In this post, I interviewed Enrique Gonzalez Müller, Assistant Professor in the Music Production and Engineering Department at Berklee. He taught MP-P305 Record Production for Producers, the capstone class for the MP&E Minor, last semester. Enrique holds a dual degree from Berklee in MP&E and Music Synthesis. He is a producer, recording engineer, and arranger who has worked with many independent, national and international artists. He is a Latin Grammy-winning producer for Los Amigos Invisibles, a member of the education committee of the San Francisco chapter of the Grammys, and volunteer faculty for the Prison University Project at San Quentin Prison. In this discussion, we talk about how web conferencing benefited his MP-P305 class during this past winter, when snowstorms were plentiful.
Nazli: What did you use Google Hangouts for?
Enrique: Using Google Hangouts came out of necessity since we had so many snow dates at the beginning of this semester! The very first Wednesday, we had to cancel class due to a storm and I had a production course where students needed to jump in right away, find an artist, get a bunch of songs to be considered for their productions and send those back to me for approval. If we had missed one week, it would have been really tough for my students to get caught up. So I thought on my feet and decided to use Google Hangouts, since it can do video conferencing with up to fifteen people meeting at once [ed. note: ten is the maximum number of users, fifteen is the maximum for the version that Berklee is using.] Just hours before class, when it was snowing and we knew we couldn’t make it to campus, I sent everyone an email and gave them instructions on how to use Google Hangouts to conduct our class. In a few minutes, we were all up and going and didn’t miss a beat! We went through the syllabus, the assignments, and went through introductions with everyone. I got a chance to get serious with the students too and set the tone for responsibility (as well as have a laugh!). The thing that I found pretty cool was not only that we did class, but we also were all operating on the same platform. I’d have the list of questions and materials on different parts of my screen so that I could easily maneuver and share with my students. In our back and forth, I could have everybody do the same thing by just saying something like, “Ok, so lets all go to our course page and go to assignment 3 tab on this,” and it was just super practical and fun. I wound up doing it for every snow date that we had…which ended up being two or three!
N: How long did you meet with your students?
E: The full two hours.
N: What worked?
E: Specifically the video and the audio worked great. I had entertained the thought of doing it via Skype, but you can’t use as many people, and it seems to have dropouts here and there. So everything technically worked. All the things that I just mentioned for class as far as the practicality of, “everybody lets go here,” and everybody can just turn on a dime or I can drop a file or a link to everybody. That…was awesome.
N: Did you do that all via Google or did you use Inside Berklee Courses (ol.berklee.edu) at all?
E: The communication was via Google Hangout, but we did have the OL site there on our desktops so that we could go back and forth. One thing that I did in conjunction with it that worked awesome, was that two or three students couldn’t make the hangout, so I opened up the application Quicktime, and did a screen capture of everything. I could get everything that was on my screen, as well as the audio, as well as the video. What I did afterwards was compress the file and post the file on the course site for everybody including those two or three students that missed it. That way, they could see everything we did so they could do the assignment and recreate it afterwards.
N: Unfortunately we have to talk about if there were any negatives. What didn’t work?
E: Actually nothing big, the only thing that didn’t work was user error. Some students couldn’t get it together. Like, “Oh no I didn’t know how to…” But in those cases, I redirected them to the instructions I had posted and asked them to try it again. Another anticipated limitation was that, if I’m not mistaken, Hangouts caps at fifteen users. So for classes that are beyond fifteen, obviously, it wouldn’t work.
N: For the students that didn’t get it together, did you send them the screen capture later?
E: Yes. And they didn’t get it together in my opinion for one of two reasons. They may have gotten the email notification a little bit late, and kind of assumed we weren’t having class, then looked it and, “Oh my god I checked it out an hour after class was done!” Or, it seemed like they maybe gave it one go and couldn’t really figure out the instructions and gave up. For the second meeting, I had instructions that were a bit more “grab you by the hand and take you through the steps,” and that worked out just fine.
N: Do you have any advice for other faculty using Google Hangouts or are considering using it?
E: Don’t be afraid! Jump in! I just jumped into the pool and tried it out. I figured it out as I went because the cancellation happened hours before class was supposed to happen, and it was totally fine. If anybody is a little bit tentative, I would suggest they set something up with a fellow faculty member. “Hey let’s test this thing out and get it going.” There’s a wonderful video that was made by Adam from CTMI on how to do it, and he goes into detail on how to make it a recurring process within your OL site, which is great. It might be a little intimidating perhaps but I really think that if you test it out for a few minutes, such as sending somebody a link and a file back and forth, it will become easy.
N: What class did you use the Google Hangout for?
E: I used it for three or four classes. I used it in my MP-320 class, which is the second heaviest production class in MP&E. That class deals with such tasks as finding and choosing artists, picking multiple songs for analysis, critical listening, and creative collaboration. I also used Google Hangouts with my MP-305 class, which is basically very similar, but it’s for non-MP&E majors. I also used it in my MP-215 class, a Production Analysis class, where we look at songs and dissect them all together.
Looking for more information and training on using Google Hangouts with your Inside Berklee Course? Here’s a video from Faculty Technology Services that will take you through the process, step by step: http://berklee.edu/fts/tutorials
For more general information, Google provides a tutorial for Google Hangouts: http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/
Read over the Digital Learning Department’s guide to Use Google Hangouts to Hold Online Class Meetings (you must have berklee.edu access): download the PDF
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