MELoDiA: designing an educational music application together with end-users

Posted by Marije Nouwen on Monday March 23rd 2015 at 17:40

(Image by Niek Kosten)

We are happy to have been part of the MELoDiA design team that delivered a marketable product only months after the end of the project. Just as a record only holds polished songs, a game in the App Store does not reveal the iterations it underwent. Since we are proud of the end result and the research trajectory that led up to it, we want to put the user insights that formed the end product in the spotlight. Drum rolls, please!

From concept…
At the start of the project the research groups SMIT & CUO |Social Spaces, together with the partners, had worked out a concept for an application aimed at children between 8 and 12 years old. We wanted to work towards a mobile game application that provides a fun learning experience to novice music learners while learning to sing. Also, we made use of popular content that fits in with children’s personal music experiences. Furthermore, we aimed to include real-time feedback. Lastly, we wanted to make a game that keeps children motivated while learning, so they would not quit on music.

While the concept was clear to all project partners, we had questions about our targeted end users and music education. Firstly, we did not know what children (aged 8 to 12) with little to no experience with music education expect from music games. Secondly, we had to discover which practices in music education could be translated into a digital learning environment. In order to find answers to these questions we conducted user research with children and music teachers. Ultimately, the insights we gathered informed the design of this new music game.

… to educational music application
We learned that children are eager to learn. Consequently, they accept negative and positive feedback, as long as the feedback allows them to improve their performance. As such, the application gives children detailed feedback on their performance. Taking up the children’s challenge to be bold, the designers experimented with a virtual audience that appealed to the children during user tests. Also, children indicated that by obtaining scores, they could enter in competitions with their friends or siblings. In order to support the children’s motivation, we included a point system and high scores in the application. The children involved in our research also shared some concerns, for instance about the aggravating hours they have to spend practicing. Many children experience this as the least fun part about learning music. While children put in much effort, this effort usually only pays off in the long run. Therefore, we decided to score effort as well. Importantly, we learned that children wanted to be in control. So, we suggested to implement a learning path that children can decide to follow – or not. Another important insight concerned the need for children to practice in private, but share their ability with their peers. Thus, the children can record and replay the recordings they like with the application.

After talking with the children, we turned to the teachers for insights on music teaching. Teachers mentioned that they break up a song in different pieces so it is easier to learn. As such, the interface of the game clearly separates these elements. The teachers also told us they give feedback as soon as possible so children do not learn ‘wrong skills’. However, when children make many mistakes teachers work on the most important errors so children are not discouraged. To support this insight, the design team decided to ‘flag’ the most important errors children can focus on.

This was the ‘behind the scenes’ story of the design of an educational music application for novice music learners. We now welcome all children to the stage to learn to sing with K3.

(Picture by Cartamundi Digital)


Authors: Marije Nouwen & Karin Slegers

Special thanks to Pieter Duysburgh, Karen Mouws, Selina Schepers, Niek kosten & Hanne Hofkens

Project realized with the support of iMinds Media & together with Cartamundi Digital, MU Technologies (with financial support of IWT), Halewijnstichting and LUCA School of Arts (Lemmensinstituut)

Closing event MELoDiA

Posted by Marije Nouwen on Monday February 16th 2015 at 15:14

melodia closing event 2

Op 4 februari werd het resultaat van het MELoDiA-onderzoekstraject gepresenteerd in het Muntpunt te Brussel. Projectleider Kris Carron van Cartamundi Digital demonstreerde er een educatieve muziekapp in een K3-jasje. MELoDiA, een iMinds Media-project, had de ontwikkeling van een educatieve muziekapplicatie voor ogen. Het richtte zich op kinderen met een beperkte kennis en ervaring met muziekleren.

In oktober 2014 startte CUO | Social Spaces, samen met iMinds Digital Society onderzoeksgroep SMIT, een onderzoeksproject over muziekeducatie, motivatie en gamification. In verschillende fases werden kinderen en muziekleerkrachten betrokken in het ontwikkelingsproces van de MELoDiA-app. Het onderzoek met de kinderen leverde veel interessante inzichten op:

• Kinderen willen echt graag iets bijleren. Daarom vinden ze het prima om gecorrigeerd te worden en vragen ze om duidelijke feedback.
• Het is voor kinderen belangrijk om vooruitgang te zien. Daar maakt het krijgen van punten een belangrijk onderdeel van uit.
Kinderen nemen zelf graag de touwtjes in handen en willen liever niet dat de tutor hen teveel stuurt in het leerproces.
• Zingen voor een publiek is voor kinderen heel eng als ze vinden dat ze een liedje niet zo goed kunnen zingen. Daarom is het belangrijk om eerst alleen te kunnen oefenen alvorens hun prestatie te delen met anderen.
• Kinderen vinden het superleuk om zelf met muziek aan de slag te gaan; zelf een tekst of melodie verzinnen, hun stem vervormen, …

Verder weerspiegelt de opbouw van de app de best practices die we leerden van verschillende muziekleerkrachten. Zo wordt feedback gegenereerd in real time en worden de belangrijkste fouten aangeduid. Dit zorgt ervoor dat kinderen meteen weten waar ze fouten maken, maar niet ontmoedigd worden in het leerproces. Ook wordt, net zoals in de muziekles, een lied stap voor stap aangeleerd zodat de verschillende elementen apart ingeoefend kunnen worden. Ten slotte heeft de MELoDiA-app een leertraject voor ogen, maar kunnen kinderen ook zelf beslissen welke stap ze eerst zetten of waar ze het meeste tijd aan willen besteden.

• Cartamundi Digital
• MuTechnologies
• iMinds Media
• Halewijnstichting
• Lemmensinstituut (LUCA School of Arts)

Voor meer sfeerbeelden, ga naar:

MIX-project MELoDiA

Posted by Selina Schepers on Wednesday September 25th 2013 at 14:55

Curious about what CUO I Social Spaces will be doing in the MELoDiA project? Check out this video: