Learn Music in your Underwear from Musicians Institute Online

by | Press

Hollywood’s famous Musicians Institute set to launch online courses in July.

Here we are. The 21st century. Self-driving buses are being tested in Singapore. Virtual reality devices are being used at home. And somewhere in the UK, a man has actually built an “Iron Man” suit so that humans can fly. What a time to be alive!

One sector that has also seen significant change in the last decade is education, specifically online education and education technology (edtech). Who would’ve thought that you could learn music from legendary musicians from anywhere in the world, even while wearing your pajamas?

One man who knows all about the quest for (virtual) knowledge is Musicians Institute (MI) President, Donny Gruendler. MI Online, the online learning platform of Hollywood’s Musicians Institute, will launch its first courses on July 17, 2017.

The mammoth task of virtualizing MI’s core music curriculum has taken Mr Gruendler and MI Online’s team just over 12 months to complete. With the final countdown about to begin, we asked Donny about the last year spent developing MI Online and what students from around the world can expect.

Why launch MI Online now?
We started our digital evolution in 2014 when we developed 66 interactive e-books and assessments for our core curricula – audio engineering/production, bass, drum, DJ, guitar, keyboard and vocal. It allowed students to immediately review their weekly lessons, read each unit’s chart and play along to practice tracks from their chosen device.

We also developed an MI-customized app for each instrumental discipline, which monitors the student’s performance, in real-time, while they complete their homework. The app then reports back to the course instructor and LMS (Learning Management System). Simply adding a URL to course material doesn’t make it “digital”. We had to properly evolve our content to perform on the digital stage, inside new virtual classrooms.

If we had launched five years ago, we would’ve been another “me too” school, and this would not have satisfied our ethos: to provide students with the unique and comprehensive educational offerings that MI Hollywood has to offer.

The online learning space is a difficult one to crack. Did you have any reservations before deciding to start development on MI Online?
Not at all. We have some of the best faculty in the world, and they remain at the top of their game whether you learn from them face-to-face or face-to-screen. So, our digital evolution wasn’t a new development, but rather us sharing our expertise and curricula with the world.

What are some of the key factors of a successful online learning platform?
Number one: content is king. The coursework must be relevant, accessible and helpful to today’s music learners. We want to provide real-world training with techniques that students can use every day. Number two: make the student’s learning experience a priority. The LMS (Learning Management System) must be clear and easy to interact with for them to get the most out of their classes. It is also essential that we provide students with clear, helpful communication via our instructors, teacher assistants and our MI Online team.

What makes MI Online different from any other online music learning platform?
Our content, e-learning platform and instructors deliver a learning experience hard-matched by our competitors. In addition to these, we feel strongly that each of our students should have the opportunity to fully interact with our instructors in a collaborative space. We achieve this through our instructors’ hosting of weekly Live Lectures online via an innovative, custom-developed streaming software platform.

Here, our students can view performances and lectures from a variety of camera angles as well as ask their instructor questions in real-time. So, if you are attending Scott Henderson’s guitar improvisation lecture, you can view close-up shots of both hands (collectively and separately), as well as any sheet music he’s viewing at a given time.

How long has it taken you to get the MI Online platform to where it is now, ready for its first official students?
We have been passionately working on this deployment for nearly one year. I am very proud of our entire MI Online team.

Any significant learning curves during this time?
The MI Online team is comprised of digital and musical experts, so our learning curve was actually learning to limit our wants and wishes within our LMS. We learned to focus on the most important tech-based features for our launch first, with a steady plan of exciting features to be deployed soon.

Where do you see MI Online in five years?
Digital learning as a whole is developing at a rapid pace, and we plan to be at the forefront of this evolution, launching unique methods and refining existing best practices to achieve worthwhile student learning outcomes.

How many courses will you offer by the end of 2017?
Approximately 15-20 this year, with a full catalog into the next year. Our launched courses in July ’17 are Scott Henderson’s Approach to Guitar Improvisation, Intro to DJing, Oz Noy’s Twisted Guitar Improvisation, Harmony & Music Theory Fundamentals, Essentials, Advanced and Intermediate as well as Ear Training Fundamentals, Essentials, Advanced and Intermediate.

Any advice for other brick and mortar businesses looking to take the leap into a digital offering?
Be proactive, patient and persistent in working toward solid strategies and technologies to engage and enrich today’s student. Rushing into a market rarely serves your student.

What’s next in online music learning?
The implementation of systems, projects and deliverables that further engage learners in a unique and collaborative environment. We’re also planning to develop digital assessment strategies that monitor students’ development alongside predictive student learning analytics that will also be key to future online learning classes.

Do you think face-to-screen learning is as effective as face-to-face learning?
I do. The technology exists to both see and fully communicate in the online space. MI Online’s full video lecture feeds, with multiple camera angles and chat capabilities, allow the instructor and student to fully interact. These features, alongside each student’s ability to send audio and video to their instructor, recreates (if not exceeds) the traditional classroom experience.


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