Remote teaching – software basics

We have received many enquiries from members asking for advice on how to offer instrumental or vocal lessons online.

In this short article we take you through four of the most commonly used platforms for online teaching. When selecting which platform to use, we recommend that you take reliability into account. If you are new to online teaching, it is important that you are able to concentrate fully on giving your lesson and not worry about whether there will be problems with the connection.

Spend some time testing out the different platforms; how easy they are to use, what you feel comfortable with, what your pupils will respond to best. Test the different platforms both for the duration of your usual lesson length and at different times of the day. This is particularly important if you are not paying for them since some free platforms’ performance diminishes at popular times of the day due to heavy usage.

Also, ensure you check the sound quality. This will be in part determined by the quality of the microphone and speaker within your computer or device but if you find the sound either lags or find the sound quality is not sufficient, consider using an external speaker. Wireless, Bluetooth-enabled speakers are relatively low cost and can significantly improve the sound quality, and therefore the experience of both teacher and pupil.

You could also consider purchasing additional equipment such as a microphone or headset so teachers and students can hear and communicate with each other better.

Skype

Teachers can access Skype video calls via desktop, laptop or smart phone using the app. Setting up an account is simple and only requires an email address. When you are on Skype, you can use the chat icon to open a dialogue box that allows you to send links, pictures and other files. Teachers can use screen sharing to show websites, videos and other learning materials to students.

Calls to pupils are free if the pupil has a Skype account.

Skype in the Classroom
- Resources for education, mostly for classroom teachers
How to create a Skype account

Video tutorial

FaceTime

If you use an Apple device, it will come with FaceTime automatically built in. FaceTime enables you to make audio or video calls in a similar manner to making regular phone calls. It does not require you to set up an account as you dial people via their phone number or email address. As the service is not available on Android devices, you will not be able to connect with people if they do not have an Apple device. The service is free to access and operates on wifi or by using the data allowance from your mobile device. It is also possible to make group calls.

How to make FaceTime calls

Zoom

Zoom has more advanced functions for scheduling and viewing past lessons. Zoom allows users to have meetings or lessons via video call with audio and a chat function; you can also facilitate group lessons and rehearsals. Zoom also allows users to schedule meetings, so you and your students will get reminders about upcoming lessons.

Teachers can send files and share their screen with pupils which is useful when sharing sheet music and other materials. An exclusive Whiteboard function means you can write and draw on your screen, similar to a whiteboard in a classroom.

Both you and your pupil would need the Zoom app to access Zoom, there is also a Chrome extension available. Setting up an account only requires an email address.

The Basic subscription is free and gives you unlimited one to one meetings and hosts up to 100 participants. Paid subscriptions range from £11.99 to £15.99 per month.

Zoom has developed some useful guidance to help make their online classes or conferences more secure. Find out more about Zoom's security features.

How to use Zoom for remote teaching

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is better suited to classroom teachers who need to teach large groups of pupils. This platform simplifies creating, distributing, and grading assignments online. Google Classroom easily integrates with other Google products. The Google for Education Suite is free for schools - individuals are unable to create accounts.

More information on Google Classroom

Other COVID-19 advice