Research Methodology in Education
An action research enquiry into the teaching and learning of folk music through online music sessions
Vicki Swan 2004
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Research Proposal
Methodological Approaches
Research Methods
Pilot Study
Foot Notes


Research Proposal
An enquiry into the teaching and learning of folk music through online music sessions

The focus of this research is to investigate the idea of broadcasting a live music session over the internet to an audience giving them an opportunity (that they may not otherwise have) to play along with other musicians and increase their musical repertoire. The methodology for this study is action research.

The choice of this methodology is evidenced by improvement of personal practice and the development of a new medium for teaching traditional music. As a traditional music practitioner in an area of the UK that has few educational opportunities in this genre this is a very pertinent study. The study will examine both the technical difficulties of webcasting and also the social and cultural issues of placing an inherently social activity in a traditionally asynchronous text environment. The research will create a method of linking together people not only from this country that would not normally have access to folk music education, but also musicians from different countries all over the world. This study may be of great value to both Ultralab and APU is it pushes further the boundaries of online/distance education and learning. If successful it could take online learning and online community to a whole new level of education.

Literature Review
There has been much research performed in the area of online learning and of music education but there has been very little written about the learning of traditional folk music and less still about learning folk music in the online environment. MacKinnon (1993) writes about the music session

“a session is a gathering of musicians who meet informally to play tunes. A singing session or sing around is a similar gathering of singers, though if instrumental and vocal music occur together it is normally referred it as a session” (MacKinnon 1993: 99)

Fairbairn (1994) describes the “traditional music session” and how, in the 1930s, Irish immigrants coming to London could no longer play music in the home and turned to public houses as a venue:

“Since the 1930s instrumental music has become increasingly disassociated from its primary function - to accompany dancing.... The traditional setting for the music is the country house dance, remembered vividly by today’s oldest generation of musicians” (Fairbairn 1994: 572)

The traditional music session is a sociable event where tunes are swapped and learnt as opposed to taught in a formal sense. Fairbairn (1994) reflects on session culture:

“Sessions dissolve boundaries bringing together large numbers of musicians, with or without previous experience of one another's playing, and representing diverse musical backgrounds, styles and experience.” (Fairbairn 1994: 583)

whilst Swanwick touches on the aural and traditional performance:

“Without aural performance traditions, most expressive and structural shaping is missing.” (Swanwick, K. 1996:244)

There has been very little written on the pedagogy of learning processes in traditional music sessions and as such this is an area that needs further study.

Elsewhere in the music environment, research is being undertaken to investigate online music teaching. The Santa Barbara Music Academy have undertaken research into performing synchronously online, putting on concert where two musicians perform a duet from different locations across the internet.

“The virtual duet performance marks a first in the history of music and technology, allowing the musicians to perform in realtime.” (Kuehn 2003)

Ruippo (2003) looked at synchronous communication, phone / video conferencing. His work focuses on technological resources replicating the real teaching scenario by trying to mirror the face to face experience. Video conferencing was explored and developed as the preferred model of distance learning.

“These examples demonstrate that Videoconferences seem to suit many kinds of music material.” (Donner 2003)

Bhandopadhyay (2000) takes the asynchronous perspective with the learner being forced to be more audidactic:

"With faculty guidance, the learner must increasingly become self directed, acquiring knowledge and skills through interactive technology-based instruction, videotaped courses, CD ROMs, self-paced learning modules and interactive education.” (Bandopadhyay 2000)

Wenger (1998) claims that learning is fundamentally social; to learn we need to interact with our teachers/tutors and with our peers. As Rovai (2002) states:

“Research provides evidence that strong feelings of community may not only increase persistence in courses, but may also increase the flow of information among all learners” (Rovai 2002)

The research that Bandopadhyay, Ruppio and others are undertaking, although including a limited amount of interaction don’t use community as its foundation. As Ho (2004) states:

"Whilst the students maintained that music technology could help them with listening, composing and performing, and with music history, they believed that activities such as choir practice and instrumental learning require teachers.” Ho (2004)

These papers appear to recognise that learners are dependant upon social interaction for the success of their learners: that community is the lynch pin that provides the enthusiasm, motivation and momentum of the self directed learner. This too is an area that needs further study.

Combining the previous writings of these researchers, it is hoped that this this study will examine the social pastime of learning traditional music tunes in the online environment, pushing both the technical limits and the preconceptions of many folk musicians.

Research Questions
Traditionally folk music has been learned aurally1 often in the environment of public houses. The focus of this research is to examine and improve the learning of folk music in a synchronous online environment by broadcasting a live session over the internet. To aid improvement the following research questions will be addressed:

  • IIs the current technology of a high enough standard to enable online music learning.
  • ie connection speed, programme availability and hardware compatibility?
  • Is it possible to “play along” with broadcast musicians?
  • What learning, if any is taking place?
  • What role does conversation play in the learning of folk music?
  • Is the online chat room a fair substitute for face to face interaction?
  • Will musicians find value in this study and wish to continue learning music in this way?

The anti-positivist, naturalistic and qualitative nature of this enquiry perfectly lends itself to the action research methodology. Cohen and Manion (2001) state that:

...the social world can only be understood from the standpoint of the individuals who are part of the ongoing action being investigated: and that their model of a person is an autonomous one, not the plastic version favoured by positivist researchers.” (Cohen and Manion 2001:19)

To teach traditional music online a webcast will be performed with participants able to feedback and socialise by means of a chat room. After the webcast is completed feedback will be presented, reflected upon and discussed before repeating the webcast. In between the webcasts an area for peer review will be made available, where findings can be published and discussion taken place. Data will be gathered using synchronous chat, questionnaires and post event discussion. This follows the protocol for action research as stated by Elliot (1991):

“In action research ‘theories’ are not validated independently and then applied to practice. They are validated through practice.” (Elliot 1991:69)

This method of learning using the internet and online remote communications is one that is totally new to the folk music scene. By investigating the learning of tunes in this way it fulfils an action research criteria as laid out by Cohen and Manion (2000), that is to develop new methods of learning:

“continuing professional development of teachers - improving teaching skills, developing new methods of learning... (Cohen and Manion 2000:226)

There is a strong embedded culture in the traditional music world that participants must learn “folk tunes” aurally. There is a resistance to the use of technology, amplification and even to the use of written notation. These are barriers to overcome, so reflective practise carried out will be needed to gradually win musicians over to the new techniques. The technology needs to be transparent and allow the music to be played with no hindrance. The use of questionnaire and follow up discussion is vital to glean whether or not participants have found the experience a positive one and have either learned new music or gained more confidence in already known tunes. This is vital to discovering how the webcasts can be improved.

Data Collection Methods
The data for this study will be generated by the live chat, follow up questionnaires, feedback and discussion. A chat room such as those provided by MSN instant messaging or Yahoo instant Messenger will set up for synchronous communication. A chat transcript will be saved from the webcasts (either using a save facility or copy and paste as a text file), but will be for evidence and not necessarily for analytical purposes. The post webcast questionnaire will evidence the learning (if any) that has taken place and create pointers for improvement in the practice of webcasting music education. The analysis will be strongly qualitative to assess peoples perceptions of whether or not the ‘online session’ has been successful and learning has taken place.

Resources and Support
The technical resources required for this study will be access to a streaming server, webcasting camera, webcasting computer, computer for accessing chat room whilst webcasting, and broadband internet access, these are available from Ultralab. A test broadcast as part of a pilot study will take place to ascertain any technical issues to be addressed.

Other resources include musicians for a webcast team (gathered from assorted professional musicians) and remote musicians based around the world to take part in the study. These external musicians will require ISDN internet access or faster, a computer with the program Quicktime (free internet download) and speakers. The participants will be gathered from assorted online communities such as, and

There will be no other resources required and non required from supervisors.

Ethical Issues
The most significant ethical issue raised is musical copyright. When music is performed to the public and broadcast, royalties need to be paid. To counter this, only traditional music that is out of copyright can be performed. The same will be true of any music that is published on the website. As the webcasts are being created for the express purpose of this study the participants will be aware from the outset from the adverts that they are taking part in research. Any chat transcripts, discussions, pictures, audio files or video files will be used with the permission of any person involved and anonymized prior to publication.

Time scale
The research planning will include preparing the technical aspect of the webcast: researching how to best perform a webcast and what materials are required. This includes computer hardware, live chat room facilities and resources required by the participants. Data collection will be done by qualitative analysis of the realtime live chat, post webcast questionnaire feedback and discussion in a message forum. From start to finish the time scale of the entire research should take no more than 12 months. Research planning should take roughly 2 months, the data collection 6 months and the analysis and report writing stage 4 months:

Research Planning:

Month 1

Month 2
  • Piloting the webcasting equipment.
  • Ensuring that help guides are online and functioning without any gaps of information.
  • Collating musical resources.
  • Developing a chat facility for social interaction during the webcasts.
  • Piloting the questionnaire for feedback
  • Begin researching literature, methods and methodology.

Data Collection:

Month 3

Month 4 Month 5 Month 6 Month 7 Month 8
  • Perform webcasts, between 6 to 8 webcasts should be sufficient, but more if required.
  • Continue with literature, methods and methodology research.
  • Over run for webcasts if appropriate.
  • Begin to collate and analyse data from live chat transcripts and questionnaires.

Report Writing:

Month 9

Month 10 Month 11 Month 12
  • Begin Introduction and Context.
  • Collate LIterature review
  • Begin writing up methods and methodology.
  • Begin to analyse the data.
  • Complete analysis.
  • Complete literature review.
  • Complete first draft by end of month 11 ready for redrafting.
  • Month 12 overspill time and completion.
Indicative Bibliography
To perform this study it will be necessary to access not only the university library, but also various other libraries and associations. The following list is a typical sample that will be expected to increase as the study is performed.

For the Traditional Folk Music literature it will be necessary to access:
EFDSS library- The Vaughan Williams library in Cecil Sharp House in London. This has “the most important concentration of material on traditional song, dance, and music in the country” Simpson & Roud (Oxford OUP, 2000) - Magazine for Traditional Music throughout the world library- The Mudcat Folk Library
Folkmus.htm - English folk and traditional music on the Internet.
The Folk Music Journal - This is not available from athens, so it will be necessary to go through past volumes at the Vaughan Williams library.

For other resources see the reference section at the end of the assignment.


Methodological Approaches - Action Research

In order to examine the educational properties of webcasting and education it is necessary to look at the different traditions of research. The study that is being examined here falls neatly into the anti-positivist and qualitative camp. The positivist view of research is such that;

"social science procedures should mirror as near as possible those of the natural sciences. The researcher should be objective and detached from the objects of research” (Blaxter et al 1996:60)

As it is the practice of performing webcasts in this scenario that is being examined it can be seen that the positivist view is totally inappropriate. The data that is gathered is strongly qualitative, the participants being asked to judge if they have made any learning gains. Such information could be transformed into quantitative data if statistics were required, but the focus in this study is far too qualitative:

Has learning taken place? Is it worth repeating? Can it be improved?

This focus upon the participant and the researcher is supported by Cohen and Manion (2001):

“...the social world can only be understood from the standpoint of the individuals who are part of the ongoing action being investigated: and that their model of a person is an autonomous one, not the plastic version favoured by positivist researchers.” (Cohen and Manion 2001:19)

To answer these questions the approach chosen for this study is action research. This approach has become extremely popular especially for:

“...those working in professional areas such as education... It is well suited to the needs of people conducting research in their workplaces, and who have a focus on improving aspects of their own and their colleagues’ practices.” (Baxter et al 1996:67)

On the surface action research would seem a very straight forward approach, but digging deeply into literature reveals many different definitions. For example Kemmis and McTaggart state that:

“Action research is a form of collaborative self-reflective inquiry undertaken by participants in a social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own social or educational practices..... The approach is only action research when it is collaborative” (Kemmis and McTaggart, 1988:5)

Whilst Hopkins suggests that:

“the combination of action and research renders that action a form of disciplined inquiry, in which a personal attempt is made to understand, improve and reform practice.” (Hopkins 1985:32)

and Cohen and Manion discuss that:

“a small-scale intervention in the functioning of the real world and a close examination of the effects of such an intervention.” (Cohen and Manion 1994:186)

The key concepts of action research most commonly are i) the ‘self reflective spiral’, (Kemmis and McTaggart, 1992:22 cited in Cohen et al 2000:229), i.e. planning, acting, reflecting and ii) collaboration.

A common use for action research in education is for practising classroom teachers, the spiral of: planning, acting, reflecting, planning etc. is ideal for improving personal practice. It is not only the classroom teacher that can benefit from this methodology, Bell (1987) states that this can be applied to a wider audience:

“The essentially practical, problem-solving nature of action research makes this approach attractive to practitioner-researchers who have identified a problem during the course of their work and see the merit of investigating it and if possible improving practice.” (Bell, 1987:9)

Music research has taken a far more quantitative direction as distinct from many of the education methodologies. Swanwick (2001) summarises:

"the methodologies range from naturalistic observations to experiment. Research foci include the nature and development of musical understanding (cognition), response to music, music aesthetics, curriculum evaluation...”(Swanwick 2001:6)

Contemporaneous Research
Historically in music and the arts research action research has not been a widely used methodology. The British Journal of Music Education has as it’s emphasis ‘careful and critical enquiry’ and a good deal of research associates with explicitly quantitative methodologies. These range from naturalistic observations to experimental ones. (Swanwick 2001). By far the most popular methodology employed in most UK universities offering performance related research currently is ‘practice as research’, also referred to as PARIP. This methodology was developed as a response to the government ‘research assessment exercise’ to enable arts and music faculties to compete with academic departments in attaining RAE points.

Although this study is very much performance and arts based, the emphasis is firmly on education and improvement of practice and not the creation of a performance.

Two examples of contemporaneous research: Dr. Popat (1999) carried out a synchronous dance performance study with participants webcasting from remote locations. This study has many similarities in that the performance was synchronous and it took the form of a webcast. The methodology employed in this case was experimental, some emphasis was placed on learning but a great deal was on the performance created and not the improvement of personal practice. This methodology was again unsuitable for the study of the online folk music session.

Ruippo (2003) looked at synchronous communication, phone / video conferencing. He appeared to focus technological resources on replicating the real teaching scenario i.e. by trying to get as close to face to face as possible. Video conferencing was explored and developed as the preferred model of distance learning.

“These examples demonstrate that Videoconferences seem to suit many kinds of music material.” (Donner 2003)

Although Ruippo was attempting to research in the fairly new idiom of distance learning he still fell into the patriarchal mode:

“To begin with, the dominant cultural institution has been the Eurocentric Fine Art of 'high' musical Culture advanced by the "cultural patriarchy" (Abrahams 1986) of university schools of music and conservatories, and imitated in public schools by teachers trained by the 2 patriarchy.” (Regelski 2002:7)

These methodologies are not appropriate for this study as the emphasis is on improving educational practice and not creating a performance or the undertaking of an experiment.

Justification of chosen methodology
The chosen methodology is appropriate in this scenario as the focus of study is on improvement of educational practice. By investigating the learning of tunes in this way it fulfils one of the action research criteria as laid out by Cohen and Manion (2000), that is to develop new methods of learning:

“continuing professional development of teachers - improving teaching skills, developing new methods of learning... (Cohen and Manion 2000:226)

In addition to improving practice in the area of teaching music in online sessions, new knowledge is being created as a new method of teaching is being developed, this also falls neatly into the action research category as stated by Cohen and Manion:

“continuing professional development of teachers - improving teaching skills, developing new methods of learning... (Cohen and Manion 2000:226)

Weakness of the chosen methodology

“Lewin is credited with coining the term ‘action research’ to describe work that did not separate the investigation from the action needed to solve the problem” (McFarland & Stansell, 1993, p. 14)

This on the one hand is the major strength of action research, but also forms it’s weakness. In the attempt to improve personal practice or solve problems many new an unexpected issues can arise. These can lead to changes in direction and too many new problems to comfortably address within the bounds of study.

Many criticisms have been made of action research including :

“The threefold typification of action research is untenable: it assumes that rational consensus is achievable, that rational debate will empower all participants...” (Cohen and Manion 2000:233)

The collaboration aspect is questioned:

“Kemmis and McTaggart (1992:152 pose the question ‘why must action research consist of a group process?’ ... it is too controlling and prescriptive” (cited in Cohen and Manion 2000:233)

Despite all these weaknesses and criticisms action research is still the most appropriate methodology as it is seeking to improve not only education practise, but created new knowledge. This study is not seeking to control or change, but investigate a new medium to enable remote musicians gain musical education.

Types of data gathered
The criteria that defines action research specifies that it must be reflective and collaborative. The data created will be qualitative in nature. The study entails real time collaboration, so data is gathered in the form of feedback, initially in a chat room and subsequently via e-mail and message board forum. A record of the chat will be saved in the form of text files and the webcast will be recorded and saved, the chat and webcast archive will be kept for evidence but not necessarily use for analytical purposes.

To fuse the traditional music session and online education is to enter into an entirely new method of learning. It is one that after further study should have a major impact on remote musical learning. Action research is ongoing and even post study, the reflective process should continue and be passed on so that eventually the online distance session could become a normal way of learning for those that can’t access face to face sessions.


Part Three: Research Methods - Action Research

Action research as suggested by McTaggart (1998) is enquiry to improve practice and is by turn self-reflective and collaborative. As a result of the collaborative element some or all of the data could be gathered in the form of discussion and questionnaire responses. The focus of this study is education in an online environment so the data will be gathered in the form of chat transcripts, questionnaires, e-mail or forum. As Weinreich (1996) states, the weakness of qualitative data is that it can be time consuming to collect and subject to interpretative problems:

“Hypotheses are generated during data collection and analysis, and measurement tends to be subjective. In the qualitative paradigm, the researcher becomes the instrument of data collection, and results may vary greatly depending upon who conducts the research” (Weinreich 1996)

Although data gathered from questionnaires can be limited in scope (Cohen and Manion 2000:245) there are also great strengths:

“that they generate rich, detailed data that leave the participants' perspectives intact and provide a context for health behavior.“(Weinreich 1996)

In an online environment data can be gathered far faster than in the traditional way:

"These suggested that the main benefits of online research were the potential to deliver results much quicker than conventional research and cheaper. For example they quoted obtaining surveys results in 2-3 days rather than 2-3 weeks (when conducted traditionally)" (Comley 2002)

There are many plus points for using the internet in conducting questionnaires. Comley (2002) goes on to state:

Easier to conduct with certain groups eg samples spread geographically, disabled, Internet 'netheads'
Sometimes more honest eg researching sensitive subjects or with young people
Sometimes cheaper to conduct (mainly US) (Comley 2002)

The purpose of this study is to perform action research on the practise of teaching traditional folk tunes in an online synchronous environment. For the purpose of this the internet will enable a synchronous global target audience to learn music and also provide the asynchronous feedback mechanism. The participants will be found through currently active internet music communities. As existing internet community and technology users, the participants should be able to fulfil the response criteria outlines by Comley (2002). The following is an outline of the data collection methods.

Data Collection - Communication
The Broadcast
A broadcast will be set up using the Quicktime Broadcaster software on a broadcast computer and a streaming server. A group of musicians will be gathered to perform a webcast of traditional music to a remote audience thereby enabling them to learn play along and learn new tunes. The participants will require a computer connected to the internet using an isdn (or better) connection, up to date Quicktime software (available as a free download) and speakers. The participants will be gathered from assorted online communities such as, and

Chat Facility
The most important feedback mechanism in this study is the online chat facility. It is this tool that will enable the webcast team to gain feedback. Without the chat the webcast would become a one sided television style broadcast. The chat will give the participants the opportunity to request certain pieces of music to be played, to feedback on the stableness of the webcast. The chat facility needs to be chosen carefully to ensure that not only it is stable, reliable and cross platform but that a transcript can be saved as a record (either using a save facility or copy and paste as a text file). The purpose of the chat is to enable real time feedback and not necessarily for post event analysis.

Questionnaire & Message board Forum
Post webcast it is not only important to perform self-reflection prior to the repeating the exercise but also to gain the reflection of the participants. Questionnaires can not only gain specific answers, but also help with vital background information. In the case of this study a post webcast questionnaire will be requested via e-mail:

What did the you do? - Did you play, listen etc.
What did the you learn? - Did you learn any new tunes?
Did you enjoy this online session? - Would you do this again?
Do you have access to real sessions?
Do you think that having the session live makes a difference?
Does having the chat feedback make a difference?
Does having the visual make a difference?
Would just having audio be sufficient?
Does the session have value? Is it worth pursuing?
What could be improved?

The role of these questions will be to assess if any learning has taken place, whether holding the webcast as a live event is necessary and to ascertain if the participant can access face to face music sessions.

The message board forum will give the participants an area to give feedback and discussion in a more public arena. Questions can be brought up and discussed frankly openly and in more depth than a questionnaire and thus encouraging collaboration.

Ethics. Reliability and Validity
Dick & Swepson (1994) define validity and validity within action research:

“Validity has come to have meanings which are appropriate for experimental paradigms.  For action research, with its need for responsiveness and change, different concepts of validity are required.  All paradigms seek to understand the world.  Action research wishes to use this understanding to inform simultaneous action. ... We have offered here two strategies for achieving valid understanding: the use of a cyclic procedure; and, within each cycle, the use of multiple sources of information or different perspectives on what is being studied.” (Dick & Swepson 1994)

By performing a webcast in a collaborative manner and giving an area for subsequent discussion the reliability and validity of both the feedback and the data is assured. There is always a risk that a participant gives answers to a questionnaire that they believe a researcher wants to hear. However the purpose of the study is to provide an educational forum so there is an incentive to give the feedback as accurately as possible. The collaboration within the forum will empower the participant to improve the practice of the researcher.

The action research methods have been thoroughly researched since Lewin first was credited with coining the term in the 1940s. (Ferrance, 2000:7) The key concepts of the action research ‘self reflective spiral’, (Kemmis and McTaggart, 1992:22 cited in Cohen et al 2000:229), resulting in the planning, acting, reflecting and collaborating is a fairly comprehensive methodology and one which, if applied fully should result in a reliable and unbiased study.

The participants will be gathered from online communities and will from the start be aware that they are participating in a research project. Any published results will be fully anonymized with the participants consent. As this study involves the performance and broadcast of music the largest area for ethical concern is copyright infringement. Ward (2003) discusses copyright law:

“The rights established by copyright law enable copyright owners to license the copying, distribution and performance of their "intellectual property" (including written or recorded words, musical compositions, sound and video recordings etc.) in return for payment. This is one of the main sources of income supporting authors, composers, publishers and record companies.” (Ward 2003)

Ward (2003) goes on to state that the internet should be treated the same as any other broadcast medium. Thus to circumvent any resultant issues of copyright only traditional or self penned tunes will be broadcast during the webcasts.


Pilot Study - An enquiry into the teaching and learning of folk music through online music sessions
Introduction - Establishing the Pilot

The term ‘pilot study’ refers to small scale or feasibility studies. The purpose of pilot studies can be myriad and include:

“• Developing and testing adequacy of research instruments
• Assessing the feasibility of a (full-scale) study/survey
• Designing a research protocol
• Assessing whether the research protocol is realistic and workable
• Establishing whether the sampling frame and technique are effective
• Assessing the likely success of proposed recruitment approaches
• Identifying logistical problems which might occur using proposed methods
• Estimating variability in outcomes to help determining sample size
• Collecting preliminary data
• Determining what resources (finance, staff) are needed for a planned study
• Assessing the proposed data analysis techniques to uncover potential problems
• Developing a research question and research plan
• Training a researcher in as many elements of the research process as possible
• Convincing funding bodies that the research team is competent and knowledgeable
• Convincing funding bodies that the main study is feasible and worth funding
• Convincing other stakeholders that the main study is worth supporting”
(Teijlingen & Hundley, 2001)

The focus for this study was to pilot the concept of transferring the traditional music session, as seen predominantly in public houses, as a tune learning environment into an online environment. The purpose of the full study will be:

  • Improve personal practice under the action research spiral of practice and reflection
  • Develop an online forum to enable remote musicians to learn new music

The purpose of the pilot was two fold:

  1. To test the webcasting equipment to see if it is was possible to teach folk music using this medium.
  2. To test the feedback functionality of the chat, messageboard and questionnaire to ensure that all lines of communication were fully open and relevant.

In setting up an online session it was first important to break the concept into it’s constituent parts, both for the purpose of the study and for the purpose of the music. The following is a break down of the processes involved and some of the difficulties encountered.

1. The music performance - the musicians
The remote musicians were drawn from a sample of musicians around the world. Adverts were placed in different places on the internet:
bellowspipes yahoo newsgoup

A group of colleagues were also enlisted to ensure a good rounded mix of performers. The final count for the last webcast included 2 performers in Canada, 3 in Holland and 1 in the north of England. In each case the performers had broadband internet access from home. The repertoire of tunes chosen for the webcast were in the main fairly well known to both performers and both had good computer literacy skills.

2. The Broadcast equipment and software
A digital video camera was procured from Ultralab. (An educational researcher facility with APU) Quicktime Broadcaster was available as a free downloaded from the apple website. A streaming server was already available for use at Ultralab. With only two people running the webcast it was difficult to facilitate both the cast, equipment, chat facility and maintain a constant stream of music. The webcasting took place from the front room of a residential property with broadband internet available.

3. The Broadcast viewing software
The software required for viewing a webcast made by Quicktime Broadcaster is available as a free download form the internet. A website was created to show the participants how to log into the broadcast and also the chat facility. The major difficulty that was encountered was the software version. The version 6.3 was not sufficiently up to date for receiving the webcast. Participants had to upgrade to version 6.5. As the numbering between the two were so similar it some times took the participant some time to realise an upgrade was required.

4. The social interaction - chat room
Several different options were explored for chat rooms. A chat room was not easily set up, so pre-existing ones were used. The first chat room ( worked well for the webcast team, but kept crashing in Holland. The second attempt was using MSN, however the servers were not functioning in Canada. A free chat room was set up hosted by a free service. This unfortunately had pop-ups (adverts opening up in different windows), but was reasonably stable and had the entire session team in.

5. Feedback
The feedback was requested in the form of answers to a questionnaire, e-mail discussion and also at an internet forum set up for the purpose. The questions were fairly straightforward. A transcript of the first chat session was kept, but unfortunately the chat crashed on the second webcast and only a few screen grabs were salvaged.

The areas of the webcast can be visually represented by the following diagram:

fig. 4.1 Visual representation of the webcast technology

Data Collection - The Webcasts
Two webcasts were held in November 2004 for the purposes of the pilot. This gave the opportunity to try out the technology and feedback mechanisms whilst using the action research spiral of planning, implementation, reflection, planning etc.

Webcast One - 7th November 2004
Prior to the webcast the equipment was set up and connected to the internet. There were two remote musicians (Scottish Smallpipers) taking part in webcast one, both domiciled in Holland. As they were both pipers it was decided on this occasion only to play pipe tunes. As this cast was considered to be a technical test for the broadcast equipment the chat facility had not been fully examined. The Dutch participants made their presence known through the message board; however it was quickly discovered that the message board was not synchronous enough to hold any kind of conversation. was chosen as the chat forum. This is a chat area for predominantly highland pipers and was a quick and easy place to get to. Once the synchronous chat facility was in place all the participants were able to converse in real time. See appendix I for the movie file of the webcast. The full webcast took in the region of one hour. Feedback was requested in the form of both e-mails and on the message board,

Webcast Two - 14th November 2004
As a result of the feedback and reflection from the first webcast it was decided that the chat room needed more in-depth study and setting up before webcast number two. Several different free javascript chat sites were investigated and set up, but none were considered ideal. The MSN instant messenger was chosen to be the primary choice for the second webcast and a free javascript room set up as a backup.

Also as a result of reflection and feedback post webcast one more tunes were uploaded to the information website. These tunes were far great in contrast and included both Scottish pipe tunes and non-Scottish Pipes Tunes.

The musicians taking part in this webcast were:

Webcast Team

Holland Canada Yorkshire
Vicki - Smallpipes Fxxx - Smallpipes Jxxx - Guitar Kxxx - Guitar
Jonny - Guitar / Accordion Cxxx - Smallpipes Vxxx - Fiddle  
  Mxxx - Bodhran    
fig 4.2 Participants of webcast two (only first name used for anonymity)

The webcast again was approximately one hour in duration and again feedback requested both in e-mails and in the forum. Although the webcast team and the participants from Holland were able to log into MSN the Canadian and English contingents failed to gain access to the chat area. As a result of this the fall back java chat room was used and all participants managed to communicate in this room.

Data analysis
The following is summary table gained from the questionnaire following the webcasts:


Holland Canada Yorkshire
1. What did the you do?
Did you play, listen etc.
played along played along played along
2. What did the you learn?
Did you learn any new tunes?
yes played as best as could good to hear, no-one to hear mistakes
3. Did you enjoy this online session?
Would you do this again?
yes yes yes
4. Do you have access to real sessions? in a band, but no real sessions no no
5. Do you think that having the session live makes a difference? yes for immediate feedback makes it more real, fun to know it’s global yes
6. Does having the chat feedback make a difference? yes, more communication yes, interactive, nice to know who else is there yes, needs to feel part of a group
7. Does having the visual make a difference? yes, for playing interaction think so, nice to see the people yes - visual cues help with music
8. Would just having audio be sufficient? video is better maybe not sure
9. Does the session have value? Is it worth pursuing? yes yes, nice to play with other people as an experiment, won’t replace live session.
10. What could be improved? better chat room use bigger speakers! nice to hear other participants

fig 4.3 Summary of Questionnaire Feedback

From the summary above the following trends can be seen:

i) All participants played along, this was the aim of the study, so the webcast can be considered successful.
ii) New tunes were in general learnt, both by the playing along to the stream and from downloading the manuscript from the website.
iii) The participants didn’t in general have access to any other music session, that is they usually play either in a small group or alone and do not have access to music sessions in the pub setting to learn new tunes.
iv) The session was required to be live so that the participants felt part of a larger group and not just stuck at home playing by themselves. The video stream gave the participants a sense of audience, again, not feeling isolated. It also gave some of the visual cues that is integral to performing music. The chat room was also necessary as this was the only medium for the participants to be able to give feedback. This moved the session from merely being a one way broadcast, much like the experience of watching television, to being an interactive session.
v) The software was required to be totally up to date. If Quicktime 6.5 was not installed the broadcast could not be accessed.

Feedback from e-mails from the Dutch contingent brought up the question of the chat room further It was suggested that a non java script chat room would be more efficient and also that the concept of having the video stream and the chat room integrated into the same browser window would be far easier for the participants to visually use. An example was mocked up. In the picture below the video steam can be seen on the left, the chat window on the top right and a list of tunes on the bottom right:

fig 4.4 Mock up of integrated video and chat window

Personal reflection on both the webcasts brought up the following observations:

i. The chat room must be well established prior to the webcast
ii. The chat room must be stable and easily accessible
The first webcast used a message board as the communication area. The refresh time on this board was not sufficiently fast enough to enable real time chat so a backup room had to be found. On the second webcast the first choice of chat room was not reliable and so again a back up was used. As this was a pilot study the participants exhibited no outward frustration at this, but the webcast team found it a difficult to reconcile the attempts to appear as a professional musician whilst not having an immediately functioning chat facility.
iii. More than two people are required to take care of any technical problems
Being the webcast technician and major tune player it was very hard to cope with setting up the broadcast equipment, participate fully in the chat and troubleshoot any difficulties that were encountered. Trying to keep a continuous flow of audio / visual, keep the chat going and
appear as a professional musician was not a feasible challenge.

iv. A small set list of tunes needs to be provided prior to the webcast
Although a good size list of tunes available on the website ensures a good mix it is very hard for participants to choose, therefore a list of approximately 6 tunes needs to be listed at least a week in advance so that participants may, if they so wish prepare.

Ethical issues
The major ethical issues for this pilot study consist of the use of MSN for the second webcast and any performance of non-traditional or non-self penned tunes.

MSN was chosen as the chat facility for webcast two as this was reasoned to be a stable and available chat room. This, as it turned out was not the case. For the full study it has been planned to install and use a full community tool. This will enable secure, stable chat and also a host of other communication tools. It was not feasible to install this platform for the purposes of this study, but in carrying out this study it has show that it would be the correct choice.

There was only one non-traditional or self penned tune played in this webcast, which was specifically a request. However it should probably be made clearer on the accompanying website that there are ethical issues surrounding the broadcast of copyright tunes over the internet.


The aim of this pilot study was to test the functionality of the webcast equipment and the feedback systems. By performing two webcast the equipment was tested, the chat feedback and questionnaire were piloted and feedback gained. The webcasts themselves were successful in that all the participants had an enjoyable experience and learned tunes they may not otherwise have done. As a result of the pilot the communication systems will be improved and a programme list of the tunes to be learnt for all the webcasts prepared in advance.

Action research is an ongoing process, the research does not finish when the study has been completed. As the main focus for action research is into personal practice and it’s continuing reflection and improvement, there will never be a definite cessation;

“continuing professional development of teachers - improving teaching skills... (Cohen and Manion 2000:226)

This concept of learning via an online webcast is in itself cutting edge and the traditional folk scene will take some adjustment, but the benefits to the musicians that cannot access face to face tuition will soon dispel any scepticism.


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1 aural - in music aural is the art of listening to music and repeating it until learnt from memory.
2 Patriarch - to continue the tradition set by the tutors of the leading conservatoires