Opportunities and benefits of FDOL

For our 1st PBL task my group decided to formulate an online version of the level 4 performance module ‘Critical and Contextual Studies’ that aims to address ‘the ways in which we analyse and discuss the performances we make and see’. We decided the module could be delivered in conjunction with ‘The Lowry Theatre’, an existing industry partner of the performance department. The module would be offered to all their staff and associate artists as a career development opportunity in exchange for discounted tickets being offered to our students, an arrangement of mutual benefit. This led me to reflect upon how I could work with existing or potential industry partners of the music department to deliver an online course and enhance teaching through digital media in a constructive relationship. Embracing the differing priorities and perspectives of industry partners can be very beneficial for music pedagogy as Zeserson (2012, Chapter 14, para. 36) describes:

“Tensions between different and shifting viewpoints (both pedagogical and musical) can be destructive or dynamic. Bringing practitioners into the school environment, whose practice norms are aligned to community contexts or the professional music industry, or even just to a different kind of school, can challenge both the culture of the school community as well as that of the guests. This dynamic tension between perspectives can, however, be enormously productive through stimulating debate, the exploration of new ideas and creative invention.”

With these potential benefits in mind, colleagues and I are currently developing a technology-based module in conjunction with ‘Music Group’ – the 4th largest audio company in the world. As well as introducing some ‘dynamic tension’ into the curriculum, association with their global brand has huge outreach potential (UKPSF A1, K1, K2, K4 & V4). It has been agreed that an online version of the course would maximize the benefits of our partnership and help us to contribute towards the ‘our partners-making connections’ aspect of Salford University’s strategic plan that encourages us to “Expand our network of regional, national and global partners. Work with them to enhance learning outcomes of our students and, through collaboration around research, professional development and community benefit, increase our impact on society and build mutual reputational force for the long term.” (Salford University, 2016) (UKPSF A1, A5, K4 & V4).

The possibility of working in partnership with a MOOC provider such as Coursera, Futurelearn or Edex in delivery was also discussed amongst my PBL group. Although this idea was eventually dismissed, I personally felt that our course was well suited to being delivered in conjunction with a provider. The delivery approach we decided upon of a 1-hour lecture followed up by small group seminar discussion and asynchronous learning activity encompasses the values, skills and literacy dimensions of a ‘cMOOC’ (Downes, 2015, 5:13) – an open access online course that is structured to encourage a ‘connectivist’ approach to learning.

Considering this, I would conclude that our course could be offered as a cMOOC without compromising the pedagogical approach and would raise the reputation of our teaching practices. It is just one of the areas of institutional enhancement gained through offering MOOCs Jenner (2014) highlights alongside Innovation, Delivery, Infrastructure and Student Outcomes. There are many music technology and musicology modules within the programmes I teach that could be offered as online courses through adopting a similar pedagogical approach, with the potential benefits Jenner outlines I feel it’s a worthwhile endeavour that warrants the required resource. I intend to present a proposal to my line manager in the near future based on a very similar rationale outlined for the hypothetical PBL module (UKPSF A1, A5, , K2, K4, V3 & V4).

We decided it was important to include a slide in our presentation that discussed the benefits of online learning for the student in comparison to the face-to-face module; three aspects were focused on – interactivity, passive to active learning and communication. Interactivity and active learning are two areas that I feel are closely related and important to my practice – with all the technologies commonly used by students, the possibility for active learning activities are endless.

To ensure the activities are serving with the learning outcomes I found the five considerations outlined by Brenton (2015) a useful framework – People (Who?), Shared Purpose (Why?), Locating framework/social conditions (Where?), Method (How?) and Activity (What?). Using this thought process I have designed an activity my LV6 students will undertake to help them frame their final recital project. It involves answering a series of questions that aim to help them understand their strengths as performers; they will discuss their answers in groups and consider how each others’ strengths could be highlighted through repertoire choice before feeding back to the class. This method helps them work collaboratively towards the learning outcome of devising a programme that allows them to address all aspects of the criteria (UKPSF A1, A2, A4, A5, V3, K1, K2 & K3). An online version of this task could be completed using wikis, discussions boards and breakout rooms in collaborate ultra. In a blended version of this module I could ask students to complete this prior to the face-to-face session to allow more time for discussion and individual focus. I intend to experiment with an online version of this task next academic year, I will gauge its effectiveness by monitoring the communications that take place thorough the previously mentioned technologies and judging the level of engagement and quality of discussion (UKPSF A1, A2, A4, A5, K1, K4 & K5).

My PBL group conversation around the issue of communication in online education triggered my curiosity and instigated reflection upon how I transmit information to my students in online environments, I found that Betts (2009, para.44) raises some interesting points in this regard:

“It is clear that nonverbal communication in a face-to-face classroom, including visual cues and vocal cues, can affect how a message is conveyed by the sender/receiver and interpreted by the receiver/sender. Even when words are not being used, communication is still taking place in a face-to-face classroom. However, in an online classroom, there is a shift and increased emphasis on words, particularly with written communication. Lexicon, semantics, and syntax can greatly affect how a written message is conveyed and interpreted.”

I have never really given much thought into how writing style and grammar might affect the way my communications are interpreted. Upon reviewing my recent Blackboard announcements I was surprised by the stern the tone of my writing when considered from a student’s perspective. Betts (2009) also suggests developing a more nuanced approach to communication with students through introspective examination of email communication style and diversifying communication strategies. I intend to consider both these points in my future practice through firstly giving more thought to appropriately articulating emails and undertaking some professional development to improve my ability to do this. I will also endeavor to use a wider range of media such as video and audio, especially when delivering online courses as hearing and seeing an instructor will feel more personal (UKPSF A4, A5 & K4).

When deciding how we were going to utilise technology to deliver the course there was a lot of focus on how we could support students during the second stage of Salmon’s (n.d.) five-stage model where the focus is on socialisation. During this phase of their learning students must become familiar with technologies that establish channels of communication and facilitate collaborative activity. We felt that social media could play an important part in enabling the students to engage in active learning as “the focus is on ensuring that anything created can be added to, shared, followed, and more. Mobile tools can support all these capabilities and can allow a virtuous cycle of learning, creating, and providing feedback” (Quinn, 2012, p.82). These attributes can be used to effectively enhance peer learning within the Music discipline as Albert (2015, para.8) describes: “Music educators can use social networks to create online communities of practice that support student learning within their classes and ensembles. Social networks such Facebook Groups, Edmodo, and Google Classroom can host videos and audio files recorded by a member of an online community – a music class or ensemble –with the purpose of soliciting supportive and constructive feedback.” These two viewpoints provide a strong rationale for using social networks to support the collaborative ensemble projects I oversee. I would probably opt for using Google Classroom over the other platforms as its features allow more control over student interactions, an important consideration to prevent issues arising from cyberbullying, ethics and privacy (UKPSF K4 & V1). I would use the network to encourage discussion and sharing of relevant audio/video recordings for critical listening and also to ensure that all students are responding to communications relating to rehearsal times – a common issue with the module (UKPSF A4, K3 & K4).


Albert, D. J. (2015) Social Media in Music Education: Extending to where students live. Music Educators Journal, 102(2), 31-38. doi: 10.1177/0027432115606976

Betts, K. (2009). Lost in translation: Importance of effective communication in online education. Online Journal of Distance Education Administrators, 12(2). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/

Brenton, S. (2015). Effecive online teaching and learning. In H. Fry, S. Ketteridge & S. Marshall (Eds), A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Oxon: Routledge

Downes, S. (2015, 15 September). MOOC: Stephen Downes and George Siemens Connectivism [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SuHW69VcWM

Jenner, M. (2014, 25 March). What’s the benefit of MOOCs. [Weblog] UCL Home Digital Education Team Blog. Retrieved from http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/2014/03/25/whats-the-benefit-of-moocs/ [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].

Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/ukpsf_2011_english.pdf

Quinn, C.N. (2012). The Mobile Academy: mLearning for Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Salford University. (n.d.). Our Salford-Strategic Plan 2014-2018. Retrieved 12 April, 2016, from http://staff.salford.ac.uk/cms/resources/uploads/files/Strategic%20plan%20PDF%20file%20redesigned.pdf

Salmon, G. (n.d). Gilly Salmon- The Five stage Model. Retrieved 12 April, 2016, from http://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html

Zeserson, K. (2012). Partnerships in music education. In C. Philpott & G. Spruce (Eds), Debates in Music Teaching. Oxon:Routledge. [Kindle reader version 4.15.1] (Chapter 14) Retrieved from http://www.amazon.co.uk





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