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Transitioning to online teaching

ISM member and music teacher (harp, piano and whistle), Pippa Reid-Foster, sets out her steps for transitioning to online teaching so you can use her experience as your starting point.

Keep the student (and parent) informed

Inform all parents and students in advance that you are planning to move to online lessons so that they are aware, are prepared for the change, and so you have time to address any concerns. Then, when you want to work online, you can send a further email to let them know that online lessons are to begin.

As the lesson hasn’t changed and the student is still receiving their full lesson there is no reason for your fee to change. As focusing online can be more difficult, however, it may be easier to keep lessons to thirty minutes.


It is not necessary to spend money on expensive equipment, as unless the student has similar equipment at their end, the additional expense of upgrading to better technology may not be worthwhile. Instead, rely on the quality of the lesson and your teaching.

Offer students the options for online teaching that are available to you, so you don’t have to accommodate different platforms (there are many to choose from).

Sound quality through both your phone and laptop (I use an Apple MacBook Pro 2011) should be sufficient and use Skype and FaceTime as the main method of communicating with pupils.

While setting up for online teaching may look daunting, you may already have experience with this from your own personal experience and most students are already very used to absorbing on-screen information.

Pippa’s seven easy steps to setting up and teaching online

  • make sure the student and instrument are well in view at the start of the lesson and that you can see their hands clearly
  • for minors ensure there’s a parent or guardian present during the lesson
  • carry out a test call with each pupil before their first lesson to check set up, as this helps to ensure that the lesson will run smoothly and all technical difficulties are resolved
  • offer shorter lessons, say 30 minute lessons at a time and if the student requires more time they can pop online for another lesson
  • in addition to the lesson timetable add an extra five to ten minutes to allow for other disruption, there may be a connection problem, toilet or coffee break and you may need to focus more when you’re on camera
  • try fun warm-up exercises at the start, focus on pieces and then spend 10 minutes at the end on rhythm, flash cards, playing yourself and inspiring
  • working on theory is useful, so the student has something to work on at home – the student (or parent if the student is a minor) can send photos of their work to you for checking

For me, online teaching has proven to be a huge success, even though I was a little apprehensive with my first online lesson. There was no need to be though, and I’ve found it engaging and fun for both the student and me. While adults have been more worried about the move, they have been really positive and are enjoying lessons online in the comfort of their own home with a cup of tea in hand.

More ISM COVID-19 guidance