In many ways, online music lessons seem a good idea, but there are some caveats one should be aware of. Lets take a look at the pros and cons.
You can learn at your own pace, at your own time frame, and at the best time that works for you.
This is a pretty decent benefit, as with on site lessons, you are subject to the scheduling of your teacher as well as your own meshing up properly. Missed lessons will happen, its a fact of life, online lessons mitigate this issue completely.
Often times due to the scaling of the instructors time, you can save a lot of money.
Again, especially in this economy, this can be a great benefit. The instructor can have hundreds if not thousands of students with an online program, where as a personalized plan of instruction is limited to the amount of time the instructor has, which can mesh with your schedule. Of course, not all online instructors create canned packages, some may choose to teach interactively, via video and or audio conferencing. Others may use technology to offer group classes. This may save some money, but the scheduling issue is still a factor.
You can find a specialist
Are you having trouble with a specific technique or style? Perhaps you can find a online instructor specializing in that aspect. Doing so locally is likely a challenge, unless one is in a major metropolitan area with a lot of diversity.
You will need significant self discipline and motivation.
If you know you need to prepare songs a,b, and c for a lesson, and the lesson is in 3 days, you will put in the time to make it happen (at least most of the time anyway). With online instruction, its all too easy to let things slide, and slide and slide.
You can go off track
Unless the online instructor provides some method of evaluation, and few do so, its very easy to go off on a tangent, and even pick up bad technique which needs to be unlearned later.
The lack of instantaneous feedback can slow progress
An onsite instructor may catch errors, or observe things that would be missed in the online arena. The end result, progress often times ends up being slower, than if you had an onsite instructor. Its possible, online instruction could cost more than an onsite instructor to achieve the same level of proficiency.
Learning plateaus require you to recognize them and take appropriate action.
An online instructor, unless they are providing some type of feedback, and even then may not catch learning plateaus as quickly as an onsite instructor. The responsibility then lies in your hands, as to identify them, and come up with a course of action. This can be especially difficult for the beginning student.
Finding a good online instructor is filled with headaches
This is a case where google is of not much help. Far too many get rich quick outfits are hocking online music lessons… The other day I saw one that held off teaching a beginner how to tune their instrument until much latter in the curriculum. In other words, someone was selling lessons who had never played, much less had ever taught a student. Referrals online, just as offline must play a role, as the risk of getting something of no to marginal value is just too high at this time.
I think there is potential in online music instruction. As multimedia and interaction continue to improve, I think it has some real potential, especially when the instructor is actively involved, rather than just selling a canned package. The basic technology exists to accomplish much, but as of today, no one I am aware of has taken many steps in that regard. Its possible for sure, I might even give it a go at some point, but for now, my focus remains in the onsite instruction arena.