ACC music professor develops app to help get through challenges of virtual learning

Set for School

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Shane Anderson, chair of the music department at Austin Community College, is back in the classroom, but this year he’s working with some students virtually.

“It is a real struggle, but we have adapted as best we can,” Anderson said.

In his piano class, where there once were 12 pianos, only six students are allowed to keep everyone separated.

“With music, it is such a social experience,” Anderson said. “Either you play music with somebody or someone teaches you music.”

The virtual route can pose issues. Zoom calls can have glitches and audio is not always clear, but professor Thomas Echols had an idea.

“I was stressed before the semester started about the difficulties of ensemble with Zoom and I was like what is the number one thing that drives me nuts? I cant hear the students at the same time,” Echols said.

So he made an app for his guitar ensemble class that ensures his students are still learning the material. The app is called Ensemble Class and anyone interested can sign up on his website.

“Maybe out of this we can get some new awareness of how to collaborate with each other over distance,” Echols said.

Students can play along to a piece and the app allows Echols to see if they are playing in tune, too fast or too slow. It is recorded then he can compare it to the piece being played.

“They can follow the score, and it is guiding them and there is a little play head that shows them where they are,” Echols said.

Echols is still working on the app, but says it is close to being released for everyone. The app costs $15 a person, but he says there will be an academic discount of $10 per student.

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