With the coronavirus and the attendant need for social distancing, many teachers have moved online in order to continue teaching, using applications such as Zoom, Skype and Facetime. For many this has forced a rapid embrace and learning of new tech to ensure equipment is set up to best serve teacher and student, and while it cannot replace face-to-face lessons, it is a solution at a time when admitting students to your home or studio for lessons is not possible. (Interestingly, a number of teaching colleagues have reported greater student engagement and concentration, especially amongst younger children, and many students seem more relaxed playing in their homes.)
The question of fees for online lessons has come up several times in the online groups and forums for pianists and piano teachers to which I belong. Some teachers feel the lessons may not be so good online, and therefore “worth less”; others that it would encourage students to continue lessons if they were cheaper. One or two mentioned charging less for students whose families may be in more straitened circumstances (and this is the subject for a separate discussion to this one). But in general the consensus is that one should not charge less for online lessons, for the following reasons:
Online lessons are not cheaper to manage – and you may have had to invest in new equipment (good-quality microphone, for example) to facilitate online teaching. You are still using your home/teaching studio with the expense that entails (heat, light. equipment, insurance etc) and setting up online lessons can be more time-consuming than physical lessons. Sadly, many parents/students do not appreciate the amount of time spent in lesson planning, including learning new skills, in order to adapt our teaching skills.
You’re offering the same service, experience and level of expertise – your skills haven’t changed, only the environment in which you are using them. If anything, you need to be more nimble when teaching online to be alert to issues regarding software/hardware, connectivity, latency etc.
It sets a precedent – lower your fees when teaching online and what happens when you go back to physical face-to-face teaching? You may find it tricky to return your fees to their original level if you offered cheaper online lessons, and you will then be left out of pocket.
There’s a benefit for parents/students – they save time and money by not having to travel to you for lessons.
Discussing money with parents/clients can be awkward, whatever the circumstances, but you can save yourself a lot of trouble by setting out your terms clearly.