Thoughts from Berklee's Mike King: Getting an Online Music Degree

By Megan Weyrauch on October 24, 2013

Photo by TheSeafarer on flickr.com

Online colleges abound on the internet, offering online degrees in a variety of subjects—but what do you think about an online degree in music?

Berklee Online, the online division of Berklee College of Music, is the first non-profit music institution to offer accredited bachelor degrees online. Berklee Online will offer 120-credit bachelor of professional studies degrees in music business and music production.

The music business degree offers courses on licensing, management, marketing and touring with a focus on mobile music, streaming, funding, and developing revenue sources. The music production degree provides a background in Berklee’s approach to music production, with courses on the world’s top software programs, recording, engineering, mixing and more.

All of the courses are taught by Berklee faculty members or industry experts.

I spoke with Mike King, the assistant vice president for marketing and recruitment at Berklee Online, to get a better picture of what earning an online degree in music is like.

Online courses

“Basically our goal at Berklee is to provide music education to people all around the world,” King said. “So the online school, over the past twelve years we’ve existed, we’ve taught 30,000 people from 140 different countries.”

Berklee has different online course options, including single a-la-carte online courses and certificate programs.

“The idea is no matter how you want to connect with Berklee there is an option for you,” King said.

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker on flickr.com

Differences in degrees

King said that what Berklee offers with the online degree differs from the physical degree in that Berklee cannot replicate everything for both programs.

“We don’t replicate the practice rooms that are at the physical college, we don’t replicate the careers and resources center at the physical college,” King said.

The online music degree courses are similar to the physical college courses but are adjusted to work online.

“So what we try to do, it’s course by course, but most of our courses are written and taught by the same faculty as the physical college,” King said.

One of the curriculum options is a course in drums. King explained how such a course would work.

“We set up these crazy nine camera shoots to be sure we’re capturing every … angle of what the drummer is doing,” he said. “So the process of what we’re doing, that content is different from the process of delivering the content at the physical college, but the curriculum is in many ways very similar.”

“There’s a ton of value in what we do online and I can say that since we started the online school, online degree programs have been the number one request from people,” King said.

Because the Berklee College of Music is very aggressive and difficult to get in, King said that the online degree provides an option for people to study the same curriculum that is at the physical college, no matter where you are.

“We’re adding value by providing an option to study the same curriculum that’s at the physical college with the same instructors online no matter where you are at 60 percent of the cost,” King said. “It’s an affordable option to study— if you want to learn music production and music business with Berklee faculty members, it’s a flexible and affordable way to do that.”

It costs about $53,000 or $14,500 a year, King said, to complete the degree program.

King said that students from as far away as Nepal and Greece take online courses with Berklee.

Every course has a one hour live video chat with the instructor, King said, and within that chat there is audio, video, and screen sharing, which provides the instructors with a lot of tools.

“Although people are thousands of miles apart, it provides the ability to get as intimate as possible, through some of those online tools,” King said.

One thing that is different from the physical college experience comes in student-faculty interaction.

“It’s like a lot of these instructors are plugged in constantly,” King said. “That’s a little bit different from what you might see at the physical college in a positive way.”

King also pointed out that sometimes instructors can’t tell what the person in the back of the room is thinking, but online, this disappears and everyone becomes equalized.

Photo by fmerenda on flickr.com

Parallels

Because King teaches music business courses at Berklee and online, he said that he sees a lot of parallels between what is happening in education and what is happening in music.

“One thing I think that is happening in music is that we’re moving towards streaming,” he said. “I think that is going to be the primary way that people experience music in the future.”

The parallel to online education then, King said, is that a lot of people have not tried it yet.

“They don’t know streaming music,” King said. “But when they experience … those services … it changes things and you’re like, this is it, this is the greatest.”

King said that the only way to know if you would like pursing an online education is to try it.

“It’s just that any new technology and any new shift there’s always detractors that maybe haven’t tried it or detractors that are not a fan for other reasons,” he said. “My opinion is if people check it out they’re going to love it.”

In addition, King said that there is a parallel between online education and the music industry.

“The music industry is moving towards convenience,” he said. “I think what we offer is a really convenient option for a lot of different people, people that want to complete their degree or want to go to school part-time, live and L.A. and always wanted to go to Berklee.”

Though online schools exist that may not offer the best or most legitimate experience, Berklee is one school that can be trusted.

“There are other online options out there that give online education a bad name,” King said. “But with the awards we have won and the accreditation we have and the fact that we have been doing it for so long and we know what we’re doing, I just want to say test it out.”

Berklee Online offers sample courses so that you can test out the program.

Photo by bburky on flickr.com

Which is better?

Though King described positives and negatives of both the physical and online degrees, he said that he believes the physical college in Boston is the brass ring of music education.

“I still feel that the physical college is kind of the pinnacle, that’s the peak, but for all the reasons that I described, I think online degrees are pretty good options for folks that can’t get to Berklee for whatever reason,” he said.

“I feel like if you give it a shot, you’re going to love it.”

Hello! I am currently serving as the Director of News/Managing Editor for Uloop News. I recruit writers, edit many articles, manage interns, and lead our National Team. When I'm not writing or editing, I love to take part in community theater, read, and enjoy the outdoors with my husband Kevin. I have a Bachelor's degree in English and Professional Writing from Ohio State University and an M.Ed. in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Wright State University. If you ever have questions or just want to chat, email me at megan@uloop.com.

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