The world we’re living in right now is full of uncertainty, but it’s important that we try our best to maintain business as usual. Many schools have moved classes online, but for students in the arts that can be challenging. As an acting coach, I’ve been teaching on Facetime and Skype for years for students who are on the road or who don’t have access to teachers because they’re in smaller markets. In an attempt to continue regular training for my students, I’m now teaching group classes on the platform Zoom. Here are the benefits I’ve found my students experience through online learning.
1. Nothing changes.
Just because kids aren’t physically coming to acting class doesn’t mean they stop working. They still need to log on to meetings on time, have their material memorized, and be accountable when they don’t have props or important costume pieces. This requires a discipline that few kids have when they’re attending class in their PJs and learning from the living room. But acting class is still acting class. Kids learn to be responsible for themselves in unconventional class environments and learn to implement those skills even in times of stress.
2. Can be done from anywhere.
Whether you’re on the road, on vacation, or stuck at home with your family, you can always log onto Zoom or Skype and make it to class. Ideally, a child will be in a quiet, well-lit room so they can be seen and heard when reading a scene. When a parent is juggling schedules for all of their children, kids don’t have to miss class when a conflict arises. This assures that they won’t miss anything and can maximize their time spent working on scenes with their classmates.
3. Teaches kids to minimize distractions.
The most difficult part of transitioning from a classroom setting to an online chat is learning to stay focused in often rowdy environments. This can be a difficult skill for young actors to develop, but is necessary for them to have when working on loud, chaotic film sets and in noisy audition rooms. Teaching a child to choose a quiet room for their meeting while their siblings are wreaking havoc and ignoring the distractions around them is a great way to help them prepare for professional work on a set. Online learning presents new challenges, but the ways a student overcomes these challenges can help them learn self-control.
4. Improves technological skills.
With recent improvements in technology, the entertainment industry has become increasingly reliant on computers for casting and production. It’s important for an actor to have some technological savvy when communicating with others in the industry and when understanding how moviemaking works. Online learning can help teach a student to work with computers, a necessary skill for an aspiring actor, and prepare them for the adult work world. As technology evolves, it’s important for a student to be able to troubleshoot their electronic issues so they can use those skills to enter the workforce.
5. Improves self-taping skills.
These days more and more auditions are done through self-tapes, where a child records a video of themself performing with a reader and submits the tape to casting directors. While this may seem simple, a good self-tape is extremely reliant on technological skills that, for busy students, can often go undeveloped. Without appropriate lighting, a flattering camera angle, and adequate sound equipment, an audition will fall flat. Casting will be distracted and unable to focus on the child’s talent. Online learning can be a great way to teach a child the elements of a good self-tape. For the past few weeks I’ve been having my students submit self-tapes to me for this exact reason; having them practice taping at home is important to help them ace their auditions without adding any distractions.
6. Kids have fun.
Let’s face it. Kids love computers. They connect with their friends from around the globe every day on Instagram, Snapchat, and social media in general. While we may be facing uncertainty with respect to social distancing and how long until they return to school, at least they can have fun using a platform they enjoy. When they learn how to use virtual backgrounds on Zoom, the younger ones won’t want to return to the classroom!
Online learning can present challenges, but there are benefits to a student being able to adapt to changing circumstances and make the most of their time spent online. While ideally, a child would be able to learn acting in a classroom setting, taking a break from the classroom and moving online can, at least momentarily, help them grow.
*This post was originally published on March 23, 2020. It has since been updated.
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