In November last year, Arc and Brighter Sound brought together freelancers and organisations for a series of workshops to support people working in the modern world of music facilitation. Here are some of the key ingredients that we collectively think make a high quality online music session…
1. Preparation and planning is key
Have a plan of action for different scenarios that may arise around connectivity, accessibility, engagement and safeguarding. Factor in additional preparation time on top of session delivery – extra time may be needed in between sessions to coordinate and bring together music created by participants remotely, to upload products and music into shareable formats to make the materials accessible outside of sessions, or to create or source additional resources and approaches that may not have been required when delivering in person.
For employers, this means contracting facilitators for more planning time than would previously have been required; for facilitators, it means being aware of additional time you may need to schedule into your working week.
2. Be really clear about roles and responsibilities
Who is hosting the session, who has responsibilities for monitoring the chat, who is in charge of tech? Online sessions require an additional role of ‘host’ to manage the learning environment, for example, managing waiting rooms, breakout rooms, monitoring the chat function. We’ve found that the additional attention and responsibility required to manage the online environment can detract from a music leader’s ability to facilitate music activity.
While this role could be included in a music leader’s responsibilities it must be clearly defined in their contract and we would encourage that where the session is delivered by a solitary music leader this role should be carried out by somebody else.
3. Structure and flexibility
Sessions should be structured, but with lots of room for flexibility. You may need to carry out more detailed plans (see point 1) to allow you to respond flexibly, as it is harder to react online.
4. Consider session length and breaks
These will be different online. Be aware of the stresses, fatigue, disengagement and impact on eye-sight faced by facilitators and young people when working online. Shorter sessions, and shorter activities should be considered, regular breaks encouraged and back to back scheduling of sessions avoided!
5. Think carefully about pace
Some things move slower, some things quicker online. Consider reducing the amount of session content planned to allow time for non-musical activity which would have happened naturally in a face-to-face setting. Make use of shared playlists, whiteboards and ice breakers to allow for a soft start and finish to enable participants to familiarise themselves with the environment and socialise with others. Allow for more micro-breaks and check ins to help monitor participants’ understanding of the session content, especially when this could have been noted during a group activity such as warm ups, sharing or group performance when in-person.
6. Make sessions as accessible as possible
Plan for a broad range of activities based on creative input rather than technical ability or equipment available, and acknowledge that it is harder to pick up on body language and non-verbal cues when working online.
7. Be realistic about progression and outcomes
Facilitators may need to spend more time on group dynamics and personal development at the beginning of projects to better enable young people to feel comfortable in sharing their own views. Don’t be disheartened if this takes longer to achieve.
8. Factor in extra time
Don’t forget to allow more set up time to check all equipment, time at the end to debrief as a team, and time in between sessions to reflect and unwind.
9. Invest in your own toolbox
Think about your own skills and personal development. Stay connected, reach out, talk to others, share learning. Become fluent in programmes such as Zoom, Trello, Bandlab, Keyshare etc, so that you can confidently and calmly work with the young people, using a variety of tools for different purposes.
For employers, this means supporting your workforce to undertake appropriate training in how to use online learning tools and platforms, and not assuming they already have his knowledge. And, creating an environment that’s supportive of everyone’s wellbeing.
10. Don’t be afraid!
Take risks and experiment – and learn with the young people!
Do you have any more? Join the conversation and connect with other facilitators or organisations on the Brighter Sound Practitioners Network Facebook group.