The Musician’s Rule

It’s well established in the educational research literature that explicitly connecting new information to prior knowledge improves learning. So, let’s do that for what may be the single most important point that can be made as we rush madly to move all classes online – professional development of faculty is critical to student success anytime, but especially in online teaching and learning contexts.

Here’s a simple explanation that will help most institutional leaders and faculty make the connection. I call it the Musician’s Rule:

It doesn’t matter whether you give a person a $30 student violin or a $1M Stradivarius. If you don’t also give them violin lessons, they’ll probably sound terrible.

And, the corollary:

Pretty soon thereafter – regardless of how much you paid for the violin – they’ll probably stop playing it altogether.

Our investments in educational technologies should always be matched with investments in our faculty. If they’re not, we risk spending millions on fancy violins our faculty will play once or twice, poorly, and then abandon out of frustration. And make no mistake – that’s not a criticism of faculty. It’s an opportunity for those who lead and support facultty to lead and support them more effectively. And it’s more important now than perhaps it ever has been before.

Professional development matters.