By Nicole Jacobs, M.M., MT-BC
Assistant Professor of Music, Director of Music Therapy
We are blessed.
When I began designing the courses for the new music therapy program in 2015, I very consciously chose instructional methods and learning experiences that would develop our students into competent music therapists with strong abilities to think deeply, creatively and critically. I wanted students to be both content consumers and producers. I wanted them to work together and teach each other. I sought out educational technologies to enhance these instructional methods and learning experiences. I also wanted to make course content and materials as accessible as possible so as to be flexible, adaptable, and responsive to the unique learning preferences and needs of our learners. This approach also would help the learning continue during the extreme weather conditions Nebraska is known for. So, I chose to use Blackboard and heavily integrated it into our daily class meetings from the very beginning. We are quite blessed at Concordia to have access to this learning management system.
Fast forward to 2020 and the decisions I have made for the music therapy program these past five years helped facilitate the sudden transition to online learning that none of us could have ever predicted. Because of those decisions, all seven of the spring music therapy courses smoothly moved online. We continue to meet synchronously through Blackboard Collaborate and follow the same weekly schedule and class structure we have been accustomed to since mid-January. The students and I are able to see and hear each other. We can share our screens. We can even share and make music together! Most importantly, we can see we are all okay. We are blessed.
Meeting synchronously rather than asynchronously was the first decision I made when it was announced that Concordia would be moving online. I felt meeting synchronously would be especially important to our close-knit community of music therapy majors. Witnessing their joy in seeing each other again during our first week of online classes was one of the most heartwarming moments of my entire teaching career. I have colleagues at other universities who were not even given this option. We are blessed.
The transition to online learning has not been without its challenges. Our practicum students and interns found themselves suddenly unable to provide music therapy to their clients anymore. To compensate for this, practicum students are learning to do telemedicine music therapy sessions during our class meetings. Although not the same experience, this change is an opportunity for our students to learn new skills that would not otherwise have been covered in such depth in our coursework. Students take turns role-playing as both music therapist and client, giving them both perspectives. In the future, I feel confident that our practicum students will be able to reach music therapy clients far beyond their local communities. They will be blessed.
Concordia University, Nebraska is an excellent academic and Christ-centered community equipping men and women for lives of learning, service and leadership in the church and world.
Please pray for our music therapy students. Their resilience during this time has been beyond incredible. Our students continue to train so that they may provide music therapy and serve the church and world. That said, I can see that they miss each other, their clients and their instructors. They did not get a chance to give one last high five, fist bump or say goodbye. It is my prayer that we will soon be able to join one another in the same physical learning space and continue serving the community with music therapy just as we always have. We are blessed.