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Access to the extraordinary: A Q&A with inaugural Executive Director of Interlochen Online Carin Nuernberg

Nuernberg chats about the upcoming Winter 1 session, her vision for the future of Interlochen Online, and why young artists should explore online arts education.

Executive Director of Interlochen Online Carin Nuernberg.

Executive Director of Interlochen Online Carin Nuernberg.

It’s hard to envision a more perfect candidate for the role of Executive Director of Interlochen Online than Carin Nuernberg.

During her 20-year tenure at Berklee College of Music, Nuernberg was instrumental to the founding and growth of Berklee Online, leading the college to eight consecutive top online college course awards from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association. Prior to her arrival at Berklee, Nuernberg was involved with the online education startup SmartPlanet and creating the first online courses for the University of Washington.

Nuernberg now brings her passion for online education to her role at Interlochen, which she calls “a very special opportunity.”

“I pinch myself when I realize I get to work with such amazing educators and curriculum,” she said. “I feel extremely fortunate to be a member of the Interlochen community and work to expand access to it for learners around the world.”

Below, Nuernberg discusses the technological and curricular updates in store for the Winter 1 semester of Interlochen Online, her vision for the future of online education at Interlochen, and why students should consider studying the arts online.

We relaunched Interlochen Online on Nov. 1. Can you tell us why you felt a re-launch was necessary?
When we originally launched Interlochen Online, students in group classes needed to be available on a specific day and time, and that was the sole means through which they could connect to the teacher. We’re moving to a model that’s much more flexible and holistic by offering multiple ways to engage with the teacher and the learning experience.

For example, students can engage with the course through learning content that the teacher has designed, which might include video segments demonstrating concepts and activities that students can do independently as they have time. By building more opportunities for students to learn independently, we can open up ways for new audiences to be part of Interlochen.

Connection remains tantamount to the learning experience. Our learning platform allows the teacher and students to take part in rich conversations about the subject matter through group messaging. There will also be moments when students can join a live discussion. If they’re not able to attend, we’ll make sure that they are able to watch what happened during that meeting.

Tell us a little bit about the upcoming Winter 1 session, which begins Jan. 17, 2023. How will the upcoming session look and feel different than past Interlochen Online sessions?
We have six new courses that we have designed from the ground up: Songwriting Basics, Recording and Producing Music for Beginners, Music Theory Basics, Acting Basics, Musical Theatre: Acting a Song, and Creative Writing Techniques: Fabulist Fiction. The courses are four weeks long. Each week contains amazing content that we’ve developed to impart the learning outcomes, along with fun, engaging ways for students to connect and create, applying what they are learning in very tangible ways. For returning students, it’s going to look and feel like there’s a lot more that you can do outside of the class meeting time.

We are also reworking the learning environment itself. We want it to be a place where students are comfortable and feel like they belong, a place that represents all that is serene and welcoming about Interlochen. Through the user interface and design improvements, we’re leaning into all the ways students can engage with others. So while there’s content learners can work through independently, there are also rich ways for them to message each other, have group discussions, engage with the teacher, and get meaningful feedback on work they have created.

What is your vision for the future of Interlochen Online? What types of updates or new course offerings might we expect in the future?
My primary goal is for Interlochen Online to be recognized worldwide as the premier place for young learners to go to get an acclaimed education in the arts.

Another one of my goals is to represent all seven of our artistic disciplines online. A lot of our early efforts will be around developing curricula that supports young musicians, such as music theory, composition, songwriting, and instrumental performance programs. There’s also really strong student interest in theatre, filmmaking, and creative writing—there are some really wonderful opportunities to use technology to teach students how to develop their skill set in those areas.

We’ll also offer a few different kinds of learning experiences. We’ll have courses—the four-week experiences—and we’ll have private lessons for students who want to engage one-on-one with a teacher. We also want to offer certificate programs. Certificate programs will give students more in-depth instruction and allow them to earn a credential from Interlochen.

Lastly, I hope Interlochen Online will provide an opportunity for alumni to engage with Interlochen as teachers. By virtue of being online, we don’t have to have teachers who are based here in Interlochen, Michigan—we can work with educators from around the world. I’ve been talking with many alumni who have a strong connection to Interlochen, would love to be more engaged, and have a strong interest in education. I think we can give them opportunities to learn and grow as educators through Interlochen Online.

What are some of the advantages of studying the arts online?
Hands down, the biggest advantage is access to extraordinary educators. Depending on where students live, there might not be instructors who can teach them about animation, screenwriting, musical theatre, or any one of these wonderfully rich areas of study. Interlochen has so many incredible faculty who want to reach students around the world. Through Interlochen Online, they can teach students who might not have the ability to study our seven artistic disciplines in any other way.

Another benefit is that it can work on your schedule. Parents and students live busy lives, and the flexibility that online education provides is incredible.

I also think there’s a very personal element to online education, if it’s designed effectively. In a classroom context, a teacher may want to give feedback to every student, but they might not have the time. Instead of waiting for the next scheduled class and wondering what the teacher thinks of their project, with an online class students can quickly get that feedback, take it in, and continue to grow and develop.

It’s extremely powerful, as well, when you can bring together a group of learners from different backgrounds and cultures. Online learning is a beautiful way to do that: we can create community and make connections with people students wouldn’t otherwise meet in their day-to-day lives.

Why should students engage in a formal online program as opposed to learning on their own through websites, YouTube videos, etc.?
While we all benefit from finding a YouTube video that helps us accomplish an immediate goal, platforms like YouTube can be a gigantic rabbit hole. Sometimes you have to do quite a bit of searching to find content that not only meets your needs and provides good information, but also makes you want to learn more about the subject matter. It’s also really challenging for parents to screen the content their children are watching.

Studying with Interlochen means you’re going to get an extremely high quality learning experience. As a parent, I want to have confidence in the learning experience that my child is undertaking. At Interlochen Online, parents can know that their child is learning from an expert educator who has not only studied the craft, but has amazing ways to connect with elementary, middle, and high school students and ensure that they’re growing and developing in healthy, meaningful ways.

On a personal level, what excites you most about creating online educational experiences for Interlochen?
I recently sat in on an animation class at the Academy taught by Briana Yarhouse, and I asked the students how they would describe Interlochen to an audience who has never heard of it before. They used phrases like “freedom” and “connection” and “the ability to be yourself.” They told me that they were one of the few art students at their previous school, and now, they’re surrounded by amazing friends and fellow students who are equally passionate about their art form. They talked about the interdisciplinary nature of what they’re doing, how they get to learn from students who are pursuing other artistic disciplines, and how they can bring aspects of what they see other students doing back to their own work.

I think all of these elements make Interlochen an extraordinary place. My job is to expand that through online realms, to make sure that Interlochen Online students feel equally connected and inspired by the Interlochen experience, and to motivate them to continue to cultivate their interests and passions.

We’ve got all the tools to do it. I think the future is very bright.

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