Entering the Online Frontier

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"Frost Online" makes the Frost School the first school at the University of Miami to offer the accessibility and flexibility of the virtual classroom.

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A gigging guitarist in Memphis wants to advance his career by enrolling in music management courses, but his grueling schedule makes attending live lectures impossible. A classically trained
flutist in Madrid wants to learn more about the ever-changing music industry, but job- and family-related obligations deplete her free time. A Frost School alumnus in Miami wants to study music entrepreneurship but is still searching for a flexible course offering.

Starting this fall, people who are seeking graduate music education can turn to Frost Online. This new initiative enables the Frost School of Music to offer two of its well-established music business-related master’s degree programs online, with a third in music therapy to follow early next year.

“At Frost, we are committed to providing students with a highly innovative, inspiring, and relevant education so they can be leaders in the world of music,” says Dean and Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music Shelton G. Berg. “Our decision to make our degree programs available online reflects that commitment and our deep desire to ensure that talented students around the world who are interested in contributing to the elevation of the musical arts have the ability to do so.”

Widespread Enrichment

Offering online graduate degree programs allows the Frost School to “cast a wider net” in attracting qualified students to its world-class music programs – regardless of geographic location or time zone. It’s also a testament to the school’s ongoing commitment to serve its alumni for life and its ability to respond to the needs of prospective students in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world.
“The world of music is changing rapidly, so providing these courses online is a great way to offer our alumni skills that will help them as they continue their careers,” says Dean Berg. “It’s also a way to reach people who have graduated from other music schools but didn’t have access to the kinds of things we are teaching now; this is a real opportunity for us to provide that enrichment.”

The ideal candidate for a Frost Online master’s degree is someone who has been working in the music field for several years and who is ready to expand his or her knowledge and skill set but can’t be tethered to a traditional, face-to-face classroom setting.

“‘I wish I could enroll in one of your programs; I wish there was something like this I could do.’ These are the words we would hear over and over again, and it’s the main reason we decided to offer these courses online,” says Reynaldo Sanchez, B.M. ’80, M.M. ’82, associate dean for strategic initiatives and innovation at the Frost School. Frost teamed with Academic Partnerships, one of the world’s largest representatives of online learning, to help convert three of its master’s programs into an online format, recruit students, and support student retention.

“If you want your alumni base to be successful and powerful players in the music industry, these individuals are not the ones who can come and sit in class every night,” says Jim Lummus, senior vice president for the Southeast for Academic Partnerships. “It’s not necessarily a competitive advantage to go online these days; it’s a competitive disadvantage not to be.”

Today, online learning is growing at more than nine times the rate of on-campus instruction. Many of the world’s leading colleges and universities offer online courses, including Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Boston University, and Berklee College of Music. According to a study by the Research Institute of America, roughly 50 percent of all college classes by 2019 will take place online.

Academic Partnerships has been working closely with Frost faculty to ensure that Frost Online programs maintain the highest educational standards. In addition to providing the infrastructure and faculty training to create the online course material, the company will use integrated marketing and branding strategies to extend Frost’s outreach to highly qualified potential students.

The Online Lineup

Frost will begin offering its Master of Music in Music Business and Entertainment Industries and its Master of Arts in Arts Presenting and Live Entertainment Management online beginning this August, pending approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Both programs are accepting applications.

The Music Business and Entertainment Industries program enables students to study music copyright, music publishing, record companies, entertainment contracts, music licensing, touring, and music marketing. The Arts Presenting and Live Entertainment Management program, also known as AP Live, provides a thorough understanding of for-profit marketing, promotion, and management, as well as the legal aspects, risks, and financing of a wide range of live entertainment endeavors. A Master of Music degree in music therapy, which is designed to prepare students for either advanced-level clinical practice or additional opportunities in research or college teaching, will be available online in early 2015.

Students also have the option of entering these programs through a massive open online course (MOOC). The MOOC in Music Entrepreneurship is offered as a first course at frostonline.miami.edu, allowing students to “test drive” online learning risk-free. Those who pass this MOOC and are qualified to enroll in a Frost degree program are eligible to earn one credit hour in music entrepreneurship for free.

Frost Online students will be as much a part of the Frost experience as their on-campus counterparts. They will learn from the same award-winning faculty and will have access to the same opportunities for experience and professional growth. These online graduate degrees are being built by the same faculty who created the brick-and-mortar versions, which are some of the school’s strongest and most established programs.

Through the use of a course prototype, Frost instructors are being guided through the course-building process, which includes hours of videotaping and subsequent cataloging of lectures and other material. A course map, a set of tools that serves as a “road map” for faculty, ensures that learning objectives are met. According to Sanchez, since music course objectives are clear, specific, and highly measureable, these graduate programs are particularly suited for conversion into an online format.

“If you walk into our piano class, it’s all about measures and outcomes. ‘Can you play all the different types of scales in all 12 keys? Do you understand the different types of chords?’ There is a checklist of things that students must do,” explains Sanchez. “And with online courses, you must be able to measure competency.”

The Learning Management System (LMS) known as Blackboard, the software application being used at the Frost School to deliver the e-learning courses, also provides professors with a greater level of transparency than typically found in the traditional classroom setting. The LMS can tell a professor how many times a student logged on, how many times he or she clicken from one page to another, and how many minutes the student spent on a specific page.

You can’t sleep online; it’s impossible,” says Lummus.

With online learning, information is broken up into smaller modules, allowing students to interact and demonstrate competency in the course material right away, which may lead to better learning outcomes.

“I know what it’s like to sit in an hour-long lecture, and I am not sure it’s always the best way to get information,” says Dean Berg. “I can teach you something right now in a lecture, and if you don’t do it within the next 24 hours, chances are you will never be able to. I am excited that the online space gets us past that.”

The online format also facilitates administrative tasks for professors. They can grade essays and term papers online and electronically track their changes. Entire discussion threads can be saved and then reviewed at a later date, eliminating the need for note taking or the reliance of the instructor’s own memory.

Blazing the Trail

Frost is the first school at the University of Miami to offer fully online degrees. This is not surprising, given the school’s reputation for pioneering new curricula, including the Frost Experiential Music Curriculum, an interactive approach to music making that trains ‘internal musicians’ rather than rote learners. Frost was also the first in the nation to offer accredited bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music business and music engineering technology, as well as degrees in music therapy and in studio music and jazz.

“Frost Online is a chance for one of the greatest and most innovative schools of music in the country to project our mission and core values to a wider audience,” says Dean Berg. “I believe music is the most important force in the known world, so having online degrees that can potentially reach more students and get music into more places is very exciting.”

By Lisa Sedelnik, M.A. ’00

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