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National Children’s Orchestras

In the time of Covid, a space for young musicians to learn together

The client

The National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain is the UK’s orchestral learning programme for 7-14 year olds, and are composed of eleven symphony orchestras across the country. Their tutors are some of the UK’s finest instrumental teachers and professional orchestral musicians.

The Brief

With the impact of Covid, the NCO were facing a huge drop in participation and income, and approached us to create a space where they could continue to run their summer programme of workshops, education and practice for their young members.

As well as needing something fast, it was hugely important to give their young people a sense of ownership, matched with safety.

Our solution

Built as a version of the community and training portal we have successfully delivered for The European Youth Orchestra, NCOnline.org.uk allows NCO to curate their online workshops (held via Zoom, YouTube or other platforms), alongside downloadable resources.

We expanded the portal with 3 new features:

Firstly, we gave NCO the ability to assign users to user groups, which could be subdivided further into age and instrument type.

Each group acted as a filter which would determine the content (events and resources) that the associated users would see. So, for instance, a 7 year old doesn’t see the online workshops meant for 14 year olds.

This allowed the NCO team to host a mass of different educational content on the platform and ensure their young users would always be able to find that which is relevant to them.

The second new feature was Themes. These, coupled with the new Themes page, allowed NCO to group webinars and resources into topics, such as “Let’s Create”, or “My Instrument”, which supported NCO’s curriculum. Now with one click, young users could see the upcoming events and resources which related to this topic area.

Finally, a new gallery page and individual gallery posts allowed young users to feature their content (pre-moderated, of course) for showcasing, giving them a real sense of ownership over the site itself.

The Tech:

NCOnline.org.uk was built using WordPress and custom Gutenburg blocks. To ensure the site performed with hundreds of users logging in to the back end at the same time to participate in workshops, additional work was done to handle multiple server processes and to scale the number of databases and database connections.

Impact:

We’re hugely proud to have delivered this project. To help an organisation continue to bring a huge amount of joy and creativity and creativity to young people during lockdown has been fantastic, as has the chance to see some of their creative output!

And the engagement and retention of its young users and embracing by NCO staff has been incredible.

Here’s what all that looks like in numbers:

  • 13,000 site visits in a month
  • 171 online event – that’s 128 hours, the time it takes to get to the moon and back
  • 351 resources on the website
  • 990+ videos submitted by their young users
  • 100+ responses to the creative “Taskmaster” challenges submitted from children across the UK

Moving forward:

There are many ways that NCOnline and the platform as a concept could be extended further. Learner progress tracking and a badging system could be applied to the framework that’s already in place. Similarly, the extension of events to include shared collaboration spaces is possible.

Finally, we would love to improve the event creation-curation workflow, giving site admins the ability to create Zoom meetings through the click of a button within the platform backend.

If you’d like to discuss a platform for learners, communities or practitioners, and how these (and other) features might be useful for solving your challenges, please do get in touch!