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Dartmouth Students Experience OperaX in Music 11

SwayneSteve Swayne, the Jacob H. Strauss 1922 Professor of Music and Chair of the Music Department, offered a MOOC with the OperaX team last fall titled: OperaX: An Introduction to Italian Opera. Spring 2016 is the first term in which Steve has offered his residential course, Music 11: Introduction to Opera since creating the MOOC.

Please click “Continue Reading” for a Q&A with Steve about his course and his experiences collaborating to create his course.

EdTech Connection: What is it like teaching your Introduction to Italian Opera course for the first time since offering the MOOC? In what ways is it similar and/or different?

Steve Swayne: For the residential course, I always start with a lecture on opera in the popular imagination. It covers not only Italian opera but also French, German, Russian, and American opera, all in about two hours. Because the MOOC was only on Italian opera, I didn’t start the MOOC with this lecture. So right off, the residential course and the MOOC began at different points.

The MOOC also started with one particular opera, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, which I cover at the end of Week 2 of the residential course. So using the MOOC meant I had to rethink how I taught the Italian-language portion of the course.

ETC: How have your students reacted to the blended format for your residential course? How have their reactions influenced the course's design?

SS: They have loved having access to the MOOC materials. They’ve especially appreciated the asynchronous nature of the lectures and assignments: they can watch (and re-watch) the lectures on their time schedule, and they fit in the viewing when it’s best for them. They also liked one of the self-testing modules [via Cerego] we used once in the MOOC, which suggests that we might try to find ways to do more of this in both the MOOC and in the residential course next time out.

ETC: We hear that you decided to work with the Media Production Group and Instructional Design to create additional content. What has that experience been like?

SS: Absolutely fantastic! Working with Dan Maxell Crosby, Sawyer Broadley, and Adam Nemeroff is like going to sleep and waking up in heaven. They are so creative and so supportive. And along with Pat Fisken and David Bowden in Paddock Music Library, it was like bringing the band back together for a reunion tour. I don’t know how they all feel, but if the college wants to reorganize us into a permanent team, I would be all blissed out!

And the students ate up the additional content. (We did the prototype for a German opera MOOC.) Again, they loved the self-testing module [via Cerego], which was even more robust. And how Dan and Sawyer managed to get all of the assets together in such a small window of time … they are magicians, pure and simple.

ETC: What is your favorite learning activity from the MOOC that you’ve adapted for the residential course and why?

SS: In the MOOC, we had students write about a scene from an opera they chose to listen to and watch. These assignments were peer-evaluated, and from what we could gather, they were extremely useful to those MOOCers who took the time to do the assignment. We brought a version of this into the residential course, where students would present in class a scene that stood out to them. It gave them practice in speaking in front of each other and helped them to focus on critical elements in the operas. We’ve now done this four times, and I’ve watched as the students have been improving in their ability to identify salient elements in operas and communicate their importance effectively. If the residential course were bigger, I think I might ask students to submit a video of them doing this exercise, and I’m mulling over the possibility of making the submission of a video part of the MOOC next time out.

ETC: Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your course. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

SS: I do hope more of the faculty come to understand the vast treasures we have in the Dartmouth EdTech community. You all have taught me so much over the last year. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thank you Steve for including us in this perfectly operatic adventure!

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