Online Teaching

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“Geography is no longer a limit. I teach singers anywhere from Texas and Stockholm to Switzerland and beyond.”

Introduction
The pandemic created a hugely challenging environment for those of us who are dedicated to teaching how to sing opera. Not only did the whole business change, with massive disruption to the careers and prospects of many of my students, but we also faced hurdles in physically teaching the skills and techniques which are needed.

On a positive side, the awful pandemic gave young singers an unparalleled chance to spend time learning and honing their craft without the pressures of a hectic work schedule or lifestyle.  This was an excellent chance to really dedicate themselves to their beloved practice.

Even now, post pandemic, there are times when remote lessons are valuable, especially for international students or those who cannot travel to attend in person. For those reasons, I am committed to continue offering a remote Zoom option for online teaching.

However there are definitely challenges and positive aspects which go with teaching online instead of face to face. Here are some thoughts for those of you who may be wondering about whether to choose this option.

Disadvantages

1. 
Inadequate Internet connection.
Clearly if we’re trying to conduct a lesson over a very slow Internet connection or without a proper WiFi signal in your location,  then there can be problems with getting the most out of the time.  I try and maintain a high quality signal by using high speed fibre connection, but sometimes it is still difficult if one of my students is connecting from their basement two floors away from their home’s router signal.

I generally try to recommend that if possible my students connect with an Ethernet cable rather than WiFi to avoid these problems. But where they can’t, then at least try and locate themselves as close to the WiFi router as possible to get the best possible signal. And needless to say the data speeds need to be as fast as possible.

2. Unsuitable devices.
Alongside the internet connection is the aspect of the device. Nowadays most modern computers and smartphones have ample power to deliver a decent experience on a Zoom call. But there have been occasions where students have struggled with elderly laptops which simply can’t process the quality of voice and video we need to conduct a meaningful lesson. Ironically some of my most engaging lessons have happened where the student is using an iPhone on a 4G SIM card connection. One good thing is that we’ve never had to turn down a student because of inadequate equipment. We usually work something out.

3. Lack of body language and personal engagement.
Clearly there’s a lot less information that I can gather over a video call. It’s simply not possible to get a full range of body language, posture, breathing and resonance that would be typical of a face to face lesson. But I have overcome this by specifically checking posture and breathing during the lesson, and through using my experience to gain visual clues as to what is happening as a whole. Often both of us on the call are amazed by how much we can progress, despite the apparent hurdles and distance.

remoteteaching

Advantages

1.  Increased focus.
Paradoxically distance or remote learning can deliver some very useful benefits. For one, the student arrives at the lesson ready to go. No recovering from the commute, or from the stress of having to travel through bad weather etc. It’s also true to say that there’s nothing more relaxing than having your lesson wearing your comfy sweat pants and favourite slippers!

2.  Scheduling.
Suddenly it’s possible to book your lesson at a time that truly suits you. Lunch time, evening, almost any time is good when you don’t have to worry about traveling or location. Strangely enough, being locked down showed us a new kind of freedom to make the best use of our hours.

3. Location.
Geography is no longer a limit. I now have the pleasure of teaching students from all over the world. I teach singers anywhere from Texas and Stockholm to Switzerland and beyond.