Developing Musical Creativity Through Activity Theory in an Online Learning Environment

Developing Musical Creativity Through Activity Theory in an Online Learning Environment

Chih-Feng Chien (Chung Yuan Christian University, Chungli, Taiwan), Brent G. Walters (Chung Yuan Christian University, Chungli, Taiwan), Ching-Yieh Lee (Chung Yuan Christian University, Chungli, Taiwan) and Ching-Jung Liao (Chung Yuan Christian University, Chungli, Taiwan)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/IJOPCD.2018040105
OnDemand PDF Download:
No Current Special Offers


An online general education platform, e-Holistic (e-HO), was developed to support digital learning. Following Burnard's (2007) adoption of Activity Theory (AT) in designing music education to galvanize learners' creativity, the authors' study extended her theoretical framework through a hypothetical model they designed. From AT, this article investigates a number of elements—musical activities (tools), e-HO (community), emotional arousal (object), and musical creativity (outcome). Through the operation of the AT system, 733 students immersed in musical activities in e-HO were able to compose music even without any musical background. The purpose of this article is to report how an e-HO online activity helps arouse students' emotions and inspire their musical creativity. The structural equation modeling (SEM) analysis indicates that all research hypotheses were supported, and the musical activities on e-HO predicted 71.6% of students' self-assessed musical creativity. Finally, the implications of the authors' findings are reported for the future development of online musical education.
Article Preview


Music education deserves much further attention and more active cultivation in higher education today. Jensen (2005) stated that constant exposure to music in general can enhance a person’s creativity which is “an essential human attribute lying at the heart of all learning and as processes of making something new” (Burnard, 2007, p. 37). Koelsch and Siebel’s (2005) study has found that constant experience of musical activities is essential to a person’s development not only for enhancing overall creativity but also for emotion management.

In this study, we focus on how music education could be developed beyond the traditional e-learning framework. Specifically, an open online music education environment empowered by Web 2.0 technologies—e-HO—has been created in keeping with the characteristics of today’s college students. E-HO (see Figure 1), complementary to the traditional e-learning, is designed, in part, to strengthen the horizontal connection among various disciplines proposed in higher education (Lee, Pan, & Liao, 2011). E-HO, as an integrative learning environment, embraces a full spectrum of the general curriculum, including music, fine arts, science, literature, history, as well as emotional intelligence, to fulfill its purpose as ‘holistic’ education and as a ‘horizontal’ linkage among various domains (Lee et al., 2011). To achieve this, E-HO includes: (1) complementary content beyond course-required e-learning; (2) contemporary digital cultures suitable for current university students; (3) a user-friendly and supported platform allowing students and faculty from different disciplines to easily contribute; and (4) various online activities in diverse settings (Lee et al., 2011). The efficacies of the implementation of the above individual components in e-HO for general education was enhanced, as reported by Lee, Pan, Liao, Chen, and Walters (2013). Therefore, concerning open online music education incorporated in e-HO, some benefits and significant outcomes beyond those of traditional pedagogies could be reasonably anticipated.

Beyond traditional classroom learning, an e-music platform on e-HO is designed to immerse students in performed music (see Figure 2). Most of the audio and video music on e-HO was shared online by students. While being immersed in classical and contemporary music, students were also encouraged to compose their own music. By using music software (Finale, a free music composition program), students arranged simple rhythms and accompaniments to compose their own digital music. After students’ works were uploaded, everyone on e-HO could listen to them and give feedback and reflection for every individual music piece.

By teaching digital-rich music pedagogy, music teachers are creating a flexible and effective learning environment. Through the e-HO platform, this study attempts to investigate how online musical activities and technology influence students’ musical creativity. The study extends Burnard’s study (2007), in which Engestrom’s Activity Theory (AT) was adopted as the main theoretical framework, by focusing on examining the AT framework in which online music activities enhance musical creativity.

Figure 1.

The homepage of e-HO

Figure 2.

e-Music activities in e-HO


Complete Article List

Search this Journal:
Open Access Articles: Forthcoming
Volume 11: 4 Issues (2021): 1 Released, 3 Forthcoming
Volume 10: 4 Issues (2020)
Volume 9: 4 Issues (2019)
Volume 8: 4 Issues (2018)
Volume 7: 4 Issues (2017)
Volume 6: 4 Issues (2016)
Volume 5: 4 Issues (2015)
Volume 4: 4 Issues (2014)
Volume 3: 4 Issues (2013)
Volume 2: 4 Issues (2012)
Volume 1: 4 Issues (2011)
View Complete Journal Contents Listing