If one of the central goals of higher education is “deep and meaningful learning” as Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, and Archer suggest (1999), it is important to consider how to best capitalize on the ease and abundance of interaction in online courses to facilitate this type of learning (p. 3). In their Community of Inquiry Model, Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (1999) define social presence as the ability to project personal characteristics in an online environment to present oneself as a “real person.” Social presence is important in online learning because it makes group interactions appealing, engaging, and thus intrinsically rewarding, leading to an increase in academic, social, and institutional integration and resulting in increased persistence and course completion (Tinto, 1987). In short, social presence helps instructors builds rapport that leads to student success (Glazier, 2016).
Creating social presence in an online course starts with the instructor. When students are provided the opportunity to get to know the instructor prior to the start of the class through a welcome video message, they are able to put a face with a name (Aragon, 2003), are more likely to participate in class (McLellan, 1999), and tend to enjoy the online learning experience more (Aragon, 2003). Though an introduction video is only the starting place for social presence, it provides students with a preview to more effective social presence strategies such as collaborative learning and course facilitation (Oyarzun, Barreto, & Conklin, 2018).
In most Learning Management Systems (LMSs), posting an introduction video for your course is a relatively straightforward process. In most LMSs, you can record or embed the video directly on an existing content page within the course modules or post it as a MP4, .AVI, or .MOV file. You can also post your welcome message to a video server such as YouTube or Vimeo and provide the URL for students to access/view, or use an external tool such as Zoom or Explain Everything.
While the content of the welcome video will vary from instructor to instructor and course to course, the following suggestions may be helpful as you craft your message:
Be Short and Engaging: Short and concise is best. Videos should not be longer than 5-6 minutes.
Be Yourself: Show your personality and speak naturally. Explain why you enjoy the subject matter and include a little about your professional experience.
Welcome Students: Let students know you are excited about having them in your class and look forward to interacting with them throughout the term.
Additional Topics to Consider Including:
- Expectations for behavior and participation
- Overview or major assignments and/or deliverables
- Explanation of course schedule and flow (in-class vs. virtual meetings)
- Your availability for questions and/or office hours
- Tips and strategies for success in the course
- Overview of how the course fits into the larger professional field
Link to Example Artifact(s)
At University College at University of Denver, including a welcome video is one of the “Baseline Faculty Expectations” required of all instructors. Examples, tips and hints are included as part of a dedicated Faculty Portal Resource page (see attached file for screenshots of the Baseline Faculty Expectations and video-specific resource page).
Link to Scholarly Reference(s)
Aragon, S. R. (2003). Creating social presence in online environments. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2003(100), 57-68.
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (1999). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.
Glazier, R. A. (2016). Building rapport to improve retention and success in online classes. Journal of Political Science Education, 12(4), 437-456.
McLellan, H. (1999). Online education as interactive experience: Some guiding models. Educational Technology, Sept.-Oct., 1999, 36–42.
Oyarzun, B., Barreto, D., & Conklin, S. (2018). Instructor Social Presence Effects on Learner Social Presence, Achievement, and Satisfaction. TechTrends, 62(6), 625-634.
Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (1999). Assessing social presence in asynchronous text-based computer conferencing. Journal of distance education, 14(3), 51-70.
Tinto, V. (1987). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of college attrition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.