While many budding musicians find joy in playing their instruments, not all are as enthusiastic to learn about music theory or the nuances of sound. To make lessons more engaging for music students, a group of researchers in Slovenia have created a new e-learning platform called Troubadour.
The platform can be adapted to different music curricula and includes gaming features to support student engagement. A controlled study, published 15 May in IEEE Access, shows that Troubadour is effective at boosting the exam performance of first-year music students.
Matevž Pesek, a researcher at University of Ljubljana who helped build the platform, began playing the accordion at age 8 and has since taken up the keyboard, guitar, and Hammond organ. When he first started playing music—like many children and older beginners—he struggled with some aspects of the learning curve.
“I never completely liked the fact I needed to practice to become more proficient. Moreover, I perceived music theory as a separate problem, completely unconnected to the instrument practice,” he says. “It was only later, in my adulthood, when I somehow became aware of the importance of the music theory and its connection to the instrument playing.”
Pesek saw an opportunity to create Troubadour. While several online music-learning platforms exist, he points out that these are not adaptable to school curriculums and many are available only in English.
“The lack of flexibility–where teachers cannot adjust the exercises according to their curriculum–and the language barrier motivated us to develop a solution for the Slovenian students,” says Pesek. “We have also made the platform’s source code publicly available for other interested individuals and communities; they can expand the platform’s applications, translate the platform to their native language, and also help us further develop the platform.”
With Troubadour, teachers select what features they want incorporated into the music exercise, and an algorithm automatically generates sound sequences to support the exercise. Students then access the Web-based platform to complete the interval diction exercises. In these exercises, melodic sequences are played and, upon recognizing the sequences, students record their answers. To make the overall exercises more engaging for students, the researchers added gaming features such as badges and a scoreboard that allows students to see where they rank against their peers.
In their study, Pesek and his colleagues evaluated the effectiveness of Troubadour as a study tool for students enrolled in a music theory course at the Conservatory of Music and Ballet Ljubljana. The data they captured included platform use and exam scores, as well as student and teacher feedback through surveys.
The results showed that, while there was a minimal benefit for second-year music students, first-year students who used Troubadour achieved an average exam score that was 9.2 percent better than those who didn’t. The teachers attributed this performance increase to better student engagement and the fact that the level of music experience and proficiency among first-year students varies.
The researchers have since expanded upon Troubadour to include rhythmic diction exercises, and are now working on harmonic exercises. “We also plan on including several different tools to aid the in-platform communication between teachers and students, and plan to support online exams within the platform,” says Pesek.