Online Teaching Platforms

How is everyone handling teaching online?

First, the term virtual seems to have taken over for every type of education, and that bothers me. I guess technically a definition of virtual is "being on or simulated on a computer. So being on a computer works, but the education is real (not simulated!).

I’ve moved most of my students to Zoom, since it’s the only platform you can turn off audio compression on both desktop and mobile devices. They recently made a post about increasing the audio bandwidth for music teachers. Fingers crossed it works well.

Skype is a good solid second. Reliable and stable. But I like the idea of having a waiting room like Zoom has.

FaceTime is great when it works, but it’s certainly hit or miss.

I also just heard about Rock Out Loud Live, but I am skeptical of their claims. The platform is built on open source Jitsi. I asked some technical questions, but his only response was to check the website, which says next to nothing. Plus they offer 15TB of downloadable sheet music, which I highly doubt is legal. So I don’t want to count on that service if I think it won’t be around.

I recently took an on line flute lesson using the platform. It shows promise. I was not able to use my audio interface and external mic and speakers, but I suspect that this was due to lack of understanding the platform or a computer issue. As a music teaching-specific platform it had no compression/noise gating to turn off and sounded decent considering that I was using the computer speaker and mic. There was a nice split video screan and chat that was functional and could be easily toggled on and off.

I’ve heard about, but the fact that students need to create an account is a non-starter for me. Given it’s possible on other platforms, I want it as easy as possible. Plus there’s no Android app (though I think only 1 student uses Android). Zoom is the only one that allows for an original audio(noise gating off) from a mobile device. But unfortunately the first week of school I had such issues connecting to Zoom I had to abandon it in favor of Rock Out Loud (which is really open source Jitsi).

I do like using ROL/Jitsi. It’s a pretty direct connection, so you don’t have the Zoom effect of pauses between speakers. And it seems like it uses more bandwidth, so it’s more stable, but not always.

The biggest issue is wifi. EVERYONE uses wifi, and that’s the issue mostly with poor connections, it’s not nearly as reliable as a connection as a wired connection.

I just heard about a “Virtual Studio” online that addresses audio sync issues that had a negative impact on harmony and rhythm. Check out JackTrip and how a foundation is working to provide the platform for little to no cost

That is interesting. I hope someone can build an easy to run/install product around that. As it looks, there’s no way I could scale that up to 30 students. Most are on mobile devices, and the internet speeds we have around here are hit and miss. The biggest tech thing I ask of students is for some using Chromebooks to turn on a flag in the OS to enable gain control on the mic.