The Faculty Experience: Linda Holzer

For our second installment of ‘The Faculty Experience’, we spoke with Professor of Music Linda Holzer, who has recently received Quality Matters recognition for her Piano Pedagogy course.

Below, she tells us about the presentation she gave at the 2011 United States Distance Learning Association Conference in St. Louis on her use of Wimba Classroom and other technologies to facilitate a blended course.

You presented on your distance learning course, “Piano Pedagogy.” Tell us about the course.

It’s not that I’m giving piano lessons via distance learning; I’m training music majors, whose principal performance area is piano, how to become piano teachers. That involves a text book and supplemental reading, demonstrations of the keyboard using video clips and discussion. A lot of discussion.

A number of these students are already teaching private piano lessons, and they’re taking this course to sharpen their skills. They have questions from in the field, and the discussion ended up being fascinating and not at all dependant on everyone being in the same room. It actually worked quite well.

What were some of your favorite sessions at the USDLA conference?

I attended a fabulous session by a teacher, Dr. Rhonda Blackburn, who is affiliated with the University of Texas at Dallas, and she shared about her technology strategies for getting students to interact better with course content, including regular online quizzes on assigned reading. This frees her up to cover other things in class. The assigned reading becomes the jumping off point, and she can assume the students have done the reading (it’s in their best interest, since the quizzes count towards their semester grade).

I also met a Sociology professor from the University or Missouri at St. Louis, which is a peer institution of UALR, and was fascinated by things Dr. Robert Keel was doing in his blended course. It’s always reassuring to find that some of the practices that you are using are being used by someone else.

How has the technology benefited your course?

One thing this technology enables me to do is have guest speakers from other states. I invited two colleagues to address my piano pedagogy students as guest speakers and all they had to do was get a little mini course from me in how to log on with the guest access link through Wimba Classroom.

It was marvelous. My students had the benefit of expertise from Susan Capestro, the proprietor of in Boston, about phenomenal teaching approaches shes doing combining classical and jazz instruction for pre-college students. They also had a chance to hear a lecture on how to teach the Bach two-part inventions from professor James Douthit, the Department Chair of Music at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York.

What are some of the challenges you had starting out?

I did better at it the second semester I taught the course via distance learning, but we got a lot out of it the first time, too. I just had a much steeper learning curve the first time and so had longer hours of prep time getting used to the technology.

My impetus for making the course as a blended course was a student request. Due to circumstances beyond her control, a student indicated that as much as she wanted and needed to take the course, she would be unable to unless there was a distance learning option.

I worked like a mad woman for two months to learn the technology and, as anybody who teaches knows, it’s not as if you have November off with nothing else to do! That’s a busy time of the Fall semester.

So I was squeezing this tech learning into early hours and late hours and what few breaks there are and that was tough. In an ideal world, you want to make this decision and give yourself a summer during which you are not teaching to put your blended learning course together. That way you have time to breathe, and you don’t have the blood-shot eyes factor so much. It’s worth the trouble, though. I’d do it again, and in fact, I have done it, making my course MUED 4252 Perspectives on Careers in Music a blended course as well.

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