendees.

The second portion of the session will be an interactive discussion with audience participants who wish to contribute ideas and experiences for improving the design of this or any skill-based course. Ideas generated from this discussion will be recorded and made available to participants after the conference.

This session should be of interest to teachers wishing to share ideas for teaching and assessing skills in any discipline. Each successful endeavor in creating an applied course creates opportunities to develop additional courses in other skill-based disciplines that formerly have not been considered appropriate for online delivery.