Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

A Case Study of Perceptions of Students, Teachers and Administrators on Distance Learning and Music Education in Newfoundland and Labrador: A Constructivist Perspective

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

A Case Study of Perceptions of Students, Teachers and Administrators on Distance Learning and Music Education in Newfoundland and Labrador: A Constructivist Perspective

Article excerpt

Building on a significant history of distance education in Newfoundland and Labrador, since 1987, technological advancements have significantly enhanced distance education programs for secondary schools in Newfoundland and Labrador. Secondary students in Newfoundland and Labrador currently have access to 40 online (distance) courses. In the fall of 2004, the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation (CDLI) offered its first online music course, Experiencing Music 2200 (pilot). This pilot course offering represented a new and innovative approach to the teaching of music in a high school curriculum-based setting. It is offered online (via the internet) using both synchronous (Elluminate Live conferencing software and video-conferencing) and asynchronous components (WebCT management system, email, and MSN) (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2004).

With the ever-continuing development of web-based technologies, there is much potential to transform the way music education is delivered to students via online distance education models. Students and teachers are given opportunities to explore music teaching and learning in new, innovative, and creative ways. As part of this growth and transformational process, music educators, curriculum developers, administrators, parents and students will need to examine and explore both traditional and online approaches to the teaching and learning of music. These emerging contexts will need to be critically analyzed so stakeholders are aware and conscious of the many and varied aspects relating to online curriculum development and delivery generally, and within the Newfoundland and Labrador context specifically.

The purpose of the study was to reveal the current perceptions of students, teachers, and administrators regarding the pilot online delivery of a music course in secondary education; then compare the online learning environment in music education to that of a constructivist environment; identify the perceived issues and challenges in the pilot delivery; and to explore/examine how these perceptions, issues and challenges contribute to the ongoing development process of online secondary music education in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This research has revealed that CDLI is serving an important role in the provision and delivery of educational opportunities for students who live in small or isolated communities scattered across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It has revealed also that Experiencing Music 2200 (online pilot) not only met the needs of students by providing them with access to a fine arts credit required for graduation, but also provided them with positive and innovative music experiences in line with the intent of Experiencing Music 2200.

Through the examination of the relationship of this online .music environment to that of a constructivist approach (Duffy & Cunningham, 1996) data show that a constructivist environment does indeed exist, to varying degrees, in this online music education context. The students and the e-music teacher reported on many elements of a constructivist learning environment. Although there were several challenges noted (e.g., technical, physical space, updated resources, means for collaborative learning and communicating) there was clear evidence that this context was designed in a way that was student-centered and integral to music education in general.

While there are a number of students continuing to enroll in CDLI's online courses, it became evident in this case study that online learning is not for everyone. This was a view expressed by many. Students and administrators revealed a long list of characteristics that one should possess in order to be successful in online learning. They admit that in particular, online learning requires a significant amount of independence and time management skills. In this regard, data revealed that some school administrators do indeed have a protocol for screening students for taking online courses. …

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