As a convenient, cheaper, and, in my opinion, very effective alternative to me travelling to you, I offer online lessons. As with many other people, 2020 introduced me to working online. Instead of treating it as a temporary measure, I saw it as an opportunity to add a compelling teaching option for my pupils.
On this page I will explain what online lessons are, what the pupil sees, how effective it is, my hardware setup, the app I use, my online fees, and 10 handy tips for better online learning. Remember, these lessons are not ‘virtual’ or recorded. This is a real teacher, in a real room, in real time.
What are online lessons?
For those new to one-to-one online learning, it is basically a video chat, where I can see and hear the pupil with their instrument and they can see and hear me. Almost any device with a camera and microphone can be used: smart phones, tablets, laptops, and PCs, whether Android, Apple, or Windows. It is easy to set-up and even easier to use.
At lesson time, you simply have the camera pointing towards the pupil, press the Video Icon that appears on your screen when I call, and the lesson begins. I will always send you an email guide to get you started if you need one.
What does the pupil see?
I have set aside a quiet room specifically for online teaching. My aim is to provide a friendly, relaxed, yet professional atmosphere, as close to the traditional face-to-face experience as possible.
How effective is it?
I am often asked how online lessons compare to normal face-to-face lessons. If you had asked me this when I first started, I would have said about 75%. However, after hundreds of lessons, with improved hardware, far more experience, and subtle tweaks to my teaching style, I would now say about 90%. For some pupils, usually those who are easily distracted, I would say online lessons are superior, since the pupils seem to focus more during the lesson.
I think the best proof of the effectiveness of online lessons is that all the pupils who switched from traditional lessons at the beginning of the new term have kept having lessons, with some having an extra lesson or even taking up a second instrument. Progress is just as good with online lessons, with pupils moving through the Grades as normal and even having the opportunity to take exams, both online/recorded exams and traditional. A number of pupils and parents have remarked how good the experience is – almost like I am actually sitting next to them.
Other, more humorous evidence is that a few of my adult pupils have genuinely offered me a cup of tea or coffee during their lesson. Also, some of the more eager pupils try to badger me with a string of various funny emojis before their lesson, imploring me to start early. Another nice touch is that if it is a pupil’s birthday, I play ‘Happy Birthday’ on the piano to them at the beginning of the lesson. And, I have the pleasure of meeting all the pet dogs, some of whom sit through the lesson.
My hardware set-up
To offer the best and most consistent teaching experience that I am able, I use a purpose built PC and have invested in studio lighting and sound panels. This means that whatever time of day, the lighting remains the same and that sound reflections are minimised. Even though I can stream 1080p FHD video, I use 720p HD, which is sharp, clear, and is fine for most people’s internet bandwidth.
Since audio fidelity is a priority for music tuition, I use a high quality Audio Technica microphone with a shock mount and pop filter. I also wear quality AKG headphones during the lesson. This not only allows me to hear every audio detail, but also means that your audio is not sent back through the mic – this can activate echo suppression, which can distort the sound.
Video Chat Application
After auditioning a number of video chat/conferencing apps for one to one teaching – such as Discord, Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp – I decided to use basic Skype as the default app, with Facebook Messenger Video as a backup. With hundreds of online lessons completed, this has proven a successful and popular choice, with a number of pupils praising the simplicity, convenience, and quality. Skype is available for free on all platforms and devices, has good security, and works from a simple contact list rather than using emails and passwords.
My fees for online lessons are £1.50 less than my travelling out fees. For instance, a single online lesson is £17 and a double back-to-back lesson is £32.50. For more details about my fees or for longer lessons please visit my Fees page.
10 tips for a better online learning experience
- Make sure you are lit from the front or side. A strong light behind can turn you into a silhouette, which makes it hard for me to see what is happening.
- Point the camera at your instrument and hands rather than head and shoulders. I can direct you for that perfect placement.
- Unless you have the bandwidth, if possible, during your lesson, don’t allow anyone to download files or watch Netflix etc using your internet connection – although simple browsing is usually OK.
- An Ethernet connection is more stable with slightly less delay, but a good wireless connection works well.
- If using battery power, make sure the device has enough charge for the lesson.
- Though not essential, phone and tablet arms/holders and tripods allow for a stable picture and also help achieve the perfect placement. They are relatively cheap and widely available.
- Though not essential, an angled laptop riser can help with that perfect webcam placement for your laptop. They are widely available.
- Some people have found that Skype for Business does not play well with basic Skype, which is used for the lesson. If you encounter problems, then remember that you can have both apps on your device if needs be.
- For Child Protection, children should not wear inappropriate clothing (pyjamas, swimwear, etc).
- For Child Protection, there should always be an adult nearby, and the door slightly open, unless it is a glass door.
I hope this proves helpful to you and answers any questions you might have regarding online lessons. If you require further information, then do not hesitate to contact me.