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Online music ed program delivers CFA instruction around the world

André de Quadros.

The faculty of the new online program in music education at the College of Fine Arts are all experienced educators, but they’ve discovered that the convenience of Internet teaching comes with a few unique challenges: time zones, for one.

“My students cover just the four time zones,” says Anthony Palmer, a professor of music at CFA. “But one of the other facilitators has somebody in Tokyo, and in weeks five, six, and seven, we require a conference call for all of the students in that section! We have to find a way of dividing the class.”

New this fall, the program allows students to obtain a master’s or a doctoral degree in music education. The master’s degree requires eight courses and the completion of a thesis; the doctoral program, open to students who have already obtained a master’s in music, requires 12 classes in education, orchestration, aesthetics and criticism, and history and philosophy, as well as research and a dissertation.

The program was developed in a collaboration between CFA and BU Online, says André de Quadros, director of the school of music, in recognition of the difficulty many music educators face in obtaining a doctoral degree — particularly those, he says, who are already working as teachers.

“There is a need to make a Boston University education available to people who cannot come to the campus, particularly in music education,” says de Quadros. “This curriculum is the philosophy and the historical study of music education, leading to research that will ultimately benefit music educators.”

The faculty have tried to simulate the face-to-face experience wherever possible: students in Palmer’s course Music Education I: History and Philosophy were asked to post a picture of themselves on the class board and can participate in a “water cooler” discussion forum to talk about the class. Assignments are posted online, and students make “in-class” presentations by posting PowerPoint files on the site as well. Office hours are accomplished through chat rooms.

“It’s going very well,” says Patricia Mitro, the assistant dean for enrollment at CFA. “We’ve worked very closely with the office of online education, and I think we’ve pulled it off.”

This semester, 80 students are enrolled in the program; the admissions cycle is ongoing, and administrators are currently reviewing more applications for next semester.

“I don’t think we’ll ever eliminate face-to-face classes,” says Palmer, “but I see this as part of the future of education.”