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Introducing Harmonia Presto Courses!

Posted by: Rachel Mitchell

  • Are you a music teacher? Need recommendations for tutors, resources, or short courses for curious or struggling students?
  • Are you a music student? Do you need help studying for college entrance exams or simply want to review a few topics in preparation for an upcoming unit or exam?
  • Or maybe you’re a music enthusiast or an armchair conductor? Did you sing or play an instrument in grade school once upon a time? Want to learn more about music and how it works?

 

Check out our all new Presto Courses by Harmonia created specifically for you. Presto Courses provide specific, targeted music theory instruction using interactive lessons and short exercises with automated grading and lightning-fast feedback to help you learn music theory fast.

 

Want to learn how to read music? Start with our Pitch and Clef Presto Course. Learn about pitch notation, clefs, the piano grand staff, and accidentals.

 

Example: Excerpt of a Pitch and Clef Lesson

 

Test your knowledge and skills with a variety of short, instantly gradable exercises.

 

Example: Excerpt of a Pitch Identification Exercise

 

Example: Excerpt of a Pitch-Class Notation Exercise

 

From there, browse our other short courses, which include an assortment of music fundamentals such as:

 

 

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Visit our website and check back frequently as we continue to add more and more diatonic, chromatic, and post-tonal theory topics to meet your needs. Sign up for an account and start learning today.

 

Harmonia Frequently Asked Questions

Posted by: Rachel Mitchell

 

TEACHER FAQ:

 

What is Harmonia?

Harmonia is an app used in combination with a proprietary learning management system (LMS). Our free Harmonia app is the combines musical score notation with a patented real-time music analysis engine, which means that as users enter notes on a staff or type in analytical symbols such as pitch names or roman numerals, the app recognizes and comments on what they are doing. Our LMS provides a platform for content delivery: teachers use our LMS to add lessons and exercises, set due dates and content delivery options, review computer-graded student work, and more; and students use the LMS to check their progress, activate our mentoring/comment system, and purchase additional study content if desired.

 

Does Harmonia grant credit?

Harmonia does not grant credit. The Harmonia App is simply a music notation editor with a real-time analysis engine and our Harmonia Dashboard is a learning management system similar to Blackboard or Canvas. Our App and Dashboard link together to offer teachers and students a better music theory experience. Content is delivered through the Harmonia Dashboard; practice and feedback is completed and received through the Harmonia App. In-app grading schemes may be edited to fit instructor needs, and student submissions and grades are stored on our secure server. Teachers can view student data in our Harmonia Dashboard and download grades in a csv file, which may be uploaded into any other learning management systems such as Blackboard or Canvas.

 

Will Harmonia work on my computer?

Harmonia will work on all Mac OSX and Windows machines. Contact our developers if you have any questions.

 

What is a Harmonia subscription?

Access to the Harmonia Dashboard is a subscription-based service, so pricing is related to the number of weeks a student pays for access. A typical 16-week semester is $29.95, but quarters and summer courses may be less. See our pricing chart here:

 

What does Harmonia cost?

The Harmonia App is free for all users and available for Mac and PC here. Access to the Harmonia Dashboard, our proprietary learning management system, is free for teachers and subscription-based for students. Pricing is related to the number of weeks a student pays for access. A typical 16-week semester is $29.95, but quarters and summer courses may be less. See our pricing chart above.

 

Do you offer site licenses?

Yes. We offer both site licenses and single-user licenses. Most of our high school customers pay by site licenses. Contact us at contact@illiacsoftware.com to get started.

 

How do I get started?

Step 1: Request a teacher account. To request a teacher account, click the “Sign Up” link. Confirm your email address and set your password. Click the “request teacher account” when setting your account information and password.

 

Step 2: Download and open the Harmonia App. To download the latest version of the app, click on the “Downloads" link at the top of the window and select the correct version of the app for your machine. Follow the directions for your computer to complete the download process. (Be sure to delete any old versions of Harmonia from your Applications folder before downloading the latest version.) Once you have downloaded the app, open it and click on the cloud icon on the upper left corner of the window. Enter your email address and password. Then select “Cloud" from the menu options at the top of your screen to access the course. Find your course and navigate to the bottom of the list to find the “Welcome to Harmonia” file. Open it and check out the quick Harmonia tutorial.

 

Step 3: Log in to the Harmonia website using your teacher account. (If you do not have a teacher account, click here. Only users with teacher accounts are able to create courses.) Once logged in, click on “Dashboard” at the top of the window. This will take you to your course pages. To create a course, click the gold “Create a new Harmonia Couse” button.

 

This will take you to a new screen. Fill out the required information and click the yellow “Create New Course” button at the bottom of the screen.

Note: Course Start and End Dates are the dates that your students will be granted access to materials in a Harmonia course. These dates are usually defined by your school as the first and last days of the semester, including examination days, if required. Keep in mind that instructors may work on a course long in advance and add materials before a course begins (and also revisit a course once it has been completed), but students will be charged according to the number of weeks the course materials are available to them. The Free Access End Date simply gives students a two-week period of free access to a course before they will be denied access for non-payment. This period enables students to log in, download the app, navigate the Harmonia Dashboard, and submit a few exercises. However, if a student decides to drop the course or move to a new course section, they will not be charged.

 

Step 4: Once you click “Create New Course,” our development team will verify your credentials, and our server will generate a course shell will a unique 16-digit course code, which you will receive via email. Students will use the code to join the course to access course materials.

 

Step 5: Once students enter the invitation code, our server will send you an email asking you to invite them to join the course. Follow the link in the email to permanently add the students to your course. (This instructor verification system ensures that your students join the correct course.) The next time students log in to the Harmonia website, they will be prompted to pay their subscription online. Our secure website accepts credit card and PayPal. Feel free to edit the attached instruction sheet for distribution to your students.  

 

For more information see our Quick Start guide https://harmonia.illiacsoftware.com/support?category=84

 

What kind of content can I add to my course? (for Teachers)

You can add any manner of .har files to a Harmonia course. Create lessons, practice exercises, exam questions, multiple choice questions, and more. With a teacher account, you also have access to hundreds of ready-made documents in the Harmonia Content Library. To view materials in the Harmonia Content Library, log in with your teacher account and click on the Content tab at the top of the page. Scroll through the table of contents on the left and click on the triangles to expand each topic. Click on a file to preview it on the left.

 

To add a document to your course page, select your course in the Harmonia Dashboard, select “Assignments” in the left column, and click on the gold “Add Assignment Set” button.

Fill in the information for Title, Assign Date, and Due Date, and click on the gold “Add from content library” to add content from our library to your course. (Note: If you would like to add your own content (in .har format), select the Upload documents button.)

 

A Harmonia Content Library window will open, and from there, you can click on the files of your choice and add them to your course. Clicking on the eye icon will display a preview of the file. Keep in mind that Harmonia files will become interactive once opened in the Harmonia app. For example, in the document above, the rests will become editable note heads for students to drag around on the staff. Selecting a file will highlight it pink, which can be added to your course’s assignment sets once you click the yellow “Add to Assignment Sets” button.

Once added to your course, you may edit the document titles, set document details, or delete unwanted files. If you would like to edit a document (such as text, multiple-choice questions, images, and complete music scores), click the download button, open the file, make changes, and then re-upload the document to the assignment set by selecting the yellow “Upload documents” button near the top of the window. Once material has been added to your course, a student may access it by logging into Harmonia and finding the document in the Harmonia Cloud menu. To create a Harmonia (.har) document from scratch, visit our support pages.

Why are my students locked out of the Harmonia Cloud?

If your students are locked out of the Harmonia Cloud while in the app, it is because the subscription to access the course materials has not been received. Remind them to log in to the website, click on the dashboard and follow the payment instructions. Once received, they can return to the app and log out and log back in to reset their login credentials.

 

How do I find grades and student submissions?

In the Harmonia Dashboard, click on your course and select “Records.” Teachers can customize the view to show all students, a single student, all assignments, a complete assignment set, or a single assignment. Use the pulldown menus to customize the desired view and click the click the gold “Download Records” button to generate a .csv file which may be edited or uploaded into a different LMS. Note that grade distribution statistics are provided in the “All Students” view.

 

To view individual student submissions, select either the student view or the single-assignment class view and click on the yellow “View” link under the File column. Document exercises set to single submission will show a student’s submitted file. Document exercises set for multiple submission may have a pulldown menu with multiple student submissions. View each submission in the Dashboard window or download an interactive .har file, which may be opened in Harmonia.

My students need more help. What are Harmonia Presto Courses?

Presto Courses are individual study courses packaged by topic. For example, we offer miniature courses in fundamentals topics, diatonic, and chromatic harmonies. Each Presto course offers interactive lessons, identification, spelling, and part writing exercises, where appropriate. Read more about our Presto courses in our upcoming blog.

 

For Students:

 

What is Harmonia?

Harmonia is an app used in combination with a proprietary learning management system (LMS). Our free Harmonia app is the combines musical score notation with a patented real-time music analysis engine, which means that as users enter notes on a staff or type in analytical symbols such as pitch names or roman numerals, the app recognizes and comments on what they are doing. Our LMS provides a platform for content delivery: teachers use our LMS to add lessons and exercises, set due dates and content delivery options, review computer-graded student work, and more; and students use the LMS to check their progress, activate our mentoring/comment system, and purchase additional study content if desired.

 

Will Harmonia work on my computer?

Harmonia will work on all Mac OSX and Windows machines. Contact our developers if you have any questions.

 

What does Harmonia cost?

The Harmonia App is free for all users and available for Mac and PC here. Access to the Harmonia Dashboard, our proprietary learning management system, is free for teachers and subscription-based for students. Pricing is related to the number of weeks a student pays for access. A typical 16-week semester is $29.95, but quarters and summer courses may be less. See our pricing chart at   https://harmonia.illiacsoftware.com/pricing

 

Do you offer site licenses?

Yes. We offer both site licenses and single-user licenses. Most of our high school customers pay by site licenses. Contact us by email at contact@illiacsoftware.com to get started.

 

What is a Harmonia subscription?

Access to the Harmonia Dashboard is a subscription-based service, so pricing is related to the number of weeks a student pays for access. A typical 16-week semester is $29.95, but quarters and summer courses may be less. See our pricing chart at   https://harmonia.illiacsoftware.com/pricing for more information.

 

STUDENT FAQ:

 

How do I get started?

 

Follow the instructions below. (click here for a printable one-page instruction sheet.)

Step 1: To join a Harmonia course, you will need to create an Illiac Software account. Visit https://harmonia.illiacsoftware.com and click the "Sign Up" button at the upper right and enter your school email address (or current email address). You will receive an automated email message from our server with directions for creating an account. Create your profile by entering your name, selecting the correct time zone, and choosing a language preference. If you already have an account, simply log in using your Illiac ID.

Step 2: Add your course. Once you create an account, select “Dashboard" from the menu at the top of the window, click the “join the course now” link and enter the 16-digit invitation code assigned by your instructor to access your demo materials. This code will send a message to your instructors, who will enroll you in the course. Please allow up to 24 hours to be added to a course. The next time you sign in to your course on the Harmonia web page, it will prompt you to pay your subscription fee. Click on the link and follow the payment instructions.

Step 3: Download the app. To download the latest version of the app, click on the “Downloads" link at the top of the window and select the correct version of the app for your machine. Follow the directions for your computer to complete the download process. (Be sure to delete any old versions of Harmonia from your Applications folder before downloading the latest version.)

Step 4: Get started! Once you have downloaded the app, open it and click on the cloud icon on the upper left corner of the window. Enter your email address and password. Then select “Cloud" from the menu options at the top of your screen to access the course. Find your course and navigate to the bottom of the list to find the “Welcome to Harmonia” file. Open it and check out the quick Harmonia tutorial.

Why am I locked out of the Harmonia Cloud?

If you find yourself locked out of the Harmonia Cloud while in the app, it is because the subscription to access the course materials has not been received. Log in to the website, click on the dashboard and follow the payment instructions. Go back to the app, log out and log back in to reset your login credentials.

 

How do I find my grades and submitted work?

In the Harmonia Dashboard, click on your course and select “Assignment Status.” Scroll through your submitted assignments to view your grades. To view Harmonia-generated feedback, click “View” to open a single annotated and graded submission. If enabled by your instructor, view previous attempts by clicking on the pull down menu above your annotated page.

 

 

I need more theory help then what I get in my course. What can I do?

 

Presto Courses are new, individual-topic study courses available over the course of Fall 2018.   For example, we offer Presto courses in topics related to fundamentals, diatonic harmony / part writing, and chromatic harmony / part writing. Each Presto course offers focussed interactive lessons and exercises in identification, spelling, and part writing, where appropriate. Like other Harmonia courses, course grading is automatically by Harmonia so the student can immediately see what the know and what still needs to reviewed or practiced.. Read more about our Presto courses in our upcoming blog!

 

Coming Soon! Streaming Audio

By: Rick Taube

We are excited to announce a brand-new audio-streaming service, which we plan to roll out in Fall 2018 as part of our upcoming Harmonia 3.0 release (much more on that later!) Our new streaming audio service will allow teachers to embed high-quality audio in their Harmonia lessons and homework assignments without needing to attach audio files to their documents and control exactly how the media is used by students.

The impetus for our new service arose from the fact that a number of schools have started to use Harmonia to deliver entrance and proficiency exams with audio clips for instructions and examples for assignments. In addition, teachers have asked us for the ability to incorporate aural-skills assessments into Harmonia assignments, and our new streaming playback features will enable teachers to build and deliver aural skills content with ease. Follow the steps below to get started and visit our website this summer to find "how to" videos and sample ear training exercises.

How does it work?

You only need to take three simple steps to get great sounding audio streaming inside your Harmonia documents:

1. Upload audio files to your Harmonia account.

When you log into the Harmonia 3 server (to be released Fall 2018), you will find a new "My Media" area in your teacher account. This area will allow you to upload audio files and organize them into different "Collections". For example, you may want to create a collection for each class you teach, or you may want collections to represent specific types or kinds of music. Once an audio file is uploaded, you can label it, listen to it, move it from one collection to another, or delete it. We can support all the current audio formats so there will be no need to convert your favorite files.

2. Add streaming audio to your assignments.

As soon as you start up Harmonia and log in to your teacher account, Harmonia will automatically download your media collections and make them available for selection inside the app’s Media Attachments menu. To add audio to a page, first click on the object you want to attach audio to and then select the audio resource from the Media Attachment menu. Once the resource is added to the page, it will appear as a headphone icon in the left margin of the document. Note that a single streaming audio resource can be added multiple times across different documents or even within the same document; each individual instance of the audio can be customized as described in step three.

3. Configure the attached audio for student to use.

This step allows you to add or remove playback constraints for a given audio attachment. By default there are no restrictions: students may listen to an audio attachment as many times as desired, pause, fast-forward or rewind as needed. However, we have built our system to enable teachers to restrict playback to a certain number of repetitions, and to "disable" the rewind and/or pause button. These restrictions are managed by the audio server so even if a student quits and restarts the app, the limits established by the teacher will remain in effect. All playback limits placed on an attachment are displayed on the audio transport so students can always be aware of how many times they can play an example and whether or not they can pause or rewind. The transport also provides a handy “Test Audio” button enabling students to test their equipment before playing a constrained audio example.

That’s it! Although easy to use, it is quite powerful and is certain to improve the learning experience for all your music students. We know this service has many possible uses beyond what we have thought of and we look forward to learning about how you use it in your teaching.

A Story Behind Harmonia

by: Ming-Ching Chiu

 

Before joining Illiac Software, I was a graduate student at the University of Illinois. From being a teaching assistant to running my own music theory courses, I taught undergraduate music theory courses there for eight years. I enjoyed teaching, and I always sought for ways to help my students learn. Questions that I asked myself frequently include:

 

“How do I make students understand the materials better?”

“What examples should I use to demonstrate a new concept?”

“What grading scheme should I adopt to motivate students to learn more instead of making them feel defeated?”

“How do I make sure the grading is fair?”

“How should I design the homework so that students get enough practice?”

“How should I design the homework so that my TAs or I don’t have to spend the entire weekend grading?”

 

I was able to answer some of the questions myself, but for some questions, I simply didn’t know the answers. Grading, is one of these hard problems. There were countless times I ended up grading at 2 am in the morning. It was the amount of homework I wanted my students to have, but it was also a lot of grading for me. I couldn’t find a way to balance between how much I wanted my students to practice and how much time I wanted to spend grading.

 

Several weeks before I defended my doctoral thesis, Dr. Taube approached me and asked whether I was interested in joining Illiac Software, the company he just founded at that time. When he showed me the prototype of Harmonia, their only product, I immediately saw its potential. It provided a possible solution to my grading problem, a problem that also troubled many teachers like me. We all wanted our students to practice more, but we cannot spend our whole life grading.

 

People might ask: isn’t grading part of your job? Avoid grading seems to be something lazy teachers would do. This is what I think: to me, grading is not what makes a teacher a teacher. An educator’s main responsibility should be motivating students to learn, improving students’ learning skills, and helping students learn. Grading homework is just one way to provide students feedback. It is not even the best way considering what technology we have nowadays. By using tools to save grading time, teachers can free up more time to focus on more important part of their teaching job, such as designing better course content, spending more time interacting with students, etc.

 

With this belief, I became part of the Illiac Software startup team. Back then, nobody knew how to run a startup business. What we had was tons of teaching experience combined, passion for music theory, music education, and knowledge to write a computer program.

 

Today, almost four years later, Harmonia has transformed from a lab prototype to a real product with thousands of users. However, we are not satisfied. Harmonia is still very young, and there are still many things we want to accomplish. We are thrilled and thankful that teachers who have used harmonia tend to come back every semester, and the number of our users keep doubling every semester.

 

At the moment, Illiac team is working around the clock meeting the deadline to release a new version in summer. The new app is a complete rewrite with new features. I am excited to see how much the new Harmonia app will help shaping the future of music theory education.

 

Spotlight: Harmonia's Discussion & Comment System

by: Rachel Mitchell

Did you know that Harmonia offers students and teachers an online discussion and comment board?

Our discussion board facilitates the learning process between teacher and student by offering students an easy way to post comments and ask questions right from our website.

Students often have questions while reading theory lessons or completing homework exercises. In such cases, students can log in to the Harmonia website, ask a question, and await a response. All comments and responses are logged and attached to specific assignments for easy reference.

So how does it work?

Step 1: In the Harmonia app, complete and submit an assignment. If you have a question or a comment about the assignment, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Log in to the to the Harmonia website. Find your course in the Dashboard and locate your submitted assignment under the Assignment Status tab. Click "View" to see your submission.

student_view1.png

Step 3: In the comment box to the right, type and submit your comment. The Harmonia Server will send an email message to the course instructor, which prompts him/her to respond in the same website portal.


comments.png

Step 4a: Following the link provided in the Harmonia Server email alert, an instructor may log in to the Harmonia website, answer the student question in the text box on the right as seen above, prompting another automated email response, this time to the student. Students may likewise find comments from teachers under the "Assignment Status" tab in the course Dashboard.

student_teacher_view.png

student_view2.png

Step 4b: Instructors may also respond to comments by clicking on the "Discussion" tab in the course menu. The assignment set and specific assignment will be highlighted for easy visibility.

teacher_view1.png

teacher_view2.png

Students and teachers may submit multiple comments for a single assignment and all comments attached to an assignment are logged and saved for future reference.

It should be noted that comments do not automatically update on the Harmonia website. Users will need to manually refresh the website to view new comments in real time.

Harmonia's Discussion & Comment feature provides students an easy system for posting questions about their homework or theory lecture. Whether you are teaching or learning music theory in a traditional classroom, in a flipped classroom model, or in an online course environment, Harmonia's comment system may be a helpful tool for you. Try it in your course and let us know what you think. We always like to hear from you since your comments help us make Harmonia a better product for you.

The UIUC Theory Prep Course

An automated course for freshman entering the core music theory program

Background

Prospective students applying to the University of Illinois School of Music are required to take a music theory diagnostic exam (MTDE) to determine if they are academically prepared to take Music 101, the first-semester core music theory course at the University of Illinois. The short (one-page) MTDE provides a quick assessment of a student’s knowledge in five areas of music fundamentals: pitch notation, scales and key signatures, rhythm and meters, and root-position triads. While the School of Music has been giving this test for many years, and has informally noticed generally declining scores over the last decade, only very recently did it start documenting the year-to-year results. Here are the average scores for entering freshman for the past three years:

2015 2016 2017
Average MTDE Score 65% 66% 59%

Music 101 begins at the level of diatonic functional harmony, introductory counterpoint, and part writing. Students who are are not proficient in music fundamentals do not perform well in this course, and history shows that Music 101 grades serve as a fairly good predictor of how well (or poorly) students will perform over the entire four-semester core theory sequence. Until two years ago, the MTDE determined who enrolled in Music 101 (which met three times per week), and who entered Music 101R (which met five days a week and covered both fundamentals and the Music 101 curriculum). When the Illinois state budget crisis began a few years ago the School of Music faced multiple years of budget cuts. Teaching Music 101R required paying an additional instructor, so in 2016, the composition-theory division decided to replace Music 101R with the UIUC Theory Prep Course, a completely automated course that all entering freshman must complete over the summer prior to enrolling in Music 101.

UIUC Theory Prep Course

The UIUC Theory Prep Course delivers completely automated, cloud-based music theory instruction in music fundamentals. The course is self-paced and students may enroll in the course anytime between June 1st and August 10th. On average, a student working a few hours a day can complete the course in two to three weeks.

The UIUC Theory Prep Course covers five areas of music fundamentals:

  • Pitches, accidentals and (treble, bass, alto and tenor) clefs
  • Intervals
  • Major and minor scales
  • Triads and inversions
  • Seventh chords and inversions

All four clefs are used in lessons and assignment materials throughout the course. Topics are represented by specific curricular modules in the course and the modules all follow a similar layout:

Module Pretest

An (optional) timed pretest covers the subject matter presented in the module. If given, a pretest can permit high-scoring students to opt out of taking the module and serves as a baseline measurement to determine how much learning takes place for students who actually complete the module.

Lessons

Lessons consist of non-graded material that present the module’s subject matter. Lessons include text, interactive examples, illustrations (images), short videos and audio clips. The Summer 2017 lessons integrated videos from a variety of University of Illinois School of Music faculty, who briefly introduced the theory topic at hand on their respective instruments. Interviews completed after the course reveal that most students appreciated the videos and would like more short videos to accompany the various lesson subtopics.

Assignments

An assignment is a digital worksheet that contains exercise material to be completed and digitally submitted for evaluation. Harmonia assesses the student's work, adds graphic annotations (explanatory markup) to the assignment display, and a grade based on instructor settings. Assignments generally involve either composing — writing a short musical scores that meet requirements determined by a teacher, or analyzing — studying and listening musical scores and then identifying specific features in the music. Teachers can customize assignments in a number of different ways:

Practice Assignments

A practice assignment is a worksheet that behaves like a regular assignment — the work is graded, errors are identified and explained to the student — but the student's grade is not entered in the course’s official grade book.

Multiple Submission Assignments

A multiple submission assignment allows the student to complete and resubmit the material more than once. Grading can record either the highest achieved grade or the average score of all the student's attempts.

Timed Assignments

In a timed assignment, students must complete the material in an allotted amount of time. Once the time has expired the material is automatically submitted and graded by the system.

Module Exams

At the end of each module, students complete an untimed, comprehensive exam.

The following table shows the number of lessons, assignments and tests that make up the UIUC Theory Prep Course:

Lessons Analysis
Assignments
Composition
Assignments
Tests
Pitches, Accidentals & Clefs 5 14 14 2
Scales 7 12 24 2
Intervals 4 18 12 2
Triads & Inversions 2 8 8 2
Sevenths & Inversions 2 8 8 2
Total 20 60 66 10

Course Correction

The course has run for two years, with both years using the same module content, but some modifications were made to how the materials were used by students in the summer 2017 course. In 2016, students scoring an A on a timed module pretest did not have to complete the remaining materials in the module. For students who were required to take the modules, half the course assignments were configured as optional practice assignments, and the other half were required. (These counted toward their grade). While some students took advantage of the practice assignments, a significant number did not, even though the opportunity would likely have led to better results on their module tests. As a result, in 2017 students were required to take all modules and optional practice assignments were eliminated, in favor of requiring all assignments to be completed at least one time. Students who scored unfavorably could redo the material multiple times to improve their grade and thus their comprehension. As a consequence, in 2017 more coursework was completed by students -- thereby increasing learning cycles over the first year -- and many students opted to retake homework to improve their grade average. Interviews with students this fall indicate that retaking homework helped them learn, and the opportunity to improve their grade provided motivation to do more work.

Module tests averages for 2017 are summarized in the following table:

Pitches Scales Intervals Triads & sevenths
Average module exam 95% 96% 94% 90%

2017 MTDE Results

This fall we retested all entering Music 101 students using an MTDE exam that was slightly shorter but otherwise equivalent to the original MTDE test they took in the spring. This retest was given to compare post-UIUC THeory Pore course results to the initial score on the test last spring. The results are very encouraging: the average grade for the fall MTDE test was 81%, a 22 percentage point improvement over the spring score of 59%. This provides good evidence that the 2017 UIUC Theory Prep Course achieved its goal of improving comprehension of music fundamentals and preparing students for Music 101 in the fall.

The Technology

The UIUC Theory Prep Course delivers automatic instruction by using a music theory software application called Harmonia. Harmonia was developed at the UIUC School of Music and in 2015 it was commercialized through a National Science Foundation STTR Phase 1 Grant. The Harmonia application blends music theory instruction with graphic music notation, multimedia, automatic music analysis, automatic grading, course analytics and social networking. Using Harmonia students are able to practice as well as take homework, timed quizzes and tests. Harmonia uses patented algorithms to analyze the music that students write, then assesses the correctness of their solutions against teacher-specified models of correctness, and provides detailed feedback to students about any errors or mistakes.

Implications

By developing automated theory courses with built-in practice and grading, musically inclined students attending high schools with minimal music theory can still receive meaningful theory instruction to help them prepare for college-level music courses.

The ability of the system to deliver real-time instructional feedback encourages students to practice and retake assignments, both of which provide additional learning cycles.

By combining automatic grading and formative assessment, music instruction can be delivered at a fraction of the cost of a traditional methods, it can reduce or eliminate the need for teachers to grade paper-based homework, and it can allow students to know how they are performing in real time.

Harmonia’s latest server courseware allows instructors to view and comment on student assignments and communicate with them via a bi-directional comment system, a technology that will facilitate remote mentoring.

Harmonia and Music Notation Editing

By: David Psenicka

I'm a composer and one of the developers of Harmonia. For the past fifteen years I've taught classes in music theory and technology and have given private music lessons. One of the most tedious aspects of it is having to notate scores, often on the fly and requiring a lot of detail. Many of the decisions involved in score editing (especially for assignments) are repetitive, and popular score editing programs like Sibelius or Finale require a good deal of time and patience to coerce the score into an acceptable state. I realized this was a common issue for other composers so I wrote an open source application called FOMUS that simplifies the process of notating music by automating many of the mechanical decisions involved. Although the software was written for algorithmic composition, the work I did on it altered my approach to composing and teaching as I was able to reduce a lot of the repetitiveness involved and devote my time and energy to more important tasks. It was also a fascinating project as it involved solving many difficult technical problems that arise from modeling a complex system of symbols and concepts in computer code.

In my experience teaching I've always felt the need to customize my teaching materials for my students and felt that there should be a more efficient way of doing this. This is what motivates much of the work I'm doing on Harmonia. I'm currently developing many of the editing capabilities of Harmonia, which includes the notation engine and text editor. The interface along with the notation generators is designed to be easy and intuitive to use so that an assignment or test can be put together quickly. Less time and effort spent on creating custom materials means content better tailored to students and more time devoted to higher aspects of teaching. From my own experiences as a user of the software I'm helping to develop I'm certain it will change the way teachers approach their craft and will improve the quality of music education for both educators and students.

What’s the value of Harmonia?

by: Rick Taube

“What’s the value of Harmonia?” Or, quite literally: what commitments and investments did we have to secure along the way to move an initial idea about how to improve teach music theory using technology into a functioning company? The first thing I should say is that it was a very long path (almost 20 years!) and much of journey was not easy. The first two years I worked completely on my own developing the analysis algorithms in a language called Lisp that I had learned at Stanford when I worked at CCRMA. It was a complete leap of faith -- i was putting in lots of hours trying to get a program to analyze harmony quickly and accurately, and to "communicate" its results back to a user. The time I spent doing this work meant I was composing less and working less on my public-domain composition software, Common Music. I don't think I even listed this research work on my faculty reports because I had no concrete results to talk about yet. But once I had a functioning analysis program, I quickly learned how hard it is to convince people about a new idea unless it is something they can actually visualize. I showed my program to an academic dean, and while he was nice about it, he didn't really understand the issue or what he could do to help me. He sent me to a music software publisher he knew and the same thing happened, only that he understand my idea even less than the dean. I talked with the Grants and Licensing office at my university and they decided the app wasn't worth anything and gave me complete rights to the software. Realizing some of the hurdles I would have to overcome, I continued to work on the software, adding a PDF back-end so the programs markup became visible and the program's explanatory text was colorized according to they type or severity of the analytical issue. Seeing the results in a semi-intuitive way had a real positive effect on viewers, and I decided to write an article about it for the Computer Music Journal. CMJ is a top-tier publication in my area and when they accepted the article it gave me some credibility. The article gave an clear overview of the software and also included images (see below), which also helped people understand what it was doing.
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The 1999 article predicts the Harmonia cloud, realized 13 years later.


My first nibble for actual support came from McGraw Hill. I showed it to a theory textbook representative and he "got it" instantly! He was also part of the on-line component for the company and understood the possible value it had in that new industry. I signed a contract, but in the mean time McGraw Hill was finalizing its sale to a larger publishing company. This new owner wasn't interested in on-line learning as much and all pending, unfinalized contracts, including mine, were cancelled. At that point I thought I was at the end of it, and I went back to writing music and also a textbook. I hadn't really given up, but I just wasn't sure what I could do to move the ball forward. The next real change happened a few years later when a graduate student, Andrew Burnson, an outstanding programmer with experience with music notation, entered our composition program here at UIUC. (UIUC has a long history in computer music and we've be fortunate to attract a number of composers/programmers like Andrew over the years. Other composers join our program and find out that their ability to think abstractly about music processes and systems and to notate these abstractions in symbols, often makes them "naturally" good programmers. I pitched an idea to completely rewrite the software in C++ app with multi-media features and Andrew was immediately interested in the idea. I was able to secure a $6,700 Creative Research Grant from FAA, and with Andrew on board we came up with the initial design and creation of an app called Chorale Composer. Meanwhile Rachel Mitchell starting teaching music theory at the UIUC and she got excited about the pedagogy that the app could potentially support, and agreed to start developing content for the app and using it in her classroom. Over the next few years we collectively applied and received several more grants -- two from PITA (Provost’s Initiative on Teaching Advancement) and one from the Campus Research Board (which won the Arnold O. Beckman Research Award for projects of special distinction) totalling about $26,000. Along the way we "retired" Chorale Composer, and then Halim Beere joined our team and we started working on Harmonia, which was a generalized version of Choral Composer that could send and received course data from a server. Meanwhile I began talking with the Office Of Technology (OTM) and they sent me over to EnterpriseWorks, a very successful startup incubator at my university. I made a pitch and they took us on at a 90% funding level. This was a pivotal moment for us because it allowed Halim and I join the iCorp (Illinois NSF Innovation Corps) which is basically a boot-camp for startups that provides very intense training and leads project leaders through the process of "customer discovery" and building a business canvas see if the idea is actually marketable. That same year we receive a Proof Of Concept Grant for Harmonia from UIUC's Office of Technology Management for a total of $15,607 to complete the work on the Harmonia prototype. All this momentum, plus the support by EnterpiseWorks, got us into the company formation phase, in which we developed a strategic plan, secured intellectual property protection (trademark and patent) and ultimately led to our application for an $225,000 NSF Phase I grant, which we received in 2015. That grant allowed us to hire David Psenika and Ming-Ching Chiu, and all of us worked together to complete the network prototype in Fall 2015, then test it in a real course (Music Theory I (MUS 101) at UIUC) for a semester. From that experiment we were able to verify the application worked and gave better results than the status quo for teaching music theory. The rest, as they say, is history!

How did the Harmonia music theory app start?

by: Rick Taube

The idea for Harmonia came to me in 1997, just two years after I joined the composition/theory faculty at the University of Illinois. At UIUC all composers teach theory, and as the newest faculty member I was assigned to teach first-semester theory and aural skills. While I had taught similar courses in the past, during the preceding decade I had actually been working outside academia, as a computer researcher, first at the Price-Waterhouse Technology Centre in Menlo Park, CA and then for five years at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie in Karlsruhe, Germany. What struck me most about teaching theory again was that — though the content I was teaching had changed very little — the circumstances in which I was teaching was very different than anything I had previously experienced.

I firmly believe that the best way to learn music theory concepts is to study how they are used in real compositions and to compose music that demonstrates those concepts. To do this, it is important that a student receives fast instructional “feedback” from teachers to complete a learning cycle. I was taught harmony and voice leading by Prof. Herbert Nanney, organist at Stanford University, who lectured to his (small) class sitting at the piano, where he would play, improvise and work with us “in real time” to improve our exercises. My Music 101, in comparison, took place in a large classroom and had about 90 students with widely varying degrees of theory knowledge and skills. I had eager TAs, but their theory experiences were also quite varied. In my class, I found it was simply not possible to provide each individual student enough "learning cycles" to really master concepts and remediate problems. Since hiring more teachers or limiting student enrollment was not an option, I realized that the best way to address these issues was to adopt a technology that could provide unlimited access to practicing analysis and composition with instructional feedback, thus breaking the linkage between class sizes and the amount of learning cycles that can take place. Moreover, unlimited guided practice would help every student learn, regardless of class size. Since I have strong programming skills I began working on developing music software that could analyze real music and relate the issues it discovers back to a user in detail. Progress was steady but also slow as research grants for faculty in the fine arts were hard to come by and did not involve large sums of money. The game changer came for us in 2015, when the National Science Foundation awarded Illiac Software a $264,000 STTR "proof of concept" grant. With that grant we were able to complete a prototype, embed it in an actual course and prove that computer analytics can indeed be used to improve students learning outcomes over the status quo. It also facilitated a number of other beneficial features such as integrated multimedia and cloud-based course delivery! Our NSF grant took us through the end of 2016, and we started officially commercializing in January 2017. Our primary goal as a company is to improve theory education for all students at a fraction of the cost of what what would otherwise be possible. While we are really just at the start of this journey, I am excited and heartened by the feedback we have had from professors and students alike, and we have many plans and ideas to improve our application and course management system as we move forward.