Southwest Minnesota State University

Case Studies

Southwest Minnesota State University



Southwest Minnesota State University Marshall, Minnesota Founded 1963

OnMusic Appreciation PROVIDES:

  • An online textbook with sound files and definitions of musical terms included in the text
  • Virtual note-taking
  • Pre-designed tests and quizzes
  • Customized grading features
  • TestYourself questions at the end of every chapter
  • Mobile access


  • Free
  • Available to students and professors
  • Prompt callbacks
  • Friendly, patient, and approachable


  • Review features like note-taking and the glossary with students early in the term
  • A professor should become familiar with the tests and quizzes before teaching the course
  • Advance planning is helpful for determining learning objectives, selecting materials, and creating assignments

“The course was extremely easy to navigate.”

“The course challenged us intellectually. I want to learn more about music.”

“The listening guide and interactive features enlivened the subject matter.”


Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) is a public university offering bachelor’s, associate, and master’s degrees. Its total enrollment is eight thousand students, but only forty percent are fulltime. Online learning provides regional students the opportunity to pursue degrees from off-campus locations.


The Department of Music at SMSU piloted OnMusic Appreciation in Spring 2011 in classes taught by Dr. Julieta Alvarado. The Department hoped that online courses would help to draw students from other markets and schools, and increase overall enrollment. It also wanted to test the viability of offering online courses on a regular basis. Music Appreciation is a very popular course, and before implementing OnMusic Appreciation SMSU could only hold a limited
number of sections.


Using OnMusic Appreciation, Professor Alvarado found comprehensive access to abundant materials. OnMusic Appreciation includes an online textbook, listening guides, access to live YouTube
performances, and auto-graded tests. Dr. Alvarado reported, “There is so much more in OnMusic Appreciation than one class can cover.” She found the music streaming, listening guides and composer profiles especially useful. She assigned all of the homework, quizzes, and exams provided within the program.

To ensure student participation and focus, she contacted the students before the class began. Over the course of the next three weeks, she followed up with students to ensure that they had reviewed the platform, and that they were familiar with course expectations. She said that addressing students individually early on in the semester helped to alleviate concerns, and encouraged them to take an active approach to their studies.

Dr. Alvarado pointed out that from an administrative standpoint, OnMusic Appreciation facilitated both access and communication. Students could work through the course at their own paces, and
progress ahead during weeks in which they might have more time. Dr. Alvarado also saw that she could address student questions and concerns more efficiently through email than when students
approached her in a traditional class.


Professor Alvarado has adapted OnMusic Appreciation in online courses at other universities. She explains that teaching online has given her the flexibility to do other music projects. When she traveled abroad on a Fulbright Grant, she continued to teach OnMusic Appreciation. Professor Alvarado recommends OnMusic Appreciation to her colleagues. She finds that the pricing is competitive, that technical support is extremely responsive, and that the program is very easy to use. She states, “Once students see it, they see the value.”