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Teaching Modular Synth & Sound Design Online During COVID-19: Maximizing Learning Outcomes Through Open-source Software and Student-centered Pedagogy

This study introduces an inclusive and innovative online teaching pedagogy in sound design and modular synthesis using open-source software to achieve ideal student-centered learning outcomes and experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. This pedagogy proved to be effective after offering the course, conducting human subject research, and analyzing class evaluation data. The teaching strategies include comprehensive analysis in sound synthesis theory using sample patches, introduction to primary electronics, collaborative learning, hands-on lab experiments, student presentations, and alternative reading assignments in the form of educational videos. Online teaching software solutions were implemented to track student engagement. From a transformative perspective, the authors aim to cultivate student-centered learning, inclusive education, and equal opportunity in higher education in an online classroom setting. The goal is to achieve the same level of engagement as in-person classes, inspire a diverse student body, offer ample technical and mental support, as well as open the possibility of learning sound design through Eurorack modular synthesizers without investing money in expensive hardware. Students’ assignments, midterms, and final projects demonstrated their thorough understanding of the course material, strong motivation, and vibrant creativity. Human subject research was conducted during the course to improve the students’ learning experience and further shape the pedagogy. Three surveys and one-on-one interviews were given to a class of 25 students. The qualitative and quantitative data indicates the satisfaction and effectiveness of this student-centered learning pedagogy. Promoting social interaction and student well-being while teaching challenging topics during challenging times was also achieved.

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