CSCC Music Students Thrive With Online Instruction

CSCC Music Students Thrive With Online Instruction

Holly Vincent
Tuesday, May 5, 2020 12:00 AM
Academics, TBR, Students

When Cleveland State Community College made the switch to online learning in March due to COVID-19, Associate Professor of Music Karen Dale wasn’t sure what this change would mean for her and her music students, but Dale is proving that a good teacher can still thrive under any circumstances. And in this situation, the same seems to be true for students. Sometimes all it takes is a little creativity.

For Dale, the biggest struggle for online music instruction has been teaching voice and choir. Because of different internet speeds and other technical issues, the students have not been able to sing together in real-time, so this is where Dale had to be creative.

After communicating with other choral directors and music educator friends on audio and video editing software, she is now able to produce “virtual choirs and rehearsals.” In the “virtual choir projects,” students record themselves along with a conducting track that she posted for them, and then, she edits it into a video that correlates all of the voices together.  

“It will sound like a choir in the final video production, but in reality, we are all singing alone in our homes,” stated Dale. “There is a feeling that comes when you are making music together that is like no other. The music students grow close as friends, and also experience the crescendos, harmonies, rhythms, and elements of the music in a deeper way than the listener. We all truly miss each other, and the feeling of hearing and experiencing the music as it happens.”

According to Dale, the lecture classes weren’t as difficult to teach virtually because the discussions, tests, and online textbook assignments were already built into the courses. However, the students were not able to attend the live concert component required for the class.

“We gave them several lists of online concerts, recitals, musicals, operas, etc., but that is just not the same experience as hearing and seeing the live performance,” stated Dale.

Greg Banther and Jewelia Fox are two of Dale’s students who have excelled during the transition to online instruction with very few issues. They continued to stay actively engaged in discussions and participate in course meetings during their regular class times in an effort to finish strong. 

“I had real dread when it was announced the school was going all online,” stated Banther. “I had taken two online classes last fall; I did not enjoy them at all…I thought that would be how this semester would play out with all my courses, but it has been better than I thought.”

Banther wanted to stay in his normal routine as best as he could despite the new online format. He attended class and completed his homework at the same times as before the transition.

“From the first day I knew I would like Mrs. Dale’s class,” stated Banther. “She expressed her desire for us to learn and have fun doing it.”

Both Banther and Fox credit Dale for much of their success in the course. She provided ways to make the coursework fun, provided online tools, gave reminders and was very encouraging to students to do their best and finish the course. One of the ways Dale made learning fun was her “virtual teaching backgrounds.” She liked to experiment with fun backgrounds, so the students never knew where they would be next—one favorite was Carnegie Hall! And if they wanted a sense of normalcy, she would use a background from their normal classroom on campus.

Like Banther, it was important for Fox to maintain a schedule for school. Her biggest struggle was time management, so she came up with a schedule that listed all of her assignments for weeks in advance and their due dates. Fox said although she was curious how choir was going to work online, she never doubted her success in her online courses because she has had such a positive experience at CSCC the past two years.

“CSCC has been excellent and has helped me as a student in every way,” stated Fox. “Mrs. Dale made it very easy to adapt to the online learning platform, and every single one of my professors has been very helpful and quick to help when I had a question.”  

Some exciting news for Fox came when she found out she was recently accepted into Lee University’s music program through an online audition. “That was definitely different because I could not see anyone or their reactions,” stated Fox.

A big disappointment for Dale was not being able to perform their annual spring concert. This year’s concert titled, “Music of the Decades” was scheduled for May 11 and was to feature music from the Gershwins to 50’s and 60’s medleys, Bohemian Rhapsody a cappella and much more. She is looking forward to possibly performing some of these songs during the December holiday concert at the end of the fall semester.   

For more information on the music program or other programs at Cleveland State, visit the website at Summer semester begins on May 26, and fall semester begins on August 24.

Photo Cutline: Karen Dale, Associate Professor of Music at Cleveland State Community College, has made learning fun for her music students despite the transition to online instruction. Pictured: Dale teaching students Greg Banther and Jewelia Fox from “Carnegie Hall.”


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