Berkleemusic has so many incredibly talented, dedicated instructors including LA producer, Erik Hawkins. Recently, Erik was interviewed by Mix Magazine on his work with Berkleemusic. The following excerpt didn’t make it into the piece but is filled with some great information, so I thought I’d share it with the Berkleemusic community.

Erik Hawkins

What courses do you teach for Berkleemusic?
EH: Music production courses. For example, Pro Tools 110, Producing Music with Reason, and Remixing with Pro Tools and Reason. I’m the course author and instructor of Producing Music with Reason and Remixing with Pro Tools and Reason. 

What are some of the ways you approach designing an online curriculum?
EH: As an online course author, I strive to keep the class content both accessible and interesting to all levels of students. It’s exciting that in one class there can be students at a variety of skill levels all working on the same lesson. So, in order to accommodate these different skill levels and keep things challenging for everybody, I offer a variety of ways to learn the material. Students who are new to music production can jump in at the basic level with videos and interactive Flash workshops, while more advanced students can dive into discussion questions at more length and tackle the extra challenge portion of a weekly assignment. There’s something for every level and you can pick and choose the materials within a lesson that best suit your personal goals for the topics presented.

Can you give me an example of how the scope of an assignment might address different levels?

EH: In the courses that I’ve developed for Berkleemusic, I spend the first few weeks making sure that everybody understands the basics of the music software programs that we’ll be working with. This frees up the remaining weeks for getting creative, using the new production techniques introduced in each weekly lesson for actually producing music. For example, beginning in week eight of the Producing Music with Reason course, students start writing and producing their own song that I expect them to have completed, mixed and mastered, by the end of week twelve of the course. And, in my Remixing with Pro Tools and Reason course, students complete three remix sketches as a warm up for producing a full length remix beginning in week seven.

It’s an intense ride but there’s no better way to hone your music production chops than to apply the production techniques that I’m teaching in the lessons to actual projects. And, throughout this process students receive feedback from myself and their fellow classmates. It’s really an amazing learning environment.

How have you seen the Berkleemusic program evolve during your tenure there?

EH: From my perspective, the Berkleemusic team is continually pushing forward and never content to simply rest on their laurels. They’re constantly improving the online tools for teaching and reaching students, and they seem to be steadily rolling out exciting new courses. I myself have participated in much beta testing for new course material, Web site and chat tools. And, I am personally responsible for keeping my own course material fresh and up to date. So, yes, I think it’s safe to say that we are continually evolving to both improve upon the online college, to meet our student’s needs, and, in my case, to keep up with cutting edge music production techniques.

I know you’ve been teaching online for a few years. How has the way you teach online evolved since you started out?
EH: Much like the Berkleemusic development team, I’m continually refining how I teach online in an effort to improve upon my lessons and to offer students more quality material. For example, I realized very early on that everybody learns differently, so I’m always working on ways to deliver a lesson topic in a variety of forms. I’ll explain the same production technique in a detailed description, with screen shots, a video, a step-by-step exercise, and an interactive Flash quiz. I’m counting on one of these ways clicking with the student. And, if the student still has questions, I’m available for further explanation through private messaging, text chatting, and, more recently, video chats with screen sharing.

When you think about it, there’s really no end to what we can accomplish online as Internet technologies and access improves around the world. It’s pretty astounding. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
EH: I can’t even begin to tell you what a blast it is to work with aspiring music producers all over the world. In one class I might have a high school senior in Michigan, an attorney in Alaska, a recording studio manager in Japan, and a US serviceperson stationed in the Middle East. Everybody has come together online, at Berkleemusic, to learn and to collaborate on music. Consequently, the energy in our online courses is great, very positive and nurturing. It’s really wonderful to be a part of this and to help foster this sort of energy in my classes.

Finally, I’d be leaving an important piece of the puzzle out if I didn’t mention that I get to do all this from the comfort of my own home studio here in Los Angeles. I think that because I’m also a working composer and music producer here in LA that I’m able to offer a unique perspective on the business to my students who may be, geographically, very distant. I’m a happy camper composing and producing tracks here in LA and sharing my experiences and knowledge with my students online and I think that this positive energy comes through in my classes and online interactions. I don’t think there’s any substitute for this sort of genuine enthusiasm and real-world experience. A couple of other working pros here in LA that also teach for Berkleemusic include, composer Ben Newhouse, author of Orchestration 1 and 2, and producer/engineer David Franz, author of Producing with Pro Tools and Recording and Producing in the Home Studio.

We just added a new Audio Mastering course to the Berkleemusic catalog, and it seems to be just what the world has been waiting for! Students are enrolling fast and furiously! The authors, Jonathan Wyner and Marc-Dieter Einstmann, are both world-class audio-mastering engineers, and we’re excited to have them join the Berkleemusic faculty.

This new course contains some amazing cutting-edge, interactive learning tools. I’d like to give you a sneak preview. The first lesson is all about “monitoring.” Students go through interactive ear training drills to learn to identify frequencies. They study loudspeakers, calibration, graphic EQs, sound wave properties, room treatments, and more. Along the way, students can take interactive, virtual tours of two first-rate mastering studios. The tours are embedded below for you to enjoy. (Be sure to navigate all the way into the control room on the first one… that’s where things get very interesting!)

I hope you enjoy this sneak preview into our new online Mastering Course. Click the images below to launch the tours.

Virtual Tour 1: M-WORKS Studio in Boston, MA USA

M-Works Tour

Virtual Tour 2: MASTERLAB Studios in Berlin, Germany

Masterlab Tour

I’m delighted to announce the new Berkleemusic online learning environment will be unveiled this Fall term. Our new learning platform has been tested in a number of courses over the past few semesters with great success. The feedback from students and faculty has been extremely positive, and we’re looking forward to sharing it with the rest of our student body this Fall term.

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The new Berkleemusic learning environment makes its debut this Fall 2009 term.

The new learning environment will contain an enhanced feature set with many of the tools our students have been asking for, including:

- a real-time “Web Conferencing Tool” that allows for text, audio, and video-based meetings.

- the addition of “RSS” feeds.

- enhanced communication features including a student “Quick Nav.”

- a “Polling Tool” to help establish weekly chat times and to weigh in on course-related topics.

- a “Calendar Tool” to assist with planning and scheduling of both course-related and personal dates.

- a “Flash-based Recording Tool” to record and submit assignments, and for instructors to provide audio feedback.

- a brand new “Look and Feel” for the learning environment that has been designed and tested for readability and ease of use.

Picture 6
Funk/R&B Guitar topic in the new Berkleemusic learning environment

All of us at Berkleemusic are incredibly excited about the new learning environment and look forward to sharing it with our students this Fall Term beginning September 28!

Whether online or off, we all want to be part of one.

Berkleemusic’s continuing education students tell us that a sense of community is one of the most important parts of their online educational experience. Throughout a 12-week semester online, students network and study with classmates from all over the world. The course community helps students form lasting connections that live beyond the semester and into their professional lives.

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We have a number of tools, both asynchronous and real-time, available to students to foster communication and collaboration in any given Berkleemusic courses. They are a:

Discussion Board

– A “meet and greet” at the beginning of a course
– Lesson-specific questions presented by the instructor
– Student-generated questions or ideas
– Assignment feedback: instructors and classmates review and critique lesson assignments each week.

Chat Tool

The chat tool is used for a weekly office hour also known as a class meeting. The students and instructor spend an hour chatting about the lesson of the week. Sometimes, an instructor will invite a guest artist or industry luminary in to participate in the chat.

In addition to the discussion boards and chat tool, there are instructor announcements, private messaging for confidential exchanges, and even email to help to keep the communication flowing and the course community collaborative.

How important is a sense of community to you in your online education? What are some of the ways that help you feel part of an online course community? What’s lacking? What kind of tools or interactions would you like to see?

I look forward to your responses!

Education Dynamics conducted an interesting study on attrition in online learning. They found that the top five reasons online students drop out include financial challenges (41 percent), life events (32 percent), health issues (23 percent), lack of personal motivation (21 percent), and lack of faculty interaction (21 percent). Nearly half (47 percent) of students who dropped out did so even before completing one online course.


Although the numbers aren’t as strong, faculty interaction is an integral part of an online student’s educational experience. I’m very proud of the Berkleemusic online faculty and their dedication to our global community of music students. When it comes to faculty interaction, they are second to none!


As they saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words! The same is true for distance learning. It can take a lot of words to describe what a simple look “under the hood” will readily convey. Enter Berkleemusic Sample courses!

There are four sample courses currently available including Guitar Scales, Concert Touring, Music Theory 101, and Orchestration, and more coming soon.

To access Berkleemusic’s sample courses, click here.

Post Magazine’s article on continuing education opportunities for working professionals does a nice feature on Berkleemusic.

Interesting article in the New York Times.

Interesting article in the New York Times.

Faculty Are Key

Feb 04 2008

It’s true, especially in online learning. An engaged instructor can be the difference between a thriving online course and one that falls victim to attrition and failing grades. We see how effective online faculty can be every day with Berkleemusic.

I just read an excellent article on keeping online learners engaged and recommend it to anyone involved in teaching and learning online. The article is entitled “Distant, Not Absent,” by Ann McClure from

“I don’t think there is anything that
can help retention as much as an
engaged faculty member.”

-Ken Udas, Penn State World Campus

Because online students are not receiving visual clues from the instructor, they can feel isolated. An engaged faculty member can help students overcome those feelings. “Teacher presence is a cornerstone of online learning, along with social presence and cognitive presence,” says George Saltsman, the director of Educational Technology for the Adams Center for Teaching and Learning at Abilene Christian University.

For more information, please check out the full article.

And, thank you Berkleemusic faculty, for all that you do to help our continuing education students feel part of our educational community!