Friday, October 1, 2021

Just jump in already!

Just jump in?  What if the water is cold?  What if the water is shallow?  What if nobody else wants me to jump in?  What if there are already people in the water that don't want me there?  What if, what if, what if....

I am almost ready to monetize one course.  How does one put a price on a course that has taken thousands of hours to develop, taxed my intellectual capacity like no other task, and left me wondering if it is good enough to charge for at all?  I want to be compensated for my hard work, but I have to keep the values of the school in mind as well.  The original vision was to create low cost, accessible education in the field, and I have to keep telling myself that.  How do I be fair to the many who will sign up and pay for the course with their hard earned money, and who have trusted me to provide them with their money's worth in education for a subject that is admittedly difficult to both teach and learn, at the same time, paying me for two specialized skills that I'm highly proficient at.  I bring 25 years of experience in piano technology, and an M.Ed. degree that I received with distinction and a 4.0 GPA.  It's only fair that I be given something, correct?

Do I charge a large amount with the anticipation that I may not get enough learners, or do I offer students the courses at a lower amount that will attract a larger audience and provide me with a similar revenue that fewer students at a higher tuition would provide?

To do any of this, I need the support of the piano technology community of which I'm a part.  They are the key to spreading the word about this program and encouraging anybody who may ask them about education in this field to look at this school closely.

I'm already prepared for the skeptics.  To keep with the "jump in" analogy, these will be the ones who try to drown me after I've jumped in. There are many who believe online education is a joke, or that this subject cannot possibly be taught online.  There will be those who offer established education in a different format that they believe is the best and won't be throwing me a life preserver anytime soon.

Admittedly, online learning is definitely different that a face to face environment, but if the last year and a half has taught us anything, sometimes it is necessary.  It has its ups and downs, to be sure.  What are the ups of my program?  Lower tuition fees, study at your own pace, no need to relocate or quit your job, work with a mentor who may be considering retiring, the list goes on.  Naysayers will say, even with little to no experience with this method of learning, that it can't possibly work.  They're right, in the sense that it may not work for everyone, but it will work for some people.  Those are the ones I'm trying to focus on, and they are the reason I offer the foundations course for free.  No cost, no obligation introduction to both the field, and the method of learning.  A student might say that neither the field or the method work for them.  They've sacrificed nothing to find that out, which gives this program a huge advantage over any others that are offered, be they correspondence, other distant learning schools, or face-to-face programs.  That is the one ingredient that I hope draws more people in to the program.

So if potential students are willing to test the waters, I have to make them a safe place to swim, without any fear of financial or physical repercussions.

To do that, I must jump in and show them, hey, the water in is pretty nice once you get used to it.  What are you waiting for?

Monday, September 13, 2021

What if I Get Hit By A Bus?

Yep, that topic.  What if I get hit by a bus?

I'm only asking this recently.  As I've started to continue building my program due to increased interest, especially from colleagues, I've been trying to position myself for when someone may take over administration of the course too.  For now it is just me, but you never know....

For example, every graphic I created, every video, every sound file, were all residing in my free Dropbox file.  I don't pay for extra space or anything like that, but what happens to all that stuff if I'm gone?

So, for the past two weeks I have been combing through everything I've created thus far, looking for references in all the work I've done so far for any mention of the word dropbox, and changing it to the same area where the course material resides.  It will be much easier to do it now, than after I'm gone, because, every single file in my dropbox will eventually disappear, I'm assuming, which means any students, teachers or mentors that are currently involved with the program will suddenly have a bunch of pages of course material with huge blank boxes where a graphic should be, no link to any audio or video files, when the course material says it should be there.

When I say this task of finding all references to dropbox is a gargantuan task, I'm not exaggerating.  There are 10 courses, Each course has anywhere from 5-10 "Topics" .  Each topic has at least 5 subtopics or books, each book has several pages, most of which are content rich with images and graphics I've either created myself or found on the internet and use with permission or credit to the artist who created them.

So let's do the math. 10 courses X average 7 topics, X 5 subtopics, X 5 pages per subtopic - 1750 places to look, each place could have anywhere from 3-7 content items (pics, audio, video, tables, screenshots), all of which still reside in my dropbox, but now also reside at  Luckily Moodle has a great way to make files like that available to us in editing, and it took several hours to physically transfer or upload all of this rich content to a different server.  

But it is done.  

I hope......

Now excuse me while I go run in front of, oh, (clears throat) I mean, "for" the bus.  

Don't want to rush the inevitable....

Thursday, August 26, 2021

M.O.O.N. spells moon

 Let me explain the title.  Most people from my generation would recognize the title.  MOON spells moon. From the iconic tv series The Stand, a Stephen King novel, one of the characters used to say this all the time if he was asked to remember something.  He was presented as someone with lower ability than most.  A loveable character, but simple.  Who else but King could pair a character like him with another one that couldn't speak or hear, and could only communicate by writing things down.  The character I'm referring to, of course, couldn't read, and could seemingly only spell one word. M.O.O.N. spells moon.

Why tell you this?

I'm using M.O.O.D.L.E. to develop this online course.  It is an excellent free, open source piece of Learning Management software, a marvel really, developed, supported, and enhanced by members of the community that uses it.  Because it is open source, it can be modified by the user themselves, customized to match any existing framework.  Again, it is amazing.

But today, I was ready to pull my hair out.  Unfortunately, while doing some editing and course work, I inadvertently flipped a certain feature off, which made editing a real breeze.  Suddenly, it just wasn't there anymore and I didn't know how to get it back.  The MOODLE community has forums where all users can communicate with one another, and documentation up the ying yang to help you with anything.  It is so complex that there are specific individuals who moderate forums that they have played a part in developing, or have used extensively, and are willing and able to share their expertise.  The documentation is expertly created and easy to navigate.  They even have a tracker site, that lets you search to see if your problem has occurred before, and what release, if any, a solution might be a part of.  It would certainly look to most like they've thought of everything.

Except today. M.O.O.....D.L.E. spells MOODLE.  Kept saying that.  All day.  The problems with looking for a solution to a problem with MOODLE, are that 1) you have to know exactly what search criteria to enter, and that it has to be phrased exactly the same as it would be in a forum or in the documentation.  I tried so many combinations of words, but couldn't find the answer in the documentation.

So instead, I tried entering the issue in a specific forum that dealt with the particular aspect of MOODLE I was experiencing troubles with.  Only problem was, nobody has posted anything in it since 2019.  I went to bed last night, hoping I would wake up and someone would have seen my question (complete with relevant screen shots, and a clear explanation of the problem).

Well of course, my little worried head couldn't sleep so I had to get up and check the forum.  The same anticipation one has waiting to see if what they posted on Facebook or Twitter would get a like or a retweet was hanging over me as I nervously checked my computer.  I quick sign on to the forums, and...nothing.  I panicked a bit, but then reminded myself, that the answer could come from anywhere in the world, someone from a completely different time zone.

So, what to do?  Wait a few more hours to see if anyone or even a bunch of people have some sort of brilliant solution?  Try to find the answer somewhere else?  I took option 2.  I posted the same question on a "General Help" forum, the kind of forum where you're told to post stuff if you don't know where else to post it.  Within 15 minutes, I got a reply.  He came up with a bunch of possible reasons for my problem, which I immediately tried.  None of them changed a thing.  One of them even scared me!  It basically said, don't do this because if you do it's really hard to get it back.  Yikes! Did this situation apply to me? Luckily his subsequent replies to my posts, which all said, basically, "Tried that but still have the problem", were pretty swift.  It was almost like we were communicating live it was that quick.  How lucky was I to be talking to somone who regularly hung out in this forum and thought he could help me.

And then, the conversation came to an end, I think because he ran out of ideas.  As I was typing my final response, and thank you for trying post, a little light went off inside me.  What if it is this?  The answer had been right in front of me.  In other forum posts I had found, even in the documentation.  Right there in front of me.  Could this be it?  I literally clicked on one little settings icon, changed one variable and VOILA!  Everything was back the way it was supposed to be. Relief isn't even a strong enough word to describe what I felt at that moment.

In the spirit of giving back and paying it forward, I let the guy who was helping me know what I had done, and I could almost hear him smacking his virtual forehead.  Literally right in front of both of us at the same time.  

So for the first time in 24 hours, I'm back doing things the way I've been doing them all along.  All is good in MOODLE world.  

M.O.O.D.L.E. spells Moodle........

Monday, August 16, 2021

Coping with COVID...

Well, it's been a while since I've been here.  A lot of major and life changing things have happened to me since my last blog post.  I lost both my parents after lengthy illnesses, two dear friends, one to cancer, another to a sudden heart attack.  But the news isn't all bad!  I got married 2 years ago to a wonderful man on the quiet beaches of the Gulf in Florida with only the sun, the sand and the waves as our witnesses.  We eloped and shocked everybody when they found out.

Of course, everyone's life has world wide has changed, and everyone has a story to tell.

Here's mine:

At the time of the first signs that something bad was coming, my hubby and I were at our home in Florida, and decided to head home after a month of being there and hanging out with our many friends.  The first lockdown happened mid-March, and after that, I got no calls for any type of service.  For a self-employed person to feel as if they've been fired, well, you get the point.

Not only was I fired from my own company, the sudden loss of income and something to do to feel like I was making a contribution to society disappeared as well.  My hubby and I were going to be building a home in Northeastern Ontario.  It was to be like a cottage, where we could go during warm summer months, visit with family who all live close by, and just get away from it all.  We lived in a beautiful condo in Toronto, where I was going to continue living so I could still work during the week.  Hubby was up north working on the house, which, at this point, was in a semi-completed state.

Just before the lockdown, we had returned from Florida.  Hubby went up north, I had a few tuning appointments to do, so I would join him once my schedule cleared.  I went up to see him for what was supposed to be the weekend.  I only packed 3 days worth of clothes because the plan was for me to go back to Toronto to work.

But, you know what they say about the best laid plans....

The first lockdown happened in Ontario.  Everything was closed except for grocery stores, gas stations and hospitals.  The same was true up north.  I had people cancelling appointments out of fear of catching the virus.  I was leary of going into anyone's home, almost a necessity in this line of work.  Both my hubby and I are seniors, and with no vaccine available, I was kind of relieved that I didn't have to work and put himself and myself at risk.

I remember thinking at the time, this will be resolved by May or June.  So we decided to take advantage of this sudden increased spare time that I found myself with, and dive deep into the build of our home up north.  We did our kitchen, bathrooms, drywall, painting and flooring as we had all the materials purchased before COVID,  It almost seemed like a blessing in disguise.  Almost...

We had planned to take a trip to Florida in April, and another one in June with 2 of our granddaughters right after they had finished school.  Both ideas were squashed as the Canada US land border were immediately closed.  Today as I write this, Canada is allowing US citizens in with proof of vaccination, but the US isn't allowing Canadians in just yet.  

The small town we live in up north has only 4200 residents, so it is quiet by most people's definition at the best of times.  It became like a ghost town, no cars, no traffic, no neighbourly chats, nothing.

It then became apparent that without my income, and no end in sight that things were ever going to be different, we made the difficult and heartbreaking decision to sell our home in Toronto.  Even our agent really didn't know how to price it for us, as this was an unprecedented situation for both of us and would be for any potential buyer.  We moved everything out of the house because I didn't want anyone touching our stuff, while at the same time, we knew it would likely sell faster with furniture in it.  Turns out, our agent picked the right amount because the place sold in 2 days for 99% of the asking price.  I then took up permanent residence in our partly constructed home, which is the kind of situation I don't advise anyone to do.  Living in a construction zone is, how shall I say it, difficult.

Summer became fall, and gradually parts of Ontario businesses were starting to open up.  I made myself available on a limited basis, as I had really missed work.  To work, I stayed an an airbnb, crammed as many appointments as I could, then would return up north for a few weeks, then book more appointments, go down to the GTA, work, then come home.  I did this for several months.

Fast forward to winter, December, my busiest month each year, and the province announced another lockdown for early January.  So I did what I could in December, and called as many people as I could to schedule times with them.  Got an airbnb, again, and returned home on the 23rd of December.

So we were locked down for about 2 months, then the government decided to try reopen everything, with certain restrictions.  So I went back to work in  March.  Then another lockdown this time in early April that lasted until late June, early July.

There is the threat of a wave of the virus with the Delta variant that could mean another shutdown is hanging in the air.  

We both got our 2 shots of the Pfizer vaccine, and the numbers in our area up north, continued to be low. It was certainly the safest place to be, and most residents of our sleepy little town were co-operative with restrictions, people were friendly and kind, and business almost seemed normal.

So here I go again, returning to work at the end of this month, with a slew of appointments in the GTA, scheduled for August - October, not knowing whether I'll actually make it there if there is another lockdown.

To top everything else off, we haven't been to our home in Florida since Feb 2020.  There has been some damage done to our home which we would have been able to fix if we had been there.  There was a tornado that ripped through our community and apparently our roof was on the verge of flying off.  We have water breaching our ceilings, our hot water heater is leaking, and the northern face of our home is covered in green stuff that is only getting worse with humidity. And with the current state of affairs in Florida (135,000 new covid cases last week), we're almost afraid to go down there.  It's like a death trap.

So why tell you this? Well, you can see I've had an overabundance of free time on my hand, so I decided to use this time to continue developing the program.  Let me tell you it is so much harder than anyone can imagine.  I create most of the images and the videos, and am trying to do it in a very structured manner and keep the interest levels high. This is something I couldn't have considered doing if I was still driving to the GTA to work.  I'd be too exhausted.

And there is now a sudden increase in interest in the course, as I, just today, posted my intention on a facebook group for women technicians to make others aware of the program, as there are none like it anywhere.  So far, I've received incredibly strong and helpful support from everyone.  Turns out, I'm not the only one who sees the need for the course, but I may be the only one who is addressing that need with a viable alternative for learning the craft.

Stay tuned.....sorry.....I can't help myself...

Friday, February 21, 2014

Loss of a Mentor

Once again, I am mourning a significant loss.  My dearest friend, who also happened to be my piano technology teacher, mentor and role model for almost 20 years, passed away peacefully after a courageous battle with brain cancer.

He was probably the most generous person I have ever known.  He was never too busy to help me out, and often performed many of the services he was so well known for at a much lower cost than his competitors did.  He was always there when I needed him, and even though he has only been gone for about a month, there have been many occasions when I wanted to pick up the phone and call him to ask him something, only to be snapped back to the reality that I can no longer do that.

He was deeply respected in the piano technology business because he was kind, honest, and a true gentleman, and clearly wasn't doing any of his skillful work for the money.  It was simply for the love of the job.

To honour him, and his wife and grown children, I will be carrying on his legacy.  He was excited about this program I am developing, and wanted to help out in any way he could without any compensation.

So I'm doing something I have known all along.  This course is not something I'm doing strictly for the money.  It is a love of the job, and the excitement of creating something I can be proud of, and helping others who may be looking for a change in their lives but can't afford expensive education.

Rest in peace John.  I hope I am making you proud.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Free Course!

After careful consideration and on the advice of a very wise educator who has supported me extensively throughout this exciting process, I've made the difficult but necessary decision to offer PT101 for free.  Yes, you read correctly, FREE.

Why am I doing this?  There are many reasons: 

  1. Online education isn't for everyone.  Having a sneak preview of a course without any cost will help potential learners decide if it is something they can work at successfully.
  2. As I've stated on many occasions to anyone who asks about my job, it has very little to do with music.  I have to test that theory somehow, and what better way to do it than to open the course up to people interested in learning this who come from a variety of backgrounds.  Some will be very musically inclined, others not so much.
  3. PT101 doesn't require the use of a "beater" piano the way the other courses do.
  4. A mentor isn't required either.
  5. No expensive piano tools are required.  If any tools are needed, they will be ones that the learner will probably already have.
  6. I can get helpful and constructive feedback about how effectively I've designed and developed the course.  This will help me fine tune and hone the remaining courses so that the program will rival its traditional setting counterparts.
  7. I've had many questions regarding the cost for each course, and since it's still under development I can't give an exact figure.  The courses will all be priced individually and will include the necessary tools required for completion.
  8. Knowing there are people waiting patiently for me to finish the remaining courses in the program will help keep me motivated.  I expect to have PT102 (Piano Tuning Theory and Practice), and PT109 (Assessments) completed in the next two months. I'm sticking to my promise in a previous post to do a "lesson a day", and in some cases, I'm doing two.  So progress is slow but steady!
Now, don't get me wrong, I know this is necessary but it still hurts!  It has probably taken me close to 1000 hours to develop each course and I expect the others to take at least that much time to do.  It is the hardest thing I've ever undertaken but know that in the end the rewards will more than make up for it, and I'm not just talking about financial rewards.

10 more minutes of self-pity and I'll be back at it. :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Lesson a Day

Sounds like something my doctor would say, right?  Nope, those words are coming from me to me.  As a self-employed person, I know how important it is to keep telling yourself to work.  You have to be the boss, the employee, and basically anything else the business needs.

That list includes motivator.  As I chug along creating lessons, images, videos and everything else that will be seen once this program goes live, I'm still working full-time as a technician, and sometimes at the end of the day I'm just dog tired, and don't feel like picking up a different kind of work.  Before starting this, I had no idea how much work went into designing, developing and implementing a program like this.  It is a daunting task if I look at the "big" picture and the sum of its parts.

But, there has been great interest in this program I'm developing.  I'm getting comments from people around the globe that "this is just what they are looking for", or "I'm really interested, please keep me posted".  

On top of that, I'm creating this program to take me into my later years once I've retired from piano tuning.  It's already taking its toll on my body, and I'm not even retirement age yet.  The program will help me stay involved and will allow me to do what I love:  teaching about something I'm most passionate about.  So I have many reasons to want to develop and put some time into the program every day.  Plus, I've promised that the program will be ready September 2014, one year from today.

Thus, this program development is my "apple".  I may not eat an apple everyday, but I pledge to myself, and to those who may be following my progress or have expressed an interest in the program, to do a lesson a day.  There are about 200 lessons to develop, but looking at them one at a time is a realistic and attainable goal.

Off to eat my "apple" for the day. :)