It is considered a best practice for an instructor to create a brief welcome message to build social and teaching presence, ease student anxiety, and answer frequently asked questions. While the content and format of the messages will vary depending on the discipline, student level, and available time and resources, welcome messages should always reflect the personality of the instructor and tone of the course. They often include the following:
- Reasons for taking the course
- Helpful hints related to course content, online learning, texts, study skills, and other strategies for success
- Instructor aspirations for the course and unique, relevant skills or experience
Welcome videos are frequently used in online courses. Their advantage is that they automatically kick-start an instructor’s social and teaching presence by giving students an instructor face and a voice to reference as they move through other introductory materials. Typical approaches include the following:
- Opening comments: a simple, straightforward script that is also suitable for text-based messages. These videos can be made with relatively little time and effort. For example:
- Course trailers: Course trailers, like movie trailers, are an engaging way to provide an overview of what students can expect to learn in a class (and for what purpose). They can be as simple or complex as time, resources, and interest allow. For example:
Podcasts are a variation on the video welcome message, except they do not include live-image capture. However, podcasts can still convey a significant amount of personality and information. Consider a radio show or theater structure for a fun and engaging approach.
Also, consider adding a picture of the instructor—preferably one that is different from the photo found on the “meet the instructor” page. Photographs of the instructor in action or in their workspace can be particularly helpful for students who are trying to create a mental image of their instructor.
Letters to students
If a video or podcast is not possible, text-based messages can be augmented by a picture of the instructor.
- Duke University: Best practices: Creating video course trailers
- Minnesota Online Quality Initiative: Creating a positive presence in an online course
- University of Wisconsin Madison: Instructor welcome message
- Teaching in Higher Ed: Video course trailers
- The Journal: How to make the most of a video introduction for an online course