Great Examples from Online Courses
What it’s about
Yale’s Introduction to Classical Music is a great example of how to integrate lectures, expert interviews, demonstrations, and class videos, so that a learner never feels the ennui of a single type of information delivery.
Craig Wright has crafted a class for lay individuals that achieves shocking depth and breadth, illuminating the why of human infatuation with music, explaining basic elements of music theory, and inviting the listener to take part in a survey of music from chant in the middle ages to the “vernacular” of Copland.
Why it’s awesome
What engages the learner? One factor is eye-contact from this dynamic speaker. Wright addresses the perpetual challenge of involving students who aren’t actually physically present by looking trenchantly into the camera.
He summons the “you” who looks on and makes frequent use of his own feelings about the music.
Examples from the lecture on “The A Cappella Motet” highlight a lot of what the course does well to engage. The lesson begins with context — architectural photos and illustrations of the Sistine Chapel introduce this Renaissance art form, reinforcing the term a cappella sistina.
Josquin des Prez’s Ave Maria is used as a compelling example to define terms like “motet” and “polyphony.” An original manuscript illustrates what it would have been like to be a singer of the time, and callouts are also used effectively, like in the text and translation of Ave Maria.
Interdisciplinary is also celebrated with relevant art, and even physics when it helps to understand something as fundamental as why instruments sound differently from one another.
It is clear the course team thoughtfully tailored the type of video to the content. Some demonstrations are performed on an electric keyboard in the studio, but others are in his home when a more acoustic sound is needed to make a piece sing. We get to hear experts playing period instruments, and we get a few glimpses into classroom sessions, with more guest instrumentalists and demonstrations.
Music is an art form where immediacy and immersion shape our experience, and even though we necessarily lose some emotional connection when that experience is online, this course successfully leverages tools that allow for deeper intellectual engagement. So, next time we’re in the concert hall, the experience will be more profound for our understanding.