New App Could Open The Way To Music Theory MOOCs

For other subjects, an app that allows teachers to create, analyze and grade assignments online, and provides students with instant feedback on their work, may seem like no big deal. For music theory, it's a big deal.

What's the Latest Development?


University of Illinois music professor Heinrich Taube and former teaching assistant William Andrew Burnson have developed the university's first-ever app that's available in Apple's iTunes store. Harmonia automates many of the tasks involved in both learning and teaching music theory, including analyzing student compositions, creating assignments, and providing instant grades and feedback. Although functional, the app is currently about 90 percent complete, and Taube hopes to get additional funding to help finish it. In the meantime, he plans to use it in his undergraduate music theory classes this fall.

What's the Big Idea?

Music majors usually spend their first few years learning music theory, and the varying right answers to the assignments often require many hours of grading. When Taube entered academia in the 1990s after years of working in computer music production, he found that instructors were still using paper and pencils, "teaching theory the same way they did it a hundred years ago." Harmonia, he says, "[is] the only way that music theory can participate in massively open online courses. If a university wants to have an online academy for music theory, you need something like this. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of videos."

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