Music Works 1 Course

I’m building a course called Music Works 1. It helps any student begin composing music without any prior experience. Through creating their own music they learn how music works!


Hey @matt5834, I like the idea of learning through creating! Do you have anything to share so far or anything that you would like help with?

You should have a look at that we’ve built together with @alexruthmann

ps. I’m changing the category for this topic, “School of Open” focus on education about openness.

Hi Dirk-
Thanks for your reply!
I just started working through the “Course in a Box” material and I’m editing the GitHub fork. So far so good. I’m sure I’ll have some questions very soon!

Alex is actually on our board! For, more info on our nonprofit visit
We are dedicated to bringing music composition to the traditional music classroom with the help of a progressive curriculum and technology. We are a free resource for NYC public schools. Every student has their music performed by professional musicians.

I’ve created a number of online courses to help our teachers and students work through my curriculum with our wordpress site. It uses Credly Badges and the LearnDash LMS. It works ok, but I want to go with something that is more open source and with more flexibility. I love P2PU!

I particularly want to incorporate our main web app Noteflight They have a number of great API’s but I’m not quite skilled enough to take advantage of them. (I’m a music teacher! :slight_smile: ) We do work closely with Noteflight so perhaps I can get their developers involved somehow.

Any thoughts you might have would be extremely welcomed.

My first idea is to work though the “Course in a Box” material and try to replicate my curriculum ideas. Do you think that would be a good way to start?

Thank you!

That’s great! “Course in a Box” should be a good start, we are working hard on it at the moment, so any questions or suggestions would be much appreciated. Especially if things doesn’t make sense or they are simply wrong.

You may also be interested in some of our other resources like the roundtables we host and our reports like the report on Play With Your Music.

Hi Matt and Dirk!

Matt, I’m happy to help at anytime. Things are starting to calm down for me (briefly). Looking forward to see how this develops!


Thanks Dirk and thanks Alex!

Dirk- those resources are very helpful. I’m really enjoying editing the template course. I’ll have a few small feedback items that I’ll leave for you another time.

I do have some larger questions that maybe you and Alex can help with.

After the meetUp on Saturday and some of the discussions that came up about YCIW I really began to think that a more open format for the online piece would help bring the “community of composers” closer together. Currently if a school takes part I am setting them up with their own private site for the course curriculum. There is a shared support forum but very few students seem to be utilizing it. How great it would be if when we had 20 schools they all were taking part as though they were part of a MOOC!

My biggest question: because YCIW is concerned with middle and high schools to what extent can P2PU be used as a modified MOOC? The modified part being slightly less “open.” By this I mean,

  1. Teachers will want to have a way to track their own students. Is that possible?
  2. Is there a way to have students enroll without an email address? Also, for Discourse?

Another question has to do with progress through a course. Dirk, is there a way that modules could be “marked complete” somehow? I have this feature with our current wordpress course and we find that it helps younger learners track how they are doing. Maybe the answer is to break up the larger course into several smaller courses with fewer modules and awarded badges for those?

Lastly, Alex is the a separately hosed site that links to your P2PU course and your Discourse community? If so, this may help me to link things to our own current yciw website.

Thank you!

Hey @matt5834

Interesting questions, with regards to a special more closed version for schools - that may be possible if the only place things are restricted is on the discussion forum side. It would require a separate discourse install, but it would then be able for a teacher to only add certain people to the forum. I’m not 100% about the without email requirement.

Wrt tracking progress - we don’t currently support that, but it would be possible. An example of this is how keeps track of what chapters you read. Giving teachers an idea of where students are is tricky, but not impossible.

In general we do things openly and allow people to use a pseudonym if they choose. Building the tools for younger kids is something we don’t have a lot of experience with.

In that context we are developing tools for the course community as a whole to keep track of what’s happening in the community. That may not be ideal if you want private spaces also.

I’ll let @alexruthmann field the questions about the setup. It may be worth while for Alex to also say what his ideal situation would be?

Thanks Dirk! That it is very helpful.

Just to clarify I think it would be fine if the discussion piece is open to everyone in the program (all of the various schools) but closed to the general public.

As long as we could add the participants ourselves maybe the email piece could be fixed with just a general address or a google no-reply address?

I’ll check out the That sounds ideal.

What you’re working on in terms of the course community being able to keep track of what’s happening sounds great. We don’t need privacy so much. The need is for a teacher to be able to search and track all of her students amongst the larger community. Does that sound possible?

Thank you!

Hi Dirk-

I’m having trouble finding my course. When I navigate to
I get a page not found error.

I see that some of the initial directions were edited for changing the base url to: /course-in-a–box in the config.yml file and I have done that.
Any ideas?

thank you!

Hey @matt5834. Sorry about that, you got caught in the crossfire of the changes I made :frowning: You should rename your repository on GitHub to “course-in-a-box” then all should be fine.

Great, thank you! I’ve made the changes and it works.

Hi Dirk-
An update and a couple of questions.

At this time I’m thinking that we are going to set up an open and free course for music teachers. Eventually we may find that we could also use this for students but I think for now we’ll stick to our Wordpress site for this.
Should I explore setting up Course in a Box or Mechanical MOOC? What are the differences between these? (I’ve begun setting up a Course in a Box and I have a pretty good handle on it.)

First, I’ve just set up my Discourse site and I’m super excited about it! Could you point me towards a resource for embedding Discourse into a site similar to how the P2PU projects do it? …like LCL and PWYM. Would I be able to integrate Discourse similarly with Course in a Box?
I have the Wordpress plugin and SSO set up so it can be integrated with our Wordpress site but I’m would like to know how Discourse can be embedded.

thank you!

Hey @matt5834

Course in a Box is 1 part template and 1 part guide. The idea is to give the tools and support in one package. In a sense what you end up with is similar to Wordpress with a specific theme.

The Mechanical MOOC is a great signup and mailing list engine that can easily scale to large numbers. Small numbers are also fine.

There is nothing that stops you from using both, that is what we’ve done with

Wrt discourse integration, the way it’s currently done on PWYM and LCL is really just a skin deep integration. We customized the top navigation of the discourse forum to match the rest of the course. You can also do integration similar to what you get on Wordpress. We would love to be able to integrate it similar to how disqus can be embedded, but at the moment that is not possible.

Great, thank you. That makes a lot of sense. For customizing the top navigation of discourse can I find info on how to do that on the forums or did you guys do that specially?

Thank you!

If you go to the admin part of discourse you can put HTML there to add to every page. Let me know if you get stuck and we can probably help with some example HTML to get you started.

Ok, I now see where to do that.

If you have any HTML that creates a similar menu to something like LCL or PWYM that you could share that would be helpful.

Thank you!

I stole this from the LCL forum :smile:

        font-family:Lato, Helvetica, sans-serif;
        background-color: #fff;
        border-bottom:1px solid #e7e7e7;
        font-weight: 700;
        text-shadow: 0px 1px 1px (204,204,204,.5);
    .custom-nav .navbar-header{

    .custom-nav .navbar-brand img{
        max-width: 120px;
        padding:5px 10px 5px 0px;
    .nav {
        margin-bottom: 0;
         padding-left: 0;
        list-style: none;
    .nav > li {
        position: relative;
        display: block;
    .nav > li > a {
        position: relative;
        display: block;
        padding: 10px 15px;
    .nav > li > a:hover,
    .nav > li > a:focus {
        text-decoration: none;
    .navbar-nav {
       margin: 0px;
       float: left;
    .navbar-nav > li > a {
        padding: 15px;
        line-height: 20px;
    .custom-nav .navbar-nav > li > a {
        color: #191919;
    .custom-nav .navbar-nav > li > a:hover, 
    .custom-nav .navbar-nav > li > a:focus {
        color: #0099cc;
    .custom-nav .navbar-nav > .active > a, 
    .custom-nav .navbar-nav > .active > a:hover, 
    .custom-nav .navbar-nav > .active > a:focus {
        color: #191919;
        background-color: #e6f5fa;
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Just an update on this:

I’ve decided to build an open course for teachers first. I really really want to build a course for students but for now we are going to stick with the wordpress courses I have built. I’m really interested in setting up a course using Course in a Box for middle and HS students. I’m curious about the difficulties that will hold.
You can see the thread about the open course for teachers here: