Five Challenges and Solutions in Online Music Teacher Education

By Hebert, David G. | Research and Issues in Music Education (RIME), September 2007 | Go to article overview
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Five Challenges and Solutions in Online Music Teacher Education


Hebert, David G., Research and Issues in Music Education (RIME)


"Nearly 600 graduate students?" (1) As remarkable as it may sound, that is the projected student population for the online graduate programs in music education at Boston University School of Music by the end of 2007. With the rapid proliferation of online courses among mainstream universities in recent years, it is likely that more online music education programs will continue to emerge in the near future, which begs the question of what effects this new development will have on the profession. Can online education truly be of the same quality as a traditional face-to-face program? How is it possible to effectively manage such large programs, particularly at the doctoral level? For some experienced music educators, it may be quite difficult to set aside firmly entrenched reservations and objectively consider the new possibilities for teaching and research afforded by recent technology. Yet the future is already here, and nearly 600 music educators have seized the opportunity. Through online programs, the internet has become the latest tool for offering professional development to practicing educators who otherwise would not have access, particularly those currently engaged in full-time employment or residing in rural areas.

Recognizing the new opportunities afforded by recent technological developments, Director of the Boston University School of Music, Professor Andre De Quadros and colleagues launched the nation's first online doctoral program in music education in 2005. While online doctoral degrees are an entirely new phenomenon in music, they have developed at a rapid pace in other academic fields. Notable examples include the online doctoral programs in education at Pepperdine University and Seton Hall University, as well as Michigan State University's online PhD program in physics. Like most new ideas, Boston University's online graduate programs in music education faced some initial skepticism, but also experienced phenomenal growth and unexpectedly high retention rates throughout 2006. Clearly, many students are attracted to what the programs offer, and have chosen to remain.

A similar story may be found as one examines various other innovations in music education across the past century, and the music profession may still have much to learn from its own history. Jazz education, for example, was not pioneered at the Juilliard School or Harvard University. Rather, it began at institutions that were relatively unknown in the 1950s, such as Berklee School of Music (now Berklee College of Music) and North Texas State College (now University of North Texas). Both Berklee and North Texas now enjoy strong international profiles for their comprehensive music offerings, and some of their current success must surely be attributed to their willingness to take the risk of pioneering the world's first collegiate jazz programs. A similar pattern may be seen at UCLA, as one considers the phenomenal success of its innovative musicology programs that range from ethnomusicology to systematic musicology, "world arts and cultures" and "new musicology."

Within the United States, Boston has long been regarded as a national center for innovation in the field of music education, so perhaps this new development should not come as a surprise. The nation's first public school music program was founded in Boston in 1837 under Lowell Mason and Horace Mann, and the nation's first music degree program was founded only a few decades later at Boston University in 1872. Notable music graduates from Boston University programs include Professor Bonnie Wade, chair of the Music Department at University of California-Berkeley, as well as MENC's Executive Director John Mahlmann. Boston University hosted the Tanglewood Symposium of 1967, which is widely credited by historians as a landmark event in the history of American music education, and Boston University's fortieth anniversary symposium Tanglewood II: Charting the Future has continued this tradition in 2007.

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