Report from college/university round-table
Conducting choir rehearsals in an online environment; novel methods of addressing this issue
Notes from NW ACDA board meeting (not an official statement from NWACDA, but a possible resource
(Also check your national ACDA site for Resources for "Choral Professionals During the Pandemic")
(provided by Michael Porter and Anne Lyman)
In response to the recent developments regarding school closings and remote teaching due to COVID-19, the Northwest ACDA board held a discussion session with participating members to discuss the challenge of conducting choir rehearsals in an online environment. During this meeting, several members identified novel methods of addressing this issue and discussed several unforeseen consequences. Below are notes from this meeting along with statements that may be used to support your decision in how to provide instructional materials that differ from your original objectives. Please know that this is not an official statement from NWACDA but a resource to better empower you to navigate this perplexing situation.
Given the collaborative nature of our discipline, a rehearsal that requires proximity and responsiveness of an ensemble can not easily be replicated via an online platform. Moreover, concert experiences, which to many are the capstone assessment after months of rehearsals, have been cancelled and will most likely not occur.
Options to address this include:
1) If you are in higher education and your ensemble has already performed this semester, assigning a grade at this time based upon criteria in your syllabus may be possible.
Prof. Tim Hurlburt from Clemson University wrote the following on the College Band Directors Association website recently. It appears that me may be able to do the same.
"Students should receive credit for and be graded on their participation and effort up to the point in which the semester might be altered . While the Symphonic Band is the only ensemble that has been lucky enough to have the opportunity to perform publicly so far, we believe that we can adequately and appropriately assess the student’s progress towards the goals outlined in our syllabi through our weekly rehearsal process up until this point which is where most of the learning, collaboration, and reflection takes place anyway." ( https://www.cbdna.org/ideas-to-deal-with-coronavirus-and-distance-learning-for-ensembles-and-conducting-class/?fbclid=IwAR0V7r_3XQaeHPnXYBzsfPSkSuxR-GINht2P8wxsVf_rIvsYHFEliFbunQI)
However, you may be required to meet for a set number of contact hours. Therefore, you may need to alter the objectives for your ensemble.
2) Changing the objectives: Instead of performance based assessment, change the parameters of your course, if possible. Allow students to review past performances of the choir from archival materials (sound recordings). This can be done with an online platform meeting space (zoom, skype, google classroom). In fact, this option may prove to be quite creative.
3) This time away from a performance based assessment may lead to opportunities to engage students in areas of performance we sometimes don't have time for, i.e. theory, history, text analysis, etc.
We were fortunate to have a number of public school teachers in attendance to offer both their suggestions as well as challenges germane to the public school curriculum.
Many of us are in areas with very low accessibility to wifi, making online learning difficult. Either with a large number of students/families with limited means, students who rely on libraries for wifi assess, or any number of reasons, simply offering online learning does not insure accessibility.
1) Check with local libraries/school services to see about wifi rental/check out policies.
2) See if classroom content can be recorded and sent via email, so they may watch it when the have access.
Online Resources and Platforms
It seems that a plethora of online platforms (zoom, google classroom, blackboard, etc.) are available to you. Some are more geared to certain instruction over others (zoom may be an option for voice lessons but not for anything too loud). This link to a living document includes a long list of resources that may fit your need. ( https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rPUGd19SMm-x0acbHdEUmEoXK-ElGPCWr_vpSDwTzH8/mobilebasic?fbclid=IwAR2ShzSo7FxfGSl8I-BVYQPmYiPzE5J0qQgys_X0YkNqPdsGCBDQiDXQvVE). This also includes a great list of best practices for online learning.
Facebook live has the option of archiving material which would be very useful for any issues that may arise down the road.
Finally, as I write this, Boise State University just cancelled all in-person classes for the rest of the semester. Luckily, we have a robust Center for Teaching and Learning. Our director forwarded us this very reassuring email about our jobs at this moment. It comes from Dr. Amy Young from Pacific Lutheran University. While this is specifically addressed to higher education faculty, the words and sentiment are universal. Remember, our students are under as much, if not more, stress than we are. Let's be kind and understanding during this troubling time and we will find that our students will have learned much from our reaching out to them.
Be kind to yourself and your students. Everyone is stressed, even if they're playing cool. That includes faculty. And that's okay.
Many universities have a considerable number of pedagogical experts that, quite frankly, I have only been dimly aware of until yesterday. Be kind to these people. They are suddenly very slammed.
There are a much larger number of faculty on university campuses that desperately need to retool. We have faculty who do not know how to use even the course management software that we've been on since I've been here (12 years). It is moments like this when that disparity becomes really fraught. It is also unacceptable.
You will not recreate your classroom, and you cannot hold yourself to that standard. Moving a class to a distance learning model in a day's time excludes the possibility of excellence. Give yourself a break.
Prioritize. What do students REALLY NEED TO KNOW for two weeks. This one is hard for me. But we have to strip it all the way down--in my campaigns class, that means I need them to post infographics on their research and now post narrative context and slides. But I'm going to punt on presentations because we just don't have time. Which sucks. But these are not normal circumstances.
If you're making videos, student viewership drops off precipitously at 5 minutes. Make them capsule videos if you make them. And UPLOAD to YOUTUBE because it TRANSCRIBES for you. Do not assume your audio is good enough or that students can understand without transcription. This is like using a microphone at meetings--I don't care if you don't need it, someone else does and they don't want to ask.
Make assignments lower or no stakes if you're using a new platform. Get students used to just using the platform. Then you can do something higher stakes. Do not ask students to do a high stakes exam or assignment on a new platform.
Stay in contact with students, and stay transparent. Talk to them about WHY you're prioritizing certain things or asking them to read or do certain things. I've moved to doing that in all of my face-to-face teaching anyway, and it improves student buy-in because they know content and delivery are purposeful.
Do not read on best practices for distance learning. That's not the situation we're in. We're in triage. Distance learning, when planned, can be really excellent. That's not what this is. Do what you absolutely have to and ditch what you can. Thinking you can manage best practices in a day or a week will lead to feeling like you've failed.
Be particularly kind to your graduating seniors. They're already panicking, and this isn't going to help. If you teach a class where they need to have completed something for certification, to apply to grad school, or whatever, figure out plan B. But talk to them. Radio silence, even if you're working, is not okay.
Stay safe and I look forward to seeing you all in the near future.
Michael Porter and Anne Lyman