By Julia Ient, Head of Business Development, Cambridgeshire Music
At Cambridgeshire Music, to achieve our vision that all children, families and adults in Cambridgeshire take advantage of the rich cultural opportunities available in the county, we have been working on developing online learning for a couple of years. Initially driven by not much more than ‘this looks interesting’ and ‘surely this will help us with our rural isolation issues’, we took the plunge and invested in some microphones and cameras, ably supported and advised by the Connect: Resound project, led by youth music charity NYMAZ, along with UCan Play, a not-for-profit sales and consultancy organisation supporting music education. Fortunately we have some serious geeks in our team, who tackled the job of learning how to set up and use the equipment with enthusiasm, and before we knew it, we were delivering percussion lessons over Skype to a student in Germany.
Being based in ‘Silicon Fen’ (one of the most important technology centres in Europe) has really helped us to develop our vision, with multiple local networks to tap into. We soon realised that a ‘Blended Learning’ approach was going to help us increase our reach and resilience and provide a higher quality learning experience than a purely remote learning platform. This would include online publishing of written, audio and audio-visual material, live streaming, online interaction and face-to-face contact. By this stage, the whole management team was generating exciting ideas for how to build digital into service delivery. Our ambition crystalized and was named! Connect focuses on delivery of Core Role Three of the National Plan for Music Education (Ensure that clear progression routes are available and affordable to all young people) and Extension Role Three (access to large-scale and high-quality music experiences).
The next step was to work up a viable business model. We learnt about how to monetise digital content and identified that we could improve access for economically disadvantaged families by offering free content alongside micro-payments and subscriptions. We applied to Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund and were awarded £60k over two years for a programme of live and streamed concerts in schools, aimed at specific key stages. We found an EdTech mentor, who is supporting us to clarify our USP and approach potential investors.
We haven’t yet decided which digital platform(s) to use, and have been trying a range of options to test quality, security and accessibility. These have included Soundcloud, Skype, YouTube, Wix and Cambridgeshire’s internal education network. We now have 20 learning videos and backing tracks in the bag and will soon be gathering customer feedback on a beta blended learning offering.
NYMAZ’s Connect:Resound project continues to be a valuable source of advice and shared knowledge, collaborating with Music Education Hubs across the country. It’s exciting to be part of developing something that could enable many more people to participate in music making in our area, nationally, and even potentially internationally.
“Cambridgeshire are part of a growing network of Music Education Hubs who are using online technology to transform access to music education in their areas. The great strides being made in the county to develop a sustainable and dynamic blended learning model will be of huge value to young people in Cambridgeshire, and inspire music educators across the country.”
Emily Penn, Digital Project Manager, NYMAZ