UBC Music Amplifies Learning and Simplifies Auditions with Smartphone Video
The University of British Columbia’s School of Music used to do a lot of its administration and teaching using paper and email. Painful. The worst part was all the WAITING AROUND for students and teachers, waiting to practice, perform, and give feedback.
Traditional ways of teaching and working were wasting people’s time and students weren’t getting the learning benefits that are possible with some affordable technology. Now that students can record great video and good audio anywhere on their phones, learning and auditions have changed at UBC.
Music students, perhaps more than any others, need to observe themselves and reflect on their playing, singing, and musicianship. But in the ever-increasing rush of student life, faculty were noticing that students just weren’t reflecting carefully on their practice. It was into one class and out the other side, without even reflection time and one-on-one teaching time. When students and instructors tried to take the time to do so, it involved taking notes and using paper-based self-reflections or email feedback. It couldn’t be shared easily and students didn’t look at more than once. Sometimes it became apparent that a student didn’t actually believe the teacher’s critique of some aspect of their playing! The School realized they needed a user-friendly video recording and feedback system.
After sitting down with UBC Music’s Director of Bands, Professor Rob Taylor, we heard about a number of drawbacks to traditional text-based communication – paper and email — in music education. But there didn’t appear to be an obvious, affordable, viable solution. First, it was difficult to find an easy, standardized way of recording student rehearsal both in and outside class. Professors and students thought they’d need sophisticated camera equipment or at least a DSLR. Then there was the problem of how to share the video between professor and student. USB drives weren’t practical. Uploading to YouTube had its security and privacy issues and then the professor would have to deal with a bunch of indistinguishable YouTube links. Even with a recording, students’ paper based self reflection was not as fruitful as Taylor expected. Dr. Taylor told us: “I was pretty convinced that [students] weren’t actually watching the videos, or at least, they weren’t watching as carefully as they should. They would recall the live feedback they’d received in class that day and regurgitate those critiques on paper as their “self-reflection.” This was not a problem we wanted to leave unsolved.
Taylor told us the School had another problem: Video auditions from around the world. The School wanted to be able to recruit from anywhere. For a while, applicants would send in DVDs and CDs. Then, with YouTube, they could get recorded and send a link. But organizing all those links and getting them to faculty for review was cumbersome and unreliable.
The WeVu Experiment
To address these issues, the School turned to WeVu, a video platform with easy uploading, organization by classes or by instrument/section for auditions, totally flexible permission for viewing videos, and commenting on the timeline of the video. Taylor set up his Conducting course so all students could see each other’s practice, but other professors set up their courses so only the instructor, TA, and student can see a given student’s videos. That solved the sharing problem perfectly.
They realized they could record the conducting with any camera or any smartphone. That was a real breakthrough, as students could record themselves privately or help each other to do so – inside or outside class and the school! The school bought a couple of good microphones for phones to lend to students.
Finally, they needed a way to replace paper- or email-based commenting, coaching, and self-reflection. According to Taylor, the software “allowed [instructors] to respond right at the key moments to what they see in the videos rather than watching the whole thing at once and then writing up a reflective statement afterwards. Now that the students write responses on their individually recorded videos on WeVu, right on the timeline of the video, I’ve seen a complete change in the level and quality of reflection that they produce.” WeVu’s time-stamped comments and discussion added more depth and students really do watch their video – it becomes very difficult not to engage in deep self reflection when every second of one’s playing can be addressed and scrutinized. And as much as anything, Taylor could make sure students were reflecting on their practice because he could see the comments they were making, anytime, from anywhere.
How it Works
WeVu.video is a simple, affordable web application that allows students to film themselves on their phone or laptop and receive incredibly detailed feedback. Time stamped comments from faculty diagnose performance down to the second. In addition, your activity on WeVu is centralized, secure, and LMS-compatible. The software seamlessly integrates to your current curriculum and will make make learning more efficient.
We asked Rob Taylor what effect WeVu had on his UBC conducting students when it was all said and done. He told us “It’s had an incredibly positive effect on my classes and it’s revolutionized the School of Music admission process. There isn’t a lot to worry about in terms of student reception, because they actually find it way more intuitive than we do thanks to all the different technologies they use on an everyday basis. I think it’s a really powerful tool.”
Adding Value to Music Programs: WeVu for Auditions
In addition to revolutionizing the way UBC Music conducted homework and assignments, WeVu has big implications for music admissions. Music schools miss out on top talent if they don’t accept video auditions. In person auditions are just too expensive for some schools and lots of students. As the race for student talent becomes increasingly international and competitive, schools need to expand the scope of their admissions and accept video auditions. But how? WeVu streamlines the application process for the performing arts by collecting students’ videos, transcripts, and recommendations and centralizing them in a secure online hub. The applications can be shared to groups of just the right faculty members who can easily comment on the auditions and score them using the same WeVu technology. Check out our Music Applications animated video here.