Ming Shih Academy is an educational institution founded by Anne Shih, a world-renowned virtuosa and professor of violin. In mid-July 2021, Baylor University contacted Anne to adopt her teaching methodology and textbook for the fall 2021 semester. However, “A Million Joyful Musicians – the Ming Shih Method” was still a rough manuscript. Therefore, Anne and Ming Shih embarked on an innovative, agile publishing method with digital publishing partner RePubIT. Together, they aimed to deliver a truly engaging experience to Baylor University music students within a 4-week window. What is so unique is that students and faculty were granted full use of the textbook in exchange for editorial and structural feedback delivered directly to the author and publisher through their textbook.
The challenge was to design a transformational music pedagogy digital text that engages students and portrays the emotion and passion within a truly great musician. The publishing process had to be agile, allowing authors to continuously update the published product live. The instructional redesign embraced all media, including laptop, mobile, and audiobook, and involved rapid video creation for 200 lessons and demos. The project also required continuous live updates as changes flowed in and the insertion of surveys, assessments, and helpdesk links.
The Agile Approach
To tackle this challenge, the team took a parallel development approach along three tracks. In the initial release, the majority of media would all be linked. In subsequent editions, media elements will be designed into the pages for greater visual appeal. Instructional redesign for media commenced while copy editors cleaned up the text. Simultaneously, the creative team designed the page templates with callouts for all media elements. The third track, media creation, progressed alongside the other teams. Baylor students were encouraged to assist in the publishing process. Surveys and comments tools in the text-enabled direct communications back to the author and publishing team.
The outcome of this project was highly positive. Students and faculty engaged fully with the interactive textbook, providing feedback and improving cognition due to the multi-modal content (text, video, audio, and exercises). The analytics dashboard revealed patterns of usage throughout the weeks, with activity heaviest on the day of and the day after classes. Although activity slowed at the close of the semester, it began to ramp back up in March. Students spent over 9,000 hours in the eText, averaging more than 2 hours per visit. The video content significantly engaged the students, and the team was able to analyze usage data to better tailor the class structure to the learning style of the students. The success of the project was reflected in the recommendation letter from the Baylor University faculty.
A recommendation letter from the graduate teaching assistant of MUS 1117 at Baylor University during the pilot term of The Ming Shih Method: A Million Joyful Musicians stated that the textbook provided a comprehensive understanding of violin methods from the most introductory stages. The presentation of the textbook, both in its content and format, delivered excellent material as well as solutions to the modern learning environment. The RePubIT platform brought many advantages over a paper-bound textbook, aside from its benefits to sustainability. Students greatly enjoyed the innovative user interface that was optimized for both mobile and desktop devices, as well as the built-in audiobook feature narrated by AI. The embedding of web tools, sheet music, and multimedia into the interface transcended the source beyond a textbook. In other words, the presentation of the material enabled our learning to be not only reading but also auditory and visual. Furthermore, being able to analyze the usage data enabled the team to better tailor the class structure to the learning style of the students.
Ming Shih Academy and RePubIT were able to develop and publish a university-level music textbook in just four weeks, optimized for mobile devices, desktops, and audiobooks. The textbook, “A Million Joyful Musicians – the Ming Shih Method,” received positive feedback from both students and faculty at Baylor University, who were granted full use of the textbook in exchange for editorial and structural feedback. The innovative, agile publishing method utilized by the team enabled continuous updates and engagement with the students, leading to improved cognition and an enhanced learning experience.