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Exploring Online as an alternative to Studio

The objective of this blog is to share some of the online tools I explored and tried to keep my dance/business going on. Please feel free to share with anyone that it might benefit.


Effects of the Pandemic

A lot of things have taken us by shock since the onset of the pandemic last year and we are thrown into a world of uncertainty and unknown. It been a never ending struggle since trying to keep our motivations alive and so our career! On the positive side, it also helped me personally to explore a world that I never knew it existed before and look at dancing, teaching and learning with a different perspective. Even once things get back to what it used to be normal, the new online/hybrid platforms are here to stay and be an essential part of our careers.


Since March Last year, I have been exploring a lot of platforms and tools online. I tried and tested a lot of them and ended up using a lot of them too. Let me share my little knowledge with you through the blog.


ONLINE LIVE CLASSES

Once the studio shuts, the first alternative is a Live session online. I would like to suggest a lot of things for this option along with the Tools that we will discuss. So keep reading along without skipping!


ZOOM

Zoom has been by far the best option for Live classes for dancing for so many reasons! If you haven't tried it yet, you are already far behind the reality of Online presence. If you are serious about teaching online, I would also suggest to go for the paid subscription too.


There are so many options in Zoom that can be very helpful for your classes. I will mention some and explain a few. Please feel free to explore them and more.

  • Schedule your meetings and allow pre-registration. This allows the participants to register with an email id and sends them a confirmation mail that can be used for logging into the meeting directly. This helps the host to save time in checking who has paid or registered and helps filter way ahead of the meeting. This is very ideal for special workshops, boot camps, online festival workshops, etc.

  • Waiting Rooms are another option that lets participants manually when the meeting starts. If you personally know who would be joining your sessions and the participants are in small numbers, I find this option ideal.

  • I prefer to schedule different meeting for different sessions and try to avoid using my personal ID to use for classes. It comes handy to give separate different IDs for private classes and groups classes to avoid confusion if you are doing a lot of sessions

  • Last year we had sessions where My Dance Partner Sneha & I were doing choreography projects involving Women & Men in the same sessions and using Breakout rooms were ideal as we could do exclusively for the gender and also come back and train together. It was a fun experience as well to have dancers train together and in separate rooms.

  • Recording of the sessions were quite an advantage. You can either choose to record on your device or in the cloud. If you intend to share the recording to the students, saving in the cloud is a good option. We had to record in device for workshops at the Online Festival we host last year as the space needed was more than the cloud memory available. Either way, recording is a great tool and acts as a bonus for your students who would like to check out the classes for longer.

  • Going Live on external platforms is an added bonus. Paid versions of Zoom gives you the option to go Live on external platforms. I did a few FB Live classes via Zoom and also did a Live streaming class for an external provider for host in Singapore. The settings are quite user friendly as well.

These are just some of the options I used quite frequently and there are many more features you can easily find useful with Zoom.


FACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM

The most common and most popular of the Social Media is Facebook & Instagram. Discussing all the benefits of both the media is out of the scope of our topic. When it comes to Live Classes, both media could be helpful in a few ways, effectively. The live sessions are basically streaming of the classes and not for visual interaction both ways. The live streaming classes via these media has the options to use chat as an interactive medium. And they are FREE resources that you can bring to your benefit.


FACEBOOK

  • Profile. Go Live directly from your profile. It would be very informal but quite effective to get the attention of your friends. Usually these sessions are free and request to donate for the classes. I had donated for a few sessions and teachers myself. But then I would prefer to pay or donate only when my time was spent worthy so not everyone gets paid. I wasn't very confident to go live from my profile, so I skipped this option personally.

  • Groups. Facebook groups are an effective way to control who can access a live class. These are really good options for festivals and boot camps that have a lot of registrations that makes Zoom classes difficult to handle. During the festival, we live streamed the classes in a private group for the participants (via Zoom), for those who chose not to join via Zoom. The good thing about this option is that the videos stay on the group unless deleted and so it gives the participants to refer back at their convenience even after the session is over!

  • Pages. Pages are a good option to go live and serves good for branding as well. I preferred to go Live from our FB Page for Salsa Madras than from my profile just to attract the right participants. We also went live for DJ sessions for the Festival and 3 other DJ exclusive events - SBK Live, all these events hosted on behalf of Latin Festival Madras. Some DJs preferred to go live directly via FB as there are less complications with the set up. The others were hosted on a separate streaming platform which we will discuss later below.

  • Messenger Rooms. The Chat in FB has the option for group calls. This is in no way a professional option for live classes. But it did come in handy for an emergency class when Zoom went down last year on one of the days.

INSTAGRAM

A popular option to attract many followers, Instagram seem to attract a lot more people than Facebook. Like FB, it is a mere Live streaming tool, very informal and so very personal too. The reach is quite quick and is usually a better option to stay in touch with your followers, giving a taste of your style of teaching, giving free promotional classes, etc. Many tend to give too many Free Classes on Instagram and I am not a big of that as it is not only killing the business of others but also for themselves on the long run as they throw away valuable knowledge and wisdom for Free to their followers who eventually would not want to pay for anything at all. I don't have enough followers to test the special features but asking viewers to donate is the only option to get paid for your work and that is solely at the discretion of your followers.


The other common thing about Instagram are the Talks, Interviews and Interactive sessions with other artists and the like. This isn't teaching dance directly but sometimes its nice to know more about the person behind the art and know more than just dancing. Sometimes these sessions spread more positivity to your followers than mere live dance class. Personally, I prefer FB & Instagram as tools to showcase and promote what we do and use Zoom for regular Live classes. But it is up to explore what works the best.


GOOGLE MEET

Google Meet would not be my first choice for online live lessons. But it has been quite handy for a lot of meetings and discussions. The ease of starting a meeting and sharing the link for others to join makes it a very easy option for Meetings with 2 or a few more. It is also quite easy to integrate to your google calendar. Having associated with google also has its advantage too. I definitely suggest to get used to it as it might be useful on many occasions as it is easy to use in both in Phone devices and laptops.


SKYPE

One of the first popular video calling tools, Skype did have a slight comeback after a huge surge in popularity for Zoom. Making a session or call is quite easy and sharing the link for a session is quick as well. I haven't explored Skype fully for a group lesson but it definitely didn't stand a chance against Zoom in terms of all the options I would need for a live session. Due to its robust system that put the audio quality on a high preference, I moved from Zoom to Skype for my private lessons for learning music (Bongos). The recording option comes handy if you want to save your calls. The recording is available in cloud for a certain period and it also downloadable. Probably Skype might be a better option for Music sessions than dance lessons or for meetings as well. The Skype is also easily accessible on Laptop and Phone.


TEAMS, WEBEX, BLUE JEANS

Some of the other platforms that you might want to check out for video conferencing and meetings are Bluejeans from Verizon, Webex from Cisco, Teams from Microsoft.





 

LIVE STREAMING

Live Streaming is an effective way to reach out to your followers. Depending on the platform that has the most followers you can choose to go Live.

P.s. there is usually a lag of 17-20 seconds when you stream and so be prepared to respond to the live comments accordingly.


Some of the things that I have tried personally hosting on live streaming is as follows. Except for the Live classes, the other options involved more than one person for the streaming!

  • Live Classes

  • DJ live Music (beware of the copyrights)

  • Interviews

  • Talks and Talk Shows

  • Live performances

  • Recorded shows or videos

Some of the most common platforms to Stream Live are as follows. These can help you to reach to your followers or help in increasing your follower base.

  • Facebook - Profile, Groups, Pages

  • Instagram

  • YouTube

  • Vimeo

  • Any external Streaming platforms integrated in your website

Although the above mentioned platforms give you the options to go Live directly from your device there are a few streaming sites/ soft wares that make your streaming a lot more engaging to your audience.


ZOOM

Zoom is a very powerful tool to help keep your online presence very effective. The paid versions give you the access to let you go Live in Facebook (profile, groups & Pages), YouTube, and few other options. More than one participant can go live together using Zoom. You can share screen, Music and presentations on the screen and go live with it.


STREAMYARD

Streamyard is one of my favourite options for Streaming. It gives a very professional way to present your live streaming to your audience be it on Facebook or YouTube. It is browser based and doesn't use a lot of RAM on your laptop. To host, it is mandatory to use a laptop or desktop. It has a studio that lets people to stay 'backstage' and you can easily communicate with them internally making it easy to run the live smoothly and effectively! We did 3 DJ live weekends and 2 weekends of Festival nights via Streamyard onto Facebook. DJ Events had 2 or 3 DJs and a host per evening. We even ran Interactive DJ sets with 2 of them sharing the screen playing the sets at the same time. The Festival weekends had DJs and a host (me) and interestingly LIVE Performances and Video Showcases basically bringing an effect of a True Festival Evening all virtually. The DJs were live from Japan, Thailand, Malaysia & India; the live performers from Indonesia & India; Host (me) from Austria, coordinating smoothly and effectively!


I had to thank all the DJs - DJ Selva (Malaysia), DJ Ajad (Japan), DJ Gupson (Canada), DJ Harry (Malaysia), DJ Ploy (Thailand), DJ Ash (India), DJ Richie (India), DJ Nav, DeeJay (India) and the performers (Salsa Fresca Indonesia & Prerna Nepali, India for being very co-operate to help run the weekends with so effectively.


Although Streamyard comes for Free with basic options, to Run a professional event or streaming, it is highly recommended to go for the paid version which is gives you the options for banners, texts, highlights and logos. also, no watermarks!


OBS

Open Broadcaster Software a.k.a. OBS is a powerful tool which acts just more than a streaming software. You need to download the free software in your laptop. Unlike many options mentioned above, you don't have to pay for it. But using OBS could be a heavy load on your laptop. Make sure you have a really good RAM to start using OBS. It is a very useful tool but it is going to take time to explore all its features. I have just started to do that and would be able to explain a lot about it maybe in a few months. It is a very handy software to work with and highly recommended as well. Some of our DJs streaming live preferred OBS. I would say OBS is a multi-use software that will be of a lot more support to your work directly or indirectly.


 
CLASSROOM

Google Classroom is primarily customised for School classes. But it has been quite a useful option and quite unique from other tools I mentioned above. I use Classroom to make my notes, prepare content and organise them. It makes it so easy to selectively add people under each 'class' and share the content under different topics and also to assign tasks and get them to upload videos and give personal feedbacks. This is a very convenient way to keep track of your students and follow ups. I also make my course content and all necessary teaching materials in different sections and share with the team or students selectively. There is a monthly fee to have your own classroom. If you know how to effectively use it, it is worth it!

 

Among many soft wares, tools, website & tutorials I explored over the time since the pandemic, I selected the top few that made the biggest impacts. Hope they are of use to you. If you have any suggestions and additions, please feel free to comment below. Thank you for your time! If this would help someone you know, kindly share it.


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