One of our founders, Perry R. Cook, is writing an amazing 3-part series about online music education on Class Central. He talks about the history of distance music education, both online and, apparently, via mail correspondence:

Even back when I was in music school in the early 1970s, a subset of the Conservatory curriculum was available via “correspondence courses,” so people could earn some credits remotely, away from campus. These students paid their money and received fat envelopes in the mail.

The envelopes were filled with books, workbooks, and assignments.

These correspondence students would read, do the homework, mail in written work, receive their work back with grades and comments (from humans), and then often have to show up to campus for a final — possibly including music listening tests.

This model worked OK for music history, theory, and some other types of courses that didn’t require immediate human interaction and feedback. But there was never any notion that students would take private lessons, or play in ensembles, by correspondence. Teachers, classrooms/studios, conductors, rehearsal spaces, and concert halls are required for any music educational experience involving real-time human-interaction. In music production/technology, there was certainly no notion that courses such as these could be done remotely, largely because no normal student would have the equipment available outside the expensive purpose-built campus studios and computer labs.

Much has changed of course, both in the music production capabilities of the average personal laptop (or tablet or cell phone), and in the ability of people to remotely access arbitrary resources via the internet. So it’s not surprising that we now see more and more online music courses available. Now it’s easy to find lots of courses in music and other arts topics offered online.  MOOC providers Coursera, Kadenze, and others host courses from dozens of institutions including the top conservatories and music departments in the world.

Some institutions have created their own platforms, including the Berklee College of Music (who offer hundreds of courses via their platform, with certificates and 7 fully-online Bachelor’s Degree programs), and Frost School of Music at the University of Miami (who offer many courses, and two fully online Master’s Degrees via their portal).

Except for the addition of video lectures and online assignments (which is a BIG deal), many of these courses are still somewhat in the correspondence course model: that is, they’re primarily history, theory, or nuts-and-bolts-type topics, with assignments that are relatively easy to design and grade, human grading, and feedback provided after a waiting time.

Some music MOOC courses are now beginning to be offered with automatic grading, which we will talk about in the next part of this series. But what about the real-time, interactive aspects of music school, arguably the main thing that separates music from most other forms of art and education in general?

Online music education from one of its leaders: Check out the full story on Class Central.