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NEWSLETTER: VOL IV, # 2, February 12, 1999

Lawrence Leviton, Associate Professor of Music,
uses Distance Education Technology to Teach  'Music in Film'
By Kate Yarbro*

UW-Stevens Point

*This article first appeared in the newsletter Sundial: ‘Leading-Edge Teaching and Learning’  8 (October 2, 1998) a weekly UW-SP newsletter for faculty and staff.  It is part of an ongoing series on technology, one of many topics covered in the newsletter.  It is reprinted with permission by the author and the newsletter.  Kate Yarbro is a staff writer for the Sundial. Lawrence Leviton

When most people go to the movies, they focus on the visual image. But when Lawrence Leviton teaches Music 103, he helps students learn to "listen to movies."

The course "Music in Film" traces the evolution of film music from the honky-tonk piano accompaniment of silent film through classically inspired music of the ’30s to the present, including examination of jazz, pop and Third World music in films.

Last year, using the WONDER distance learning network, he taught the course at UW-Stout and is teaching it at UW-LaCrosse this semester. WONDER allows Leviton to talk directly with students on other campuses and get live feedback from them.  In addition, the students get class material on the Internet with a password that allows them to use materials on Leviton’s home page.

A grant in June allowed Leviton to spend time this summer improving his home page and the course.

Since the course involves looking at movie clips and listening to parts of sound tracks, Leviton has been known to carry LPs, videotapes, laser discs and audiocassettes from his studio to a classroom on the second floor of the Fine Arts Center.  But when he began teaching the class in the WONDER classroom in the CPS building, he faced the challenge of carrying this large volume of media several hundred yards across the parking lot.

To shift to the distance education format, he has used several technologies to create his Web page.  He used "RealAudio" to replace cassette tapes so that each student can listen to music samples on any computer on campus. He has "burned" compact discs of music samples to replace the stacks of records and tapes he used to carry to class.  In addition, in order to communicate with the students on other campuses, he uses technology available to all UWSP faculty members, such as e-mail and public folders.

Using the technology grant, Leviton is beginning to incorporate "video" onto the Web pages as well.  His students can now see video excerpts from the films on the course Web pages.  Since the video samples use a lot of disc space, he needed the grant money to expand his computer’s capacity.

Leviton envisions having courses widely available on the Internet with a potential to reach hundreds of students at a time. He already has one student enrolled in Music in Film who lives in Superior. "He is my beta case," Leviton says. By taking his examinations through the Internet, the student is helping Leviton work out the bugs in a possible Web version of the course.