Have you thought about studying an online music production degree with dBs? Hear from some of our current online students to find out how online learning works for them.
Our online music production degree programmes allow students to work whenever they want, from wherever they are. That sense of freedom and flexibility can be useful for students who have other commitments, like children or employment, or are based outside of the UK.
We spoke to a selection of our first cohort of online students to see how studying online works for them, what the learning experience has been like and how they communicate with other students.
Where are you based and how does learning online suit your circumstances and your lifestyle?
Andy Parker: I'm based in Calne in Wiltshire. I'm not too far from the Bristol campus, but commuting is still a bit of an issue because I've got two kids at school. Studying online is pretty much the only way I could do this. It's quite a busy schedule but it's really good. Studying online lets me fit the course around my family and other work commitments. It's really good.
Tom Watkins: I'm based in Kuala Lumpur so it was really important to me that the time difference and the spatial difference worked out. It can be really tricky to get that right. What's amazing about the dBs Institute and the way the course is run is that all of the modules are taught through Moodle. It's up to you when you access it, which was really important for me, so I could access the content at any time. In my experience, even though I'm on a completely different continent in Asia, it's been absolutely no problem at all. It's probably a better experience than if I was going to a university in the town here because this is exactly the course that I want to be on with people teaching that I want to be to taught by.
Christophe Pereuil: So, I live in Paris. I have been in Paris for a few years now. Online learning is a really great opportunity for me because I've been able to study a great degree which I couldn't get in France. I've been able to follow the course just as English people do, so it’s really great to have this opportunity… I have a full-time job on the side of this degree and online learning is great because I can study whenever I want, wherever I want. For instance, if I’m going on vacation or away for the weekend, I can just take my laptop with me and follow the courses.
How are the concepts and skills you're learning enhancing your knowledge and practice?
AP: I'd say quite a lot. I've been making music for a long time, working mainly on a computer game lately, which is completely different from the music that I originally liked to make. It's nice to be able to visit that again. I used to make a lot of hip-hop music, which I love. But it's fairly straightforward to make - chop up samples and make a beat. I've always liked drum and bass music, and the course has given me a chance to explore that and use a lot of the sound design that I've learned through working on the game. It's really good. It’s opening up my eyes to things that I kind of knew, but it gives me a chance to explore them in more depth. It's definitely expanding the way I look at making music.
TW: The concepts and skills that we're learning are introduced to us in the best way, really. I'm being exposed to things that I didn't know before, but the tutors are not saying, “You have to do this or you have to do this,” what they'll say is, “Here's a new concept. Here's a new skill,” they explore it and see how you find working with it. That's really helpful. It can even be an advantage if it doesn't work for you personally because the learning experience for me is that I tried this method and it didn't necessarily work. But if I wanted to go in that direction, I now have that tool in my toolkit to go there, which I didn't have before. All of it means that I'm more experienced as a producer and a sound engineer. From that, there's extra confidence and as I move forward because I've got a broader base.
How have you found the quality of the learning materials?
AP: The quality of the learning material is excellent. The videos are really in-depth, but also very easy to follow. The more theoretical research-based stuff is also very, very good. It gives you an overview of a subject and then points you in the right direction if you want to explore that particular subject in more detail. I think it's really excellent.
TW: The quality of the learning has been amazing for me. Compared to friends that I have that are doing a Master’s, it is far superior. They look on with jealousy at the kind of provision that I get and the support that I get. The quality of learning I'm receiving is very thorough. We get video content, we get audio content, we get stems to work with, we get seminars where we submit our work and we will talk about how we did with it. We have problem-shooting sessions - it’s just exceptionally high. A good test for a university, in my experience, is when you send emails, who responds and how they respond. Here, it's always been within 24 hours, which is exceptional, really. I'm really pleased with that.
CP: The course material is very interesting and very deep. I was expecting something good, but not something as good and as deep as this degree. We are learning really powerful techniques. For instance, in Ableton, Logic or Pro Tools, we are learning very advanced and expert techniques so that's really nice. On the creativity side, it's really, really great as well because we're learning how creativity works. We're learning some really, really interesting and alternative creative techniques, which I'm not sure I would have been able to find in another place.
How do the weekly webinars help you learn?
AP: The weekly webinars are really good. They give us a chance to go over what we've been set that week and also see how the other students on the course are getting on. It's a good chance for us to meet up because doing this course online is slightly different to being physically in a university. They're very, very useful. We go over the tasks that were set during the weekly tutorials and look forward to the next ones as well.
TW: The weekly webinars are great because they cover the content that was released the week before that we've all been working through for the last seven days. Then we have a group discussion, which sounds like it wouldn't be too valuable because we're just talking about work that we've already done, but they often end up being really useful because they're guided through by the course leader. It's very interesting to see how different people are working through the content in a completely different way than I would have thought. Even if something has gone successfully, our course leader will guide us on to more advanced thinking and more advanced tools and skill sets and more worldwide experience that we maybe hadn't considered.
CP: The weekly live webinars are really important. So far, I've been able to attend all the webinars and it's great because we are a small group of people and we are able to discuss our progression on the degree. We are able to discuss this with the teachers as well, who can give us very precious feedback on the course. That’s a great addition because it's not just recorded videos. We have some support and direct feedback from the teachers. For me, that's really, really interesting.
What are some of the other ways you communicate with the other students outside of webinars?
AP: Outside of the webinars, we also catch up and discuss things on Discord. We have our student emails, but Discord is a really good way of keeping in touch and sharing information and knowledge.
TW: The communication we have with the students is mainly through Discord and the email system. As I'm also a student rep, I get to contact the other students on the course. Sometimes we'll have conversations after the classes and sometimes we'll meet up for questionnaires and things. It's actually quite interesting and there are a couple of the students that I'm getting to know quite well from very, very different backgrounds to me.
CP: We use Discord a lot. We also have a weekly chat, which we'll do online. We also plan to meet each other next year. That will be nice. We will be meeting at the dBs campus and see maybe if we can do some kind of collab stuff together.
Have you used our studio facilities yet? If not, how have you found the course using your home studio?
AP: I haven't managed to go to any of the studios as yet, but I'm planning to certainly this year. I have a fair bit of kit, I can do it all from home, but I definitely will be making my way in in the near future.
TW: No I haven't, but with the way that the course is run, it's open and flexible enough for us to work in our own ways, which is really important to me. I have a very specific background and a specific way that I like to work. That's welcomed by the dBs Institute. Some people only do things in the box and some people only work with analogue equipment. So for me, even though I'm living in Southeast Asia, and I've got my own stuff here, I can find a way of working in my own way, my own style. As long as I'm meeting the criteria on the course, it doesn't really matter. I'm advancing in a way that I want to advance. Not necessarily in a way that a ‘normal’ university might want me to advance. It’s been really helpful in that way.
CP: I haven't been able to use the dBs studio yet because I live in Paris. I have my studio here with all the gear, so it's better for me to work on my gear. That's also a great opportunity with this online degree - you're able to work with your gear and get a much better knowledge of your gear.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t covered?
AP: Part of the course material is planning and getting your project management underway. That's quite hard to do when you're spinning lots of plates, but it's definitely given me some techniques that I need to focus on and it’s certainly helping me as I come up towards the next deadline. As well as that, being a father, it's really useful to have the option to study online. I've said previously, I don't think I would be able to have done a course like this at a university. It's just not feasible with school drop-off and pick-up combined with other work. Working online gives me the freedom to fill it in in the evenings and while the kids are at school. So yeah, it's a perfect way to study if you're a parent.
TW: I just want to reiterate that the course leaders that I've had, the seminars I've had have been absolutely top-rate. The quality of provision and the quality of tuition has been amazing. I'm just really grateful to have the support there has been so far. I'm really excited to start the next project.
CP: Just to repeat, the lectures are really interesting and the content is really deep. That's really something I appreciate a lot - you're really, really learning. It's not an online course that you would see on a basic website. It's a degree and you get really academic content. Really deep content, really deep knowledge.