The Impact of Open Source

For this week’s blog, I am evaluating MUSI 112: LISTENING TO MUSIC, a Yale College course on the Open Yale Courses website. The URL is:


Yale College began offering free courses on the Internet in 2007 (Open Yale Courses, 2013). While it was not the first institution of higher learning to offer open courses, that award goes to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2002 (Feintuch, 2009), Yale College nevertheless joined a growing list of colleges and universities in providing free access to lectures and other course materials via the Internet. Like other educational institutions offering open courses, Open Yale Courses is supported by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard Company. The foundation’s mission is to “equalize access to knowledge and educational opportunities across the world” (Open Yale Courses, 2013).

MUSI 112: LISTENING TO MUSIC is a face-to-face course about western classical music, taught on the Yale College campus by Professor Craig Wright. It was recorded in a large lecture hall for Open Yale Courses in 2008.

Pre-planned and Designed for Distance Learning:

This course appears to be carefully pre-planned and designed for distance learning as well as face-to-face instruction. On the course home page, learners have access to the course syllabus, links to 23 lecture sessions, a course survey, and an option to purchase the textbook. Unfortunately, the textbook link does not provide access to the Yale University Press though I confirmed, the text, written by the same professor, and its companion music CDs are available for purchase on

While the course is essentially a series of face-to-face lectures, each lecture has its own web page providing an introduction, overview, resources, and reading assignment. Media links are also available including a full transcript, audio mp3, low bandwidth video, and high bandwidth video. In addition, the lecture videos are divided into chapters, enabling learners to control the pace of the entire course and each lecture within the course.

According to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek (2012), issues to be addressed in the planning process should include analyzing the general abilities of the class, analyzing the potential for learner interactivity, understanding learner characteristics, and helping learners understand the context of the learning experience. There is evidence Professor Wright completed these activities at some point in the past. He is animated and personable. Despite the size of the lecture hall and probable large number of students, he interacts with them by asking questions, repeating their answers for the recording, and conducts informal polling with a show of hands.

Recommendations for Online Instruction:

As identified in our text, instructional goals and objectives are important to “match the content of the subject to the needs of the learners” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 158). Unfortunately the syllabus posted on the Open Yale Courses website is limited in scope, and missing essential information, including goals and objectives. It appears this syllabus may be different than the one given to students in the face-to-face course.

In the face-to-face course, it is evident Professor Wright utilized a “linear-designed instructional approach” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 167). He gradually progresses from simple musical concepts to more complex concepts with each lecture in the series. While the distance learner has the option to navigate to the lectures in any order, the content is structured so that one lecture builds on the previous one. This distance course does not use any of these three instructional approaches: “branched- designed, hypercontent-designed, or learner-directed design” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 167-170).

Regarding Bates’ “golden rules” for the use of technology in education (in Foley, 2003; as cited in Simonson et al., 2012), the professor demonstrates teamwork by utilizing media specialists to record the lecture, cue up the audio files, use audio equipment such as wireless hand-held and lapel microphones, and switch from the presentation software to other types of media during the lectures. Likewise, he balances variety with economy, by not using advanced forms of technology when a simpler form is all that is necessary. For example, this course is about classical music. The most effective strategy for learning about composers and their music is to listen to audio clips, followed by illustrations on the piano. Advanced technology is not necessary.

For the distance learner, completing this course in the online environment, learner interactivity is passive and limited to clicking the hyperlinks on the web pages. The learner sits at the computer, listening to the lecture with the use of a headset or ear buds. Learners purchasing the text book in advance of completing this distance course, have the option of writing in the text, underlining or highlighting key points. Also, the lectures are structured in a manner enabling learners to take handwritten notes, or printing the transcript and adding notes to it.

As part of the face-to-face course, Professor Wright includes a field trip to the Saybrook Youth Orchestra, which the students are required to attend. Students are also held accountable for attending the twice weekly lectures and once a week small-group sessions, though I am not exactly sure what is accomplished in the weekly sessions.

Implementation of Course Activities:

Regarding teaching strategies and media selection, examples of classical music, applicable to the course, are played during every lecture through the lecture hall’s sound system, cued up by a media assistant. Professor Wright frequently walks over to the piano to play musical phrases, illustrating musical concepts being discussed. For example, he illustrated the difference between major and minor chords by playing short portions of Beethoven’s 5th and 9th Symphonies. Then with a show of hands, he asked the students in an informal poll to indicate which Beethoven selection made them feel positive and which one made them feel more negative. In some of the lectures, he is seen using a laptop and advancing presentation slides, though most of the slides are not visible on the website due to copyright restrictions. To illustrate where music is processed in the brain, he used an image of the brain written in French because it was non-copyrighted. Since the majority of the presentation slides are not visible on the website, I am not able to access how well the professor complies with visualizing information when content is displayed through the projection system. A limited amount of information is written on a large blackboard attached to the wall and a large portable dry-erase board. Without knowing exactly how large the lecture hall is and the distance from the farthest students, I cannot judge whether these tools are effective.


Despite the limitations of interactivity and learner involvement, as a music lover and former choir director, and a former student in an undergraduate music appreciation face-to-face course, I enjoyed viewing Professor Wright’s lectures in the MUSI 112: LISTENING TO MUSIC course. Even though the basis of this distance course is a video recording of the professor’s face-to-face lectures, he does not behave in the manner typical of a “talking head” (Schlosser & Anderson, 1994; as cited in Simonson et al., 2012, p. 159), standing behind a podium and lecturing from one concept to another.  As previously stated, the professor is animated and personable, and interacts with students despite the size of the lecture hall. Likewise, he skillfully utilizes the piano as a key instructional strategy.


Feintuch, H. (2009). Knowledge at no cost. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 26(3), 16-18. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S, Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Open Yale Courses (2008). MUSI 112: Listening to music. Retrieved from

Open Yale Courses (2013, February 9). Support OYC. Retrieved from


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