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A brief introduction…
Towards the end of Term 2 this year (beginning of June, 2020) it was time to start thinking about going back to in-person lessons in Term 3, having had online lessons for over three months. Many of my colleagues had expressed safety concerns of their own, and many others were also feeling pressure from studio parents to resume face-to-face lessons. Whilst I had felt no such pressure from my own students or their parents, I realised I didn’t really know how they felt about coming back. So, I created an online survey for them, which could be completed anonymously, so that they could comment freely.
I then made a very-slightly-varied version of the survey available to the wider community (and by this, I mean the teacher/student world… I doubt it would have been completed by anyone not in my industry!), as I thought it would help other teachers if they could survey their own studio families. This second version of the survey was completed by teachers as well as parents, and even some students.
This blog post summarises the responses to both versions of the survey. If you are interested in seeing the questions, here is the link.
Effectiveness of online vs in-person lessons
When comparing my own studio’s responses to the generally answered questionnaire, I observed very different results. The majority of my studio parents felt online lessons were not as good as in-person. Parents said their kids didn’t feel the same joy after the lesson. Everyone agreed it was a good solution during lockdown but not their preferred form of lesson.
In the more widely-taken survey, there were varied responses, with many saying online is just as effective. This was answered by teachers as well as parents, and I suspect the teachers felt they were doing just as good a job (as well they should!).
Combining all results, 66% said there had been no dip in enthusiasm. Good job everyone! The other 34% seemed mostly to be affected by tech issues.
Concerns with sound quality
In my studio, the answers were mostly no, with many parents selecting zero (‘not at all concerned’) on the scale. In the wider community: yes, many concerns about sound! Again, the more widely-answered survey was completed by many teachers, who really suffered with the sound quality over the internet.
Other concerns with online lessons
Parents’ concerns: everything takes longer, difficult to keep the rest of the family quiet.
Teachers’ concerns: can’t see hands, frustrations with tech, can’t play duets.
Overwhelmingly, parents said that yes, online lessons were more convenient because they didn’t have to drive places. Some stated that it was annoying having to keep the rest of the family quiet while the lesson took place! However, the convenience did not trump the desire to return.
For teachers who travel, the situation was interesting: online lessons were far more convenient for the teacher, but for parents receiving the travelling teacher… they answered that they really wanted their face to face lesson back, as there is no commute for them.
Sense of urgency to return
This was answered on a scale of 1 (not at all worried) to 10 (desperate to come back).
My studio: quite mixed responses, but mostly keen to return, despite the convenience of online lessons.
General: Yes absolutely. Mostly 10s.
Until we have a vaccine, is it safe to have lessons?
Incredibly mixed responses on all fronts. Many people see attending a piano lesson as a tiny risk compared to participating in ‘normal’ life. Others are concerned that it is extremely risky without proper protection. Many parents commented that it will be so long before it is ‘safe’ that it is more a matter of weighing the risk against the inconvenience and frustration of not resuming our routines.
When asked to describe what sanitary measures they would like to see in place, the vast majority simply wrote ‘hand sanitiser’. There were some extremes at either end, from ‘Don’t care’ to ‘Everyone should be in full PPE’.
What will you miss about online lessons?
Parents said they will miss the convenience of not commuting. Teachers who travel said the same, and also that they will miss having easy access to all their materials. No-one commented that they would miss the general online vibe, or fighting with technology! 😉
… and a brief conclusion
I am resuming lessons at the beginning of Term 3 (with some caveats – if you are interested in reading the letter I sent out to my studio families, you can view it here), and I am really looking forward to it. Whilst I won’t miss online lessons, they have certainly taught my students some independence, and I’ve noticed many of them are now taking more responsibility for, and ownership of, their own progress. All in all, it has been an intense experience which I’m sure will show even more benefits down the track!