Dr. Chan Kiat Lim exudes positive energy as he leads his students through keyboard exercises. That energy has served him well as he’s undertaken the task of taking his Secondary Piano course, required for music majors who are not piano majors, partially online.
The new offering is considered a hybrid course because more than half of the course is delivered online.
One component of that delivery is an online curriculum developed by Dr. Lim and colleague Dr. Susanna Garcia several years ago called eNovative Piano: Multimedia Resources for Developing Musicianship Skills.
“Having these online materials for so long, I thought this was a perfect segue into teaching an online class,” Dr. Lim said. “I wasn’t sure if I could do a straight online course.”
Students start the class, keyboard skills, with varied experience levels. Although all have musical knowledge, some have a few years of the piano while others have had none.
Most students pick up the material well. The crucial component of teaching keyboard skills, Dr. Lim said, is technique.
“The concepts are not hard, it’s the way you practice to get those skills that’s harder,” Dr. Lim said. “It’s almost like a runner. If you’re competing in the 100-meter race, you know how to run, but you might not have all the technique to get there as fast as possible.”
To optimize class time, Dr. Lim employed what’s known as a flipped classroom technique. Much of the instruction takes place within the online course, while class time is spent working one-on-one with students to correct and modify technique.
And while some assessment is done in the classroom, much is done online.
“When they come to class, they can practice in class or we’ll review things together and I have time to check on the way they’re playing, they have time to ask me questions on how they can deal with some technical problems — all the things crucial during the practice process when teachers are not normally present,” Dr. Lim said.
The course also allows students to choose how they approach assignments, working at their own pace.
Dr. Lim explained that in learning music, students must develop their ears, their technique, their reading, and their intellect. In approaching the coursework, one student with aptitude in their hearing ability may learn something better orally, but reading might be hard for them.
“By doing this in my online version, I can allow them to take their own pace with whatever they need more time at. Before that, everybody had to go at the same pace. Now whatever is easier for you, you can take first. Whatever is harder for you, you can have more time,” Dr. Lim said.
“It allows them to explore and develop whatever are their weaknesses.”
Instrumental music education major Leia Carlito, 18, walked into her first day of class with no piano experience and no idea of what to expect from her first hybrid course.
“I think this is actually better because we learn at our own pace,” she said. “We have a week to do our assignment so, within the week, you can pace as much as you need. For some people it might take a day, others might take the whole week to get it done.”
She said being accountable for taking care of the online assignments has been a challenge, but with 17 hours in her course load this semester, the freshman takes advantage of having fewer class meetings.
“When we don’t have class, I’m able to catch up on other classes’ homework,” she said. “So I’ll be able to catch up on those classes and do the piano work so it helps balance the workload.”
Even though the students meet with their professor less often, Dr. Lim said they’ve actually covered more content.
“I’m about two weeks ahead of my normal schedule, which is great,” he said. “I have a lot of time towards the final exam to really hone different skills and have time for fun activities toward the end.”
He said he hopes this course can serve as a model for other performance-based offerings going forward.
“I’m excited to see where I can take this,” he said.