Armstrong’s Examination of Online Music Instruction Services – Empathetic Design as Used by IDEO


  • large market for music instruction in the Dallas area, especially for children (very competitive, parents take it seriously)
  • some music schools offer online instruction, but they also offer in-person instruction, either in-home or in-studio, individual or group lessons, and sometimes instrument rental at their physical location
  • some organizations offer a service like but for music – helps find in-person or online music instruction (
  • some offer payment and instructor communication options online (
  • some focus on being selective and require student dedication shown by a formal application, an application fee, review and formal matching of student with instructor by the organization, only in-person lessons, etc. (Dallas School of Music)
  • most organizations focus on instructing children.  Some sites mention adults, but the photos all feature children receiving instruction.  No top organizations seem to focus on instruction for elderly people, business people, stay-at-home parents, or inner-city students
  • When online lessons are available, they are offered through Skype


  • 9% of population is 65 and older
  • the largest populations are Hispanic/Latino (42%), White (29%), and Black (25%)
  • Education of ages 25 and older: 73% have H.S. degree or more and 29% have bachelor’s degree or more
  • Ideal client is someone who needs convenience, has limited time or limited mobility, is comfortable using technology, is motivated to log-in and learn music, and is interested in taking advantage of additional online or website resources or service offerings


  • Need a better video chat option than Skype: perhaps Googlehangouts or FaceTime
  • Need something for instrument rental or instruction payments: perhaps Paypal
  • Need something for renting instruments from other people (like Craigslist)
  • Need something like WIkipedia for composition students
  • Need to provide students with video cams and microphones?
  • Need to provide video cams and microphones and laptops to instructors?

Perceived Constraints:

  • Some people are not comfortable with online instruction
  • less in-person interaction can mean less trust and commitment to continue lessons
  • some are not comfortable using technology
  • it is a new concept for many music instructors as well as potential students
  • much music instruction pedagogy and history focuses on being in the same physical space
  • loss of control over consistency of quality, consistency of company image, and representation of company by instructor
  • need money, time, and skills to create a platform to transfer many aspects of in-person lessons to online services and resources
  • can seem to be less professional or of lower quality than in-person instruction

Real people:

  • confusion about the role of parents in the child’s instruction
  • frustration when student can’t see what progress is being made
  • confusion about what is expected of the student
  • confusion about when payment is due
  • confusion about where to get the needed materials and supplies and what materials and supplies are needed
  • concern about how much to invest in music instruction (time and money)
  • need more opportunities to learn and understand concepts, ideas, and techniques (smaller doses of more instruction between formal lessons)
  • like:
  1. celebration about small accomplishments
  2. being free to make mistakes without embarrassment
  3. having long-term, challenging goals
  4. showing friends and family their accomplishments
  • hate:
  1. seeming irrelevance of what is being learned
  2. practing with a metronome
  3. trying to remember when to pay (embarrassing)
  4. feeling embarrassed to be an adult student
  5. having a lesson when student is not fully prepared

Visualize new  to the world concepts:

  • Wikipedia for composition sounds/notation
  • instructor/student platform and/or app for assigning objectives and activities, student submissions and logs of activity, general communication between student and instructor, scheduling of lessons, etc.
  • database of free music activities, external resources, etc.
  • movable screens for instructor use to create consistent, private, and distraction-free online lessons
  • online feedback to the company regarding student experiences, requests, suggestions, etc.



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