Teaching online classes revolutionized the way Professor Leon Bernardyn shares his love of music with St. Joseph’s College students.
Online learning shapes the way students engage with course content and can be a very positive experience. Students can engage with the course content at their own pace and leisure, interact with classmates without needing to speak in front of the class, and can receive more individualized attention from the instructor.
“It is absolutely the best way to teach certain kinds of courses,” Bernardyn said. “For Music History, and I imagine any type of history, it is absolutely perfect. So much of it is viewing videos and reading books and articles, which can be distracted easily if doing so in a classroom, or even over Zoom. When studying asynchronously, students can find ideal environments to engage and internalize all the required content.”
And it’s not only beneficial to students. As an instructor, Bernardyn said teaching in an online modality makes him a better teacher because of the added importance of communicating clearly with his students. Discussion boards give him an instant feedback loop for his assessment; if a student doesn’t answer a question the way we thought they would, he can edit the question to steer the student to the outcome he needs them to arrive at and can upgrade their approach when students have ideas he may have missed. Other SJC Online faculty take a similar approach, he noted.
“This modality has taken away the fears of in-class participation, much in the same way social media has allowed people to be anonymous; the online environment allows students to be themselves and speak their minds freely,” Bernardyn added. “As a non-judgmental instructor, I never condemn their thoughts, even if I am shocked or disagree; I have found that freeing them actually brings them closer to my own consensus. It’s like magic; we plant the seeds and watch them grow.”
The Beginning of an Online Music Journey
Bernardyn, who is coming up on his 20-year anniversary as a St. Joseph’s College professor, started thinking about how he would teach music online in 2007, when he took an “Office-07-and-Blackboard-for-Dummies-style seminar” offered by the College. He started implementing online discussions in every course he taught as a supplement to the on-campus experience. Then, a year later, the College converted to Google, and he stopped accepting assignments as hard copies. The move helped him see more benefits of technology as an educational tool: accepting digital papers amped up his classroom organization, allowing him to keep all the work in one place — which was especially helpful because he teaches classes at both SJC campuses.
Like many instructors, Bernardyn moved full force to an online modality during the COVID-19 pandemic. He loved the new challenge and said he is ready to continue offering music classes online. Now, students at SJC Brooklyn, SJC Long Island and SJC Online can take the 18-credit Music History Minor fully online, if they choose.
SJC now offers the following core music courses online:
- MUS 100 Understanding & Enjoyment of Music
- MUS 205 Jazz History
- MUS 211 Development of Music in Motion Pictures I
- MUS 212 Latin American Music
- MUS 213 Development of Music in Motion Pictures II
- MUS 215 History of the Symphony
Bernardyn said he is grateful to have discovered the joys of teaching online.
“I feel like I was born to teach online,” Bernardyn said. “I am naturally an introvert, and much in the same way that I found students to be more open with their thoughts online, I too, found the ability to be myself as an instructor.
“The asynchronous advantage allows both the teacher and the student to measure and refine their questions and answers, in ways that are not possible in person,” he continued. “Like so many silver linings we discovered in such a year of uncertainty, as I enter my 20th year at SJC, I feel like I have finally found my calling as an online asynchronous instructor.”