The Blended Model of Instruction - A great way to learn Music

Written by Shankar Mahadevan Academy on 10 April 2015

6:00 am, UK. Archana Menon turns on her laptop and eagerly logs in to her Carnatic Music class. Nidhi and Siddharth join her from Dubai and Singapore. Karthik Raman greets them enthusiastically and says “Today, let us explore a new raga”. Karthik is logged in from New Zealand. The next 45 minutes are spent discovering the joy of singing a composition in Sindhubhairavi. A glimpse of learning music online at the Shankar Mahadevan Academy. 

With the rapid increase in access to technology, learning a new craft, fine-tuning existing skills or rediscovering your passion for an art has become a lot easier. Geographical barriers are crumbling down and it is becoming more and more possible to learn in your own space at your own time and pace. Facilities like class recordings, an online syllabus and 24*7 access to learning materials make learning convenient and effective. Industry leaders in online music learning like the Berklee Online Music School and Shankar Mahadevan Academy offer certifications as well to make online music education truly worthwhile.

The key players in the online learning industry realize that the greatest beneficiaries of the solutions they offer are professionals who are juggling learning with work, family and other responsibilities. Flexibility is therefore a salient feature of courses offered. Options like one-on-one classes, customized class frequency, add on courses to revise concepts etc make learning hassle-free, convenient and enjoyable. The Shankar Mahadevan Academy offers students 24* 7 access to their Online Music Book that is a treasure house of learning materials. All class recordings are also preserved for posterity and students can revisit concepts and classes as often as they wish to. Practice tools, recording features, ability to share on social media etc. make learning easy and a lot of fun.

In order to supplement online one on one learning with group learning and traditional face to face, many schools are exploring the blended learning method. In its basic and simplest definition, blended learning can be described as an instructional methodology or a teaching and learning approach that combines face-to-face classroom methods with computer mediated activities to deliver instruction.

A 2006 research project by Kyong-Jee Kim and Curtis J. Bonk, surveying faculty and their perceptions of blended teaching and learning, predicted a distinct shift in the use of web technologies for teaching. Research statistics from the University of Berkeley in 2013 show that nearly one quarter of all classes had some Web component- proving that the blended model of instruction clearly holds the future when it comes to learning. The strengths of this instructional approach lie in its combination of both face-to-face and online teaching methods into one integrated instructional approach that provides maximum value to the student.

The shift towards the blended model of instruction

The blended model takes in the best of both worlds and therein lays its success. A study titled “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies”, released by the U.S. Department of Education, found that “Instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction or purely online instruction” (p. xv). The study also found that not only did students perform better in blended courses, but the electronic resources inherent in the modality offered several other advantages as well, including enhanced student engagement, better participation in course discussions and greater collaborative learning.

Furthermore, blended learning was found to be advantageous for all parties involved- the institution, the faculty and the students. For institutions, blended courses can be part of a strategy to compensate for limited classroom space, as well as a way to think differently about encouraging faculty collaboration. For the teachers involved, blended courses can be a method to infuse new engagement opportunities into established courses or, for some, provide a transitional opportunity between fully face-to-face and fully online instruction. For students, blended courses offer the conveniences of online learning combined with the social and instructional interactions that may not lend themselves to a purely online mode of learning

Can the blended model work in the teaching of music?

The Ping Online Music Education Project was conducted in four schools in the Wimmera region in Victoria, Australia. Focusing on music composition, this project was delivered over two terms in 2009, targeting 70 students in Years 6 and 7. The project used professional guidance (synchronous) and recordings from Melbourne Symphony Orchestra musicians. It also incorporated in-classroom teaching artists, Web 2.0 and video conferencing technologies. The project was a resounding success, with most students achieving the desired goals. Advantages noted were an increase in learning outcome measures due to the flexibility and freedom offered and lower attrition rates when compared to fully online courses.

Why opt for a blended model in music instruction?

As a student of music, there are several advantages that a blended model of instruction can offer over a purely traditional model or a fully online course.

Greater time flexibility, freedom, and convenience: By working part of the time online from home, students have greater freedom and more convenience with flexibility in choosing the timing and scheduling of lessons, and decreased commuting, parking and travel related hassles.

Customized learning environment: Online one on one classes allows the teacher to customize lessons according to set the pace of learning to the level that is comfortable for the student. Such personalized learning that suits the student's aptitude by way of specific formats of learning methodologies - a video versus reading or listening versus writing, etc.

Interaction with the instructor and fellow students: A blended model allows students to participate in recitals which is an important aspect of any performing art. Furthermore, interaction with students of other disciplines broadens the scope and provides motivation to upcoming musicians.

Enables access to unlimited up-to-date resources: With most institutes, offering 24/7 access to online course materials, students can review and practice and thereby receive a more comprehensive instruction. This is especially useful where music instruction is concerned, since it offers endless hours of practice- a boon for music students.

Provides globally accepted certification: Unlike traditional Hindustani or Carnatic instruction, wherein a student learns by rote a syllabus predetermined by the teacher (this usually varies from teacher to teacher), an institute offering a blended model of instruction offers the benefits of a set syllabus and certification at the completion of the course.

Facilitates a customized learning experience: The blended model offers students the choice to choose the modules, learning sessions and most importantly the pace at which they are most comfortable to proceed in. This can be extremely useful for children, busy professionals, senior citizens and those who wish to take up music as a hobby.

The Shankar Mahadevan Academy- Enriching Indian Music through the Blended Model of Instruction

Speaking about the importance of the teaching Indian music, Mahadevan opined, "India is the only country which has such rich musical culture in terms of Hindustani classical and Carnatic classical, not just Bollywood music. Therefore, I strongly feel that we must strive to preserve this.

The Academy currently offers students a choice of 4 different kinds of learning environments:

1. In Classroom Face to Face

2. Virtual Classes

3. Online Self Study Courses

4. Blended Learning

The Shankar Mahadevan Academy would be launching the blended model of instruction to conduct learning programs in Hindustani Vocals and Carnatic Vocals at its centers in Bangalore and Mumbai.

To find out more, please visit