Learning how to play the guitar for college credit? There’s an app for that. The innovation of which can be partially credited to Naugatuck Valley Community College (NVCC) Music Professor Richard Gard, Ph.D. Beginning this spring, NVCC will become the first Connecticut institution to offer a fully online music course for college credit.
Seeing the financial, time and space limitations that person-to-person music lessons imposed on students, Gard began looking for online learning models about two years ago. Of the hundreds-perhaps thousands- that he scoured, all but one fell short of his expectations.
“A lot of the online tutorials I’ve found consist of watching a video and trying to replicate someone’s example,” said Gard. “There’s no interaction. What I wanted was something that could adequately substitute and supplement the feedback and guidance that an actual music coach provides.”
That something turned out to be “Rock Prodigy,” an intelligent iOS-based application from the California-based company The Way of H, Inc. Originally marketed as a competitive gaming app, Gard recognized the product’s potential for expansion into an academically legitimate music curriculum.
Last spring, he reached out to the company and the developers were immediately responsive. After emailing back and forth throughout the summer, sometimes working 12-18 hours per day on enhancements in order to get the product ready for spring 2013 implementation, the team has launched a product that has the potential to revolutionize music instruction.
The finished product?
“Rock Prodigy” runs on a student’s iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch or Windows 8 device and is able to hear and discern what is being played. The application scores the student’s pitch and rhythm accuracy and saves the data to an interactive dashboard that is accessible by the student and the professor. It not only monitors and tracks students’ progress but also suggests different methods to master techniques by changing the delivery of the exercise (tempo change, looping, correct note hold).
According to Gard, who is now an official educational consultant to the company, the app is a “best buy” for people who want to learn the guitar on their own. The app is less expensive than a textbook ($19.99) and the one-credit course fee is $215.25, which is more affordable than a month’s tuition for private lessons. Plus, students can use their own instrument.
"The real selling point of this course is that it combines the best of on-campus and online learning," said Gard. "Students move at their own pace as they monitor their success and improve while they receive constant feedback, which is absolutely critical to learning and playing music. Plus, if students are really having difficulty they will also have access to two full-time music professors here at NVCC."
Rock Prodigy has won numerous awards for its innovative approach to music education. The patented ability to actually hear and interact with students using real instruments is available in 80 countries and has a near perfect rating in customer reviews at the Apple store.
Anyone interested in enrolling in NVCC's "Online Guitar" class should call or email Richard Gard at firstname.lastname@example.org, 203-575-8039 to learn more. The spring semester begins January 25.