This post was written by Jay Rinaldi, Assistant Professor in the Electronic Production and Design Department. Jay also teaches classes at The New England Institute of Art in the Graphic & Web Design Department. In addition to teaching, he has worked as a computer game musician and sound engineer and as a freelance audio professional for TV (advertising) and in multimedia. Jay has conducted over 250 live video webcasts and designs and develops websites.
Since Fall 2013, we have run a subset of MTEC-111 Introduction to Music Technology sections in a blended format. In the blended format, each week we spend one class session together in person and then students spend an additional three or more hours working with learning materials online at ol.berklee.edu. Rather than lecturing in class, now half of my teaching time is devoted to helping students structure and manage their own learning.
After teaching MTEC-111 Blended for a couple of semesters, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to make a blended classroom run smoothly, especially with first-year Berklee students. These are the key principles that have helped most:
Communicate Clearly. VERY Clearly.
I find that to help both students and instructors succeed in the online or blended learning space, it is essential that all communication is crystal clear and that student expectations are clearly laid out in advance. For example, at the start of each term, I create a greeting message using the “faculty announcements” option within Inside Berklee Courses. In this message, I tell the students a little about myself and my expectations of them as students in the course. This sets the tone for what is to come and show the students that I am available.
Be Proactive and Prolific with Email.
I have found it useful to make sure my email correspondences with students are proactive. In my experience, I can easily address student’s problems/issues if I respond to them quickly. Simply sending screen shots back and forth can further enhance instruction, direction, or resolve problems. I also find it important to use Inside Berklee Courses’ built-in “compose email” function to communicate globally with the class. This function is a great way to remind students of due dates, send new support documentations, and indicate materials needed.
Set Realistic Goals and Deadlines, and Stick to Them.
For my MTEC-111 courses, it’s useful to set time limits for quizzes and discussion topics. If they remain open for too long or “indefinitely,” it weakens the learning outcomes. For my discussions or forums, I leave these items open for 1 week and 2 days and then close them on the final day at midnight!
Maximize Your In-Person Class Time.
In class time, I try to maximize hands-on learning. I use this time to answer technical questions that students have posted online during the week, either through email directly to me or in online class forums. I tell them to have the online reading complete before we meet for that week’s lesson. That way, if there are questions or technical issues that require clarification, we can address them during the meeting time! I recall the time when we were working with the Line 6 UX-2 audio interface, and a student had some difficulties getting Pro Tools to recognize its existence. A few days before our next meeting, I told the student to bring their UX2 to class. I used this as a teaching moment so I could show the student and the whole class (in case others had similar issues), what steps were involved in the setup process or what steps they may have potentially missed. It was a wonderful opportunity to show real-life troubleshooting in action.
A blended course is a new approach to learning, but with the combination of good time management and solid communications, a proactive instructor can help motivate students to have a meaningful and rich learning experience. Learning is not always an easy thing, but I do think it should be made as “fun” (or at least enjoyable) as possible. I would say I take my job and what I do very seriously, but my approach to teaching, learning, and life is to have fun and provide fun during the process. I strive to have a teaching style that is enjoyable and sparks student creativity.
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