Establishing rapport with students
College faculty focus their job training on learning their subject matter. But subject matter expertise is one of the least important elements that a teacher brings to the table. After all, nearly everything faculty members know about their subjects can be found in some public form somewhere.
Your real value as a teacher is the relationship that you establish with your students. You can look at a student's work, diagnose his or her problems, and provide feedback and advice in a form that he or she can understand in order to improve performance.
But accepting this feedback requires a degree of rapport between teacher and student. Adult students in particular want instructors to show their humanity, because they view instructors more as colleagues and coinvestigators than as the “sage on the stage.”
This is why it is critical to establish a rapport with students right at the beginning of your online courses. The best way to build this rapport is with a video about the class or yourself. A video humanizes you in your students' eyes and opens them to the learning relationship.
There are two ways to create a video. One is to simply record yourself speaking to a webcam. This format is best used to discuss the course. You should motivate students by talking about why the course is important, what they will get out of it, and what makes it interesting. This is a chance to connect with students by showing your enthusiasm for the subject matter and teaching.
The big advantage of webcam recordings is that they are easy to make. Just use your webcam software to record yourself, speaking to the camera as you would to a student sitting in front of you. The disadvantage is that you can't edit the recording without a jarring head movement for the viewer. This means that you need to use a mistake-free shoot, which will probably require multiple takes. Try not to get frustrated and swat your webcam off your monitor. It won't survive the landing.
The second option is to create a digital biography. Here you will combine audio narration with imagery to take your audience on a journey through your life. This format is ideal for a personal biography because you can include images of the places you have been and the things you have done. The advantages of digital storytelling are that it is much more visually appealing than a webcam recording and that it doesn't require any “acting.” It also allows for more creativity, and the result can be edited. The disadvantage is that it is more time-consuming to produce.
In either case you can post your video to your online classroom if it allows video. If not, put it on YouTube. A YouTube account comes with a Google account, and you can set it to “public” (so that people can reach it with a link) but “unlisted.” This also allows students to leave comments if they wish. You will likely find people saying things such as, “I hiked Grey's Peak just last year as well. Amazing views, aren't they?”
Creating a webcam video
Here are some tips for making a webcam video:
Creating a digital biography
Here is a tutorial on how to put together a digital biography:
Here are some tips for making a digital biography:
Start making video introductions to your courses today.
John Orlando writes, consults, and teaches faculty how to use technology to improve learning. He helped build and direct distance learning programs at the University of Vermont and Norwich University, and has written more 50 articles and delivered more than 60 workshops on teaching with technology. John is the associate director of Training at Northcentral University, serves on the Online Classroom editorial advisory board.