Creating musical futures for students in rural and remote communities

Students in rural areas are disadvantaged by their lack of access to instrumental tuition. A research team is investigating how video and audio communication technologies can build musical futures.

The technology

A major disadvantage experienced by music performance students living in rural and remote communities is the lack of access to specialist instrumental tuition.

High-speed, low-latency video and audio communication technologies offer the potential for these students to receive expert tuition online from specialist teacher-musicians enabling them to achieve their full musical potential during their secondary school years.

The partnership

This project, led by Professor Gary McPherson, has involved identifying, testing and evaluating infrastructure utilised by a team of specialist instrumental teachers operating from the University’s Parkville Campus and students located in Ballarat. This part of the project has also enabled on-going refinements to audio and video transmission and capture (recording) procedures as well as studio set-up and protocols.

In addition, the project has trialled and documented methods and techniques for implementing Internet-based teaching, chiefly the effectiveness of student- teacher interaction and online pedagogy.

A team-based action research approach has involved specialist teachers giving online tuition in keyboard, voice, oboe and drums to senior secondary school students at Ballarat Clarendon College. All participants – online teachers, instrumental students and the research team – have contributed data which is currently being analysed and will result in valuable guidelines for future implementation of online teaching in the Australian context.

Sarah Barlow, Head of Music at Ballarat Clarendon College, has said: ‘The iMCM project provided a unique, rewarding opportunity for our senior students to access tertiary teaching. It is important that students in rural or remote settings experience the same quality education. The technology was sufficient for wind, voice and percussion lessons and promises to have significant applications not only for music education but for Internet-based teaching and learning generally.’

The outcome

The project has potential for future collaborations with industry partners, other universities, the secondary education sector and professional music organisations. In particular, partnerships will be developed with leading universities in the Asia-Pacific region to facilitate collaborative teaching, ensemble performances, and online streaming of lectures and symposia.

This project forms part of the iMCM initiative being developed by the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music that aims to support development of musically-talented young people and to facilitate research into music learning and pedagogy through innovative applications of information and communication technologies.