• Shraddha Patnala

Are online lessons worthwhile for students?

The flute is an on-the-go instrument. For those of you who play it, you can carry it onboard flights, play almost anywhere you want to, and you can pack it up safely with as much ease. The flute is certainly a playful, convenient instrument. But do flute lessons on Zoom offer students the same joy and respect for the instrument?

In our first blog post about online lessons, we explored whether they were worthwhile. Despite finding many favourable qualities that online lessons offer music students, we also wanted to know what real students thought about learning to play the flute online.

Over the last week, we asked The Flute Practice students about their experience and why they choose to continue with the flute in this way. Their responses to our social media polls and surveys were overwhelmingly positive and unexpectedly so. Here’s what they had to say:

Complements in-person lessons

One student was looking for the positives in shifting circumstances. Here’s what they had to say: Generally I prefer regular [in-person] lessons, but online lessons can be a great addition to that regular ones. Like that it is possible to attend seminars, that otherwise would not be available. And if you’re on a busy schedule or away from your regular living place, it is better to schedule an online lesson than no lesson at all to keep a regular teaching rhythm [.] I personally think that both options complement each other and should be used together to design a good teaching schedule.

You set your pace

As we mentioned in our first article, online lessons mean a lot of independence, self-awareness, and accountability. You get to determine how to learn and when to do it. This response from our student sums it up perfectly!

The benefit of only learning online is that you are your own driving force behind your talent! (You set the pace be it slow or fast.) I find that online lessons are great for classical training such as scales, tone and technique. The tutorial videos are great for learning little techniques in between and getting tips.

Student levels

The Flute Practice students come with flair and variety in their musical and life experiences. This chart shows our current student demographic and what they think about online lessons:

Figure 1: What is your playing level?

Figure 2: Student preference for online and in-person lessons.

The frustrations and delights of online learning

Although most students felt they would prefer online lessons, technology issues remained a stubborn feature of these sessions.

The ‘Why’ behind their preference - and their frustrations

​​As people, we generally love it when our activities can be scheduled with convenience and we can enter the session at a touch of a button. So when we asked our students why they chose online lessons their reasons to keep up with their lessons ranges. It goes from being able to schedule in advance without the worry of beating traffic to simply connecting with a friendly, passionate music teacher.

Figure 3: Why students chose online lessons.

As one of our students eloquently shared, “Finding a teacher, choosing a teacher is [a] lot like selecting a therapist. The ability to find teachers online, see and hear them, and view their teaching style and personality, enables students to find a fit with a teacher who can understand where they are in their flute pathway, teach in ways they find compatible, and challenge. Many offer a free intro lesson. [This makes the selection process] Helpful.”

However, while students may prefer online lessons, there are certain unique issues that crop up when the entire world is online every day. From the Wi-Fi cutting out to the sound quality dropping - and saying “hello, can you hear me?” a hundred times into the void - there seem to be recurring problems that both students and teachers face. We asked our students what frustrated them about learning the flute online and there were some unsurprising common annoyances.

One student shared that “Nothing [downsides] actually, but the downside is that I cannot find a proper way to set up the camera so my teacher can see my posture and fingering, other than only the embouchure; as we have to stay within an hour, I cannot share all the time my struggles and fix them during the class.”

The flute is wonderful to play with other musical instruments, but as one student pointed out “I was never good at duets and I don’t think online lessons avail [themselves] to that.”

As you can see, there are no easy solutions to the “Hello, can you still hear me?” problem, but students seem to want to keep forging ahead with their online lessons. This is not only a testament to their interest in their musical training but also how people persevere through circumstances when they find a thing they enjoy.

We’d love to know what you think

Look out for our next article in this series about what music and art teachers think about online teaching. Until then, keep practicing and enjoying the flute!

About the online learning blog series:

In this series of articles, we’ll be looking into different perspectives about online learning, and what teachers and students think it takes to build a level of comfort learning the flute in a virtual space. Keep an eye out for the rest of this upcoming series on The Flute Practice blog!

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