When I was asked to write this article, it gave me the final impetus I needed to grow my teaching business.
In recent months, several of my students have moved interstate but wanted to learn music online.
I was hesitant because, as a singing and piano teacher, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to make this move, especially for singing, because it is so interactive and personal.
Now I’m ready to experiment and I thought it would be interesting to have some company.
So please join me as I detail the steps I have taken to set up my Skype teaching business and please feel free to benefit from my mistakes or copy the methods which worked!
Set Up Your Teaching Business
If you haven’t already set up your teaching business please read this article as it goes into great detail and outlines what you need to have in place before you take the next step of launching yourself worldwide as an internet teacher.
I also recommend you have a substantial amount of one to one teaching practice before you commence Skype teaching, as you will need your experience to help cover the distance which may be caused by giving Skype lessons.
Install Skype and Other Software Programmes You May Need
Installing Skype is a very easy thing to do.
Go to http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/get-skype/ and simply follow the instructions for download on your computer.
I have decided to make use of some other programmes to give value for money and help me self assess.
- Ecamm recorder, available at http://www.ecamm.com. This software isn’t expensive but it enables you to record both sides of the Skype conversation on video or just voice call. You can edit the recording as well.
My idea is to send a copy of the lesson to the student so they can review it if they want to. Also, I thought it would be a good way for me to assess my own teaching. But please make sure your student is aware that this process is in place and give them the option to refuse recording.
- As I am teaching singing, I have to think about the delay live accompaniment may cause, so I am sending my students backing tracks they can sing to that are in their key as well. This means I need to have a recording facility, which can produce tracks that will convert into downloadable MP3 format as they will be sent to the student via email prior to the lesson.
Your student needs to have the facility to open these files and play them back or record them onto disk as well.
You will need to be able to receive payment for the lessons you give.
The simple way to do this is with Paypal.
On their website, they have some different options for merchant services.
I chose the easiest, quickest and least complicated one, which was to email requests for payment.
Students can pay by direct deposit or credit cards when using this service and I request that payment is made prior to the lesson.
If you decide you would like to advertise your services on other websites and blogs, you could think about setting up a Clickbank account at www.clickbank.com .
This is a affiliate programme market place which means that people will advertise and sell your product (your lessons) for a percentage of each sale.
Clickbank manages the funds for you, the affiliate marketers and your students. It is a more complex way of doing things but something you may wish to consider.
Set Up Your Teaching Studio
In just a few seconds of meeting people or walking into a room, we make value judgements, therefore, it is important that your studio looks professional and tidy (as well as yourself) when you are teaching.
You need to take into consideration the view that your student is getting, so make sure your camera is angled and adjusted to give the clearest picture for demonstration and also make sure you have good lighting in your studio.
I rearranged my studio to suit Skype teaching and it has actually turned out to be much better for all my teaching and learning needs now.
Here is a view, in case you are curious.
Get Your Paper Work In Order
As mentioned in Greg Arney’s article on setting up your teaching business, you need to have decided on your Terms and Conditions of teaching.
However, you need to consider other situations when teaching online.
What will your policies be on:
- Payment – How much? When to receive payment? Refunds? How will students pay?
- Cancellation – How much notice should you receive? Will you reschedule lessons?
- Technical interruptions - What will you do if this happens during a lesson?
- Equipment – What software and hardware should your students have in order to interact successfully in skype lessons?
I have composed a Terms and Conditions document, which is emailed to students prior to lessons and which they then type their name on and email back to me. This acts as an acceptance of the terms and conditions stated, so both parties are clear on what to expect.
When payment is received, I am informed by Paypal and I then send students another email confirming receipt of funds as well as their lesson time and date.
It is highly important you make sure you are aware of time differences and take these into consideration when booking appointments.
Teach Your Lesson
I have discovered that teaching online requires creative thinking and some different approaches to normal lesson delivery because of some restrictions caused by the technology.
- Skype is unable to transfer simultaneous audio
Surprisingly, there is little delay when communicating on Skype. I thought this was a great thing because I could then accompany my student until I discovered …
When there is audio coming from both parties, Skype is unable to transfer both signals clearly at the same time, which means each of you experience cutting out. Such a shame!!!
However, here are some suggestions for combating this problem:
- Email accompaniment tracks
You will have to make sure your student then burns these tracks onto a CD and plays them from a source outside the computer.
This is because the tracks tend to be too loud when they are coming from the computer onto Skype and you can’t hear your student clearly enough.
- Consider different teaching strategies
There are many strategies you can employ in your teaching so you don’t have to use play-along or accompaniment. You can focus more on technical aspects, mentoring and sound production and get students to demonstrate their work in home recordings or play-along in subsequent lessons, when they are playing with a backing track.
- Email accompaniment tracks
- Introduction and check student set-up
I would suggest you set up a Skype meeting with your student before you teach your first lesson with them. This will:
- Help your student feel more comfortable
Many people are shy and especially first-time students. Introducing yourself to them on Skype will help break the ice so that your first lesson will run more smoothly.
- Check the student’s set-up
You will need to check that your student has set up Skype correctly and everything is in working order.
You both need to direct each other so that the camera is positioned to get a clear picture on both sides, and also make sure the student has received any resources you want them to use.
If you are using written resources, they too will have to be sent to the student as when you hold up writing to the camera, it has a mirror effect. It’s hard enough to begin reading music, let alone backwards!
Self-assessment of your teaching practice through reflective work is necessary if you want to engage in a high quality standard of teaching.
Teaching on Skype will take some adjustment of the way you normally deliver your material. Your first couple of lessons could be challenging but with some problem-solving you will be able to work it out.
You will also have to consider whether moving your business online is going to be worthwhile as there is a little more work and organisation involved.
However, I feel that once you have made a routine of preparing, emailing and having standard contracts and stationery set up, it could definitely be a worthwhile practice.
I am going to give it a go for a while with a few students.
And so, in conclusion:
The disadvantages of teaching online for you are:
- You will have to organise and think about your teaching practice in a different way to cater to this format.
- It may be a little more work and be a little uncomfortable to begin with.
The benefits of online teaching for you are:
- You can become an international teacher and expand your student base.
- You can teach at odd hours if you want to.
- You can become a trail-blazer in a field which will, no doubt, become more popular in future! And
- If you are smart, discover a new niche market because…
Some of the benefits for students are:
- They don’t need to leave the comfort of their own home or office!
This would be attractive to people who:
- clock up a lot of time working and don’t have time for to go to a lesson,
- people in isolated areas without access to music teachers,
- people who find travel difficult or who have limited access to transport, and
- carers or parents who can’t leave their premises for very long.
Some disadvantages of learning online are:
- The student misses out on some of the personal energy created in a real-life meeting, however, as they get to know you, this shouldn’t be a problem.
- They will have to be more active in helping their lesson to run smoothly, making sure their set-up is in place and they have all resources at hand but I also see this as an advantage as it helps the student learn to be independent and resourceful which are qualities needed to pursue music.
I hope you’ve found this helpful and I’d love to hear about any feedback you may have. So, please leave a comment below and good luck!