Dr. Barry Atticks

When education moved online in the spring, it was a challenge nationwide for instructors to adapt their in-person classes to a virtual environment. One professor at Millersville not only made the leap, but he also won a national award for his work. Dr. Barry Atticks, associate professor in music at Millersville, recently received the “Instructional Technology Initiative Award” from The College Music Society Fund (CMS). He was honored for his work, “Speed Test Online Assessment in Recording Studio Courses due to Covid-19.”

As part of the award, Atticks was given a small grant to buy new technology for the Music Business Technology program. He is looking into Virtual Reality 3D technology that the students can use to simulate recording studio and live audio situations.

Students within the MBT program at Millersville University.

Here is a Q&A with Dr. Atticks about the award.

Q. Please talk about the significant of this award to you personally, for the department and for the University.

A. I am honored to be recognized for my ongoing research for “Speed Test Online Assessment into Recording Studio Courses due to Covid-19.” Our program in Music Business Technology strives to find the most relevant way to test students in preparation for their future jobs. For example, speed tests that I have developed are a better indicator that a student is ready to move forward in the recording sequence of our program over using standardized multiple choice and essay tests alone. These speed tests put students in a real world pressure situation to make the recording studios work, for example, in a limited time period. The issue this year was that we will not be on campus for finals and who knows if we will be sent home again. So, this summer I spent some time with a software engineer to learn about his 2D and 3D studio replications in the virtual world and developed a way to use these tools for online assessment of experiential speed testing. This fall I will test to see if online recording studio simulations are an accurate predictor of student knowledge in this area as our current face to face practice.

Q. Why do you think you received this award?

A. I think it is crucial for educators to be able to adapt to changes in delivery formats in education but maintain the same rigor and provide the same preparedness as if students were in the studios. I think the combination of the speed tests innovation and adaption for remote testing during this pandemic is why I was chosen.

Q. What does the award mean for our students? For potential students?

A. I think it shows that the Music Business Technology professors spend our “free time” learning about the latest technologies and thinking of ways to implement them for the benefit of student career preparedness and learning.

Q. Anything else you’d like to add?

A. While multiple choice, fill-in the blank, and essay question assessments have their place in academia, students preparing for a career in the area of studio engineering, live engineering and production need other assessments to test readiness for troubleshooting “real-world”
problems in audio technology. This can also apply to music education students who are preparing to manage sound systems for their choirs, bands, etc. Being able to quickly solve signal flow issues is crucial, whether it is for a high paying client in the studio, a rock band
during a live show for 10,000 fans, or when your 100 voice middle school choir students are waiting for you to fix the problem so rehearsal can continue. I recently took one of my classes to a local club to have a clinic with the live audio engineer before a show. Sebastian Bach,
former lead singer of the rock band Skid Row (no relation to Johann), and his band were the headliners for the night. His dedicated fans arrived at 7 p.m. stood for an hour prior to the first of two opening bands, that they tolerated, for an additional two hours. During the 3rd song from Sebastian Bach, the audio went out! He threw the mic to the floor and the band walked off stage. Fans who have been standing for three hours to see this retro act started an uproar. The club owner was panicking and the tour manager was angry. The engineer calmly traced the problem and restored audio six long minutes later under severe time pressure from multiple constituencies. My students looked at me and said now we know why “speed tests” that you use are critical.

Dr. Atticks talks about Speed Tests
With a background in the music industry, I knew that traditional assessments were inadequate to truly measure preparedness for the industry, so I created my own “speed tests” or simulation of real world situations to give to students. For example, as part of the midterm of
my class “Recording 1,” students come into the studio individually and are told that a client is coming in seven minutes and they have to have a working session up and ready to go.

As the students progress through the first course, the speed tests becomes increasingly more difficult. For example, they may be assigned a session that utilizes both the vocal booth and liveroom. However, it is made more difficult as most of the session is already setup and they have troubleshoot to find the items that were setup incorrectly under a time pressure. This is more challenging than setting up a session from scratch but a more realistic troubleshooting issue that students will encounter on the job.

Quotes from students on Speed Tests

“Speed tests are more effective than multiple choice because it requires us to use our practical knowledge in a hands on way. It simulates the real world application and pressure better.” Jake C

“For multiple-choice you are memorizing facts which is fine, but when you work in a recording studio you need to be able to understand the ins and outs of the space in a tangible sense and be able to quickly troubleshoot issues as they arise. For me personally, speed tests were much more informative on my understanding of the recording studio and whether I could operate and troubleshoot in a timely manner.” Annelise L

“I think speed tests are important, not only because they can give you a feel of how working a real job in the field feels, but they are also a great tool to gauge your own progress and knowledge. Paper tests and multiple choice answers are no substitute for working knowledge and ability in a real studio.” Jordan H

“Speed tests mandate quick critical thinking to solve technical challenges and require the participant to be well versed in all aspects of studio technology in order to provide quick solutions to sometimes complex issues.” Owen M

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