Be Our Guest: Skype, FaceTime, Hangouts, Oh My!

photoI’m really excited to introduce our guest this month. Sarah Lyngra will be blogging about online lessons. She has a lot of experience in this so you will want to read her post! Also I would highly recommend her online course available at TeachPianoOnline.com. The course, Create Effective Lesson Make-up Videos in 45 Minutes or Less was very helpful as I started doing make-up video lessons this year. (See blog post here.) There were several tips that I learned that I hadn’t thought of. Sarah has more courses in the works so check back often! And be sure to sign up for her newsletter! Thank you for being our guest for October Sarah!

Foxx Blog-2

Skype, Facetime, Hangouts Oh My! A beginners guide to online lesson tech.

Have you wanted to teach online lessons but didn’t know how to get started because of the technology? If this is you, read on. If you are comfortable with technology, read on anyway. The people you may be teaching in the future may not be.

The basic setup for online lessons is fairly simple and straightforward. Both the teacher and the student need a piano, a computer, a chat program, and an internet connection. That’s it.

If life were only that simple, right? Actually, in this case, it is.  The tech setup isn’t really much more than those four things.

Here’s a little bit about each of these things.

Your instrument

For effective online lessons, having an instrument is important, but honestly, from a sound standpoint, having an electronic instrument, in most cases will be perfectly adequate. Often students who are taking lessons online are living overseas where having an acoustic instrument may not be an option.

The sound quality of your lessons is more a function of your internet connection and the sound quality of your speakers than the instrument. When you are teaching you are giving a visual demonstration of your actions, not a tactile one. You can demonstrate good technique on an electronic instrument, even if the weighting of the keys is not like that of an acoustic one.

In a perfect world, everyone would have acoustic pianos, however, online teachers are dealing with the virtual world. Students receiving online lessons often in the position of having online lessons or no lessons at all, and as teachers, we should respect that.

Your computer

Computers come in all shapes and sizes these days. If you are over the age of 20, the technology we have available to us is completely different than when we were kids. After all, the iPad has only been around since 2010!

For basic online lessons, does it really matter what kind of computer or tablet you are using? Not really. Unless you are planning on using Internet Midi for your lessons (which is awesome, but beyond the scope of just getting started) any computer or tablet will do. I wouldn’t recommend using an iPod, iPhone, or smart phone as their screens are very small and lessons would be frustrating for both you and your students.

Your chat program

What is  important is that you and your student are on the same page with which chat program you are using. The three most common programs in use today are Skype, FaceTime and Google Hangouts.

The best article I have seen to date comparing the 3 services is by Abigail Ornellas: http://info.groveis.com/blog/bid/199764/3-way-battle-Google-Hangouts-Vs-Skype-Vs-Facetime It goes into detail about the pluses and minuses of all 3 very eloquently.

Personally, since I live overseas, I use Skype. I also use Skype because it integrates the best with Internet MIDI.

In the beginning it is best to use what you know. If you use Skype to connect to your family, use that. If you use Apple products and your students are using FaceTime already, go with that.

Your internet connection

The third thing you need for great online lessons is a reasonable internet connection. You may, at this point, be thinking to yourself, don’t we all have one? In a word, maybe. You may have great internet at home, but what about your students? You may think that Skype is giving you trouble, but in reality it is a poor connection.

I was forced to get a Hotspot this summer. (A Hotspot is a little wireless receiver which enabled me to have internet when on vacation). It was expensive, slow and annoying. Your lessons are going to be limited by your connection, so it is worth knowing what you and your have.

There are programs like www.speedtest.net which enable you to check upload and download speeds for both you and your students. This is step one of cruddy-connection troubleshooting. Keep in mind that audio and video files are fairly big and will slow things down.

Learning about piano technology is a lot like learning to play the piano. Beginning piano students get introduced to concepts slowly and new things are added after old things are mastered.

Another thing to keep in mind when you are getting started with piano technology is that you may also be teaching your students about it as well. The first lesson I had with a couple of my students this year was teaching them how to connect to Skype and having them set up their own technology.

To avoid overwhelm when getting started with online lessons, start as simply as possibly. As you and your students get more comfortable with the technology, you can start adding tech elements to your lessons.

If you want to learn more about online teaching, you can join my newsletter by clicking here, and get a free resource list with what I use when teaching online lessons.

You can also visit my Teach Piano Online Blog, which was just launched this summer, I am currently recording a course about how to set-up your online lessons for having really awesome lessons where both you and your students have a really good online experience.

Sarah Logo Icon

Sarah Lyngra has been teaching for over 20 years, the last 17 of them overseas. She currently lives and teaches in the local and expatriate community in Saudi Arabia. She specializes in reading and teaching children with learning disabilities, and has created a color coded piano method and music to help with students with special needs.

For the last 3 years, Sarah has been both taking lessons and teaching students online. She is one of the pioneers of the wild world of internet teaching, and has experienced most of the problems that teachers will come across when starting up online teaching businesses. (And probably a few that most teachers will never experience)

2 thoughts on “Be Our Guest: Skype, FaceTime, Hangouts, Oh My!

  1. Thanks, Jennifer! I’m finding I teach at least three remote lessons a week these days. I hadn’t thought of using YouTube for practice videos, though I do offer audio recordings/practice plans. I’m definitely going to add this to this list of options!

Leave a Reply