Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Music is a discipline which requires precision, a good ear, lots of practice and detailed technique, all of which demand time. For all these reasons, it might seem strange to teach music via e-learning. However, the International College of Music (ICOM) in Malaysia is taking on the challenge of teaching students through a computer screen. KS Sze is the Associate Course Leader and administrator for the ICOM Online platform, which teaches a range of music and audio courses to people all around the world.
ICOM enjoys very high reputation in Asia for providing high quality contemporary music education, and also has a partnership with the Berklee College of Music in Boston, one of the most prominent music colleges in the world. ICOM has won a number of awards and has several well-known musicians and music producers in Asia. Launching e-learning while having such a high reputation to uphold was therefore a very bold move for ICOM.
ICOM Online has existed for a little more than a year, and currently offers only short courses that are taught 100% online, with plans to integrate on-campus classes to the online platform to enable blended learning in all fields. At the moment, it has some performance classes which require the playing of an instrument, as well as courses in music theory and music production. One of the key tasks for faculty apart from teaching classes, is engaging with students and providing well-considered feedback to help students do better every day.
The method ICOM Online uses is that the faculty uploads a video or other media-related content to introduce the theory and practice of a certain topic, such as a chord progression on the piano. Afterwards, the student reviews the lesson and can watch the video as many times as s/he needs to, before recording themselves practicing what has been taught. The student’s video is uploaded as an assignment, and the faculty will review it and give feedback on what was done correctly and what needs to be improved on. In the end, it is not much different from a face-to-face class where the faculty sits in front of his/her students and also reviews their work.
The next question that arises when thinking of a student who is practicing an instrument alone in front of a camera, is whether this is a disadvantage. This is considering that later in life, s/he will have to play the instrument in front of an audience. KS explains that what they try to do to avoid students from getting stage fright is hold forums and encourage students to upload their videos. This way, they get feedback not only from the faculty but also from other students in the class. Moreover, when students record themselves, they can see the errors they are making. This, in turn, teaches them something new. Diligent students will record the video as many times as it takes until they are happy with the results.
Moodlerooms is the e-learning platform for ICOM Online and it contains all the lessons and materials for the class. KS says that Moodlerooms allows for all the functions they need to make the classes work well, and it plays a major role in enabling ICOM Online to maintain its high reputation in the online sector. ICOM Online’s tagline is “Learn anytime, anywhere”, because it believes that learning should not be restricted to certain times or be limited by geographical locations. KS thinks that this is the most innovative way of teaching and is definitely the education of the future. He believes that education is abandoning the campus a little bit more every day, and adds that ICOM would like to be there first when it happens. He also stresses that these online courses are very different from what someone might learn through YouTube tutorials, because having a structured syllabus and a qualified faculty to give you feedback is invaluable.
Even though theoretical classes like music theory might seem simpler to teach, KS says the real challenge a faculty faces is motivating students to remain focused and be disciplined amidst so many distractions out there on the Internet.
In terms of employability, KS says that ICOM has traditionally been strong in preparing graduates for music careers in the professional music industry. Among the graduates are recognizable names on the Asian market, such as, Rithan of Deja Voodoo Spells who sells his records on iTunes, JD of Pop Shuvit, and Gin Lee, a vocalist who is in very high demand in Hong Kong. KS hopes that ICOM Online will enjoy the same success as the on-campus programs and allow great talents to build their careers in the music industry.
*KS Sze, Associate Course Leader for Online Learning Management, International College of Music (ICOM), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.