3 mins reading and ?? mins viewing
‘The welcome should consist of warmly welcoming your students to this unit. Introduce yourself and provide a general introduction to what the unit is about…’ (copied from template)
Well, that’s what I’m supposed to do here.
When writing one of these welcome messages, I’m reminded of a family holiday to the Gold Coast when I was in my first year of uni. During this holiday, my sister bought postcards to send to her friends. On these postcards, she simply wrote:
I don’t want to write it. You don’t want to read it.
I agree. Watch this video instead.
Welcome to the unit.
* * *
That’s how I start most of the introductory Unit Guides in courses I teach. In any given trimester, students will (kind of) read up to 4 of these identically formatted documents, which provide a broad outline of learning experiences, topics, and assessment tasks. They’ve gotten shorter the years (the documents, not the students) and are now less than half the size from when I was a student myself at Deakin University.
This blog isn’t designed to dismiss the importance of welcoming students, but rather to emphasise the importance of finding a better way. While my indolent sister would never have made one, a video is a much better way – and it’s not just me saying it. The presence of a ‘video welcome message from the Unit Chair’ has been enshrined in Deakin policy as a ‘minimum standard’ for a few years now.
Welcome videos can be an immensely useful means of reaching all (or at least most) students and making a connection between them, teaching staff, and the learning resources from the beginning. Here’s my most most recent and most used welcome video:
There is no one ‘correct’ way to make a welcome video, but some general advice I would give is to:
- Be visible. Appear on camera for at least part of the video, perhaps at the start and end, to really make a connection.
- Be positive. You can make expectations clear, but there’s no need to scare people… not until Week 2, anyway.
- Be brief. Provide a broad sense of what the unit involves without getting held up on the details.
- Be relaxed. No need for a beach chair and sun lotion, but try to set the tone for Week 1 (even if it’s only relaxed momentarily).
- Be different. If you want to make it really effective, try something different – from either the norm or what you did last time. It’s never as exciting when they all look the same…
You don’t need to spend several days making an ‘epic narrative’ like I did for the video above, but 5 rushed minutes in front of a webcam will communicate a lot to students as well.
Some extra and more detailed advice can be found in a video I made for colleagues in 2015 called Making Welcome Videos for University Teaching. I no longer agree with all of the advice I gave in that video – for instance, being on screen is now less ‘optional’ in my eyes – but most of it still fits. If for nothing else, the video highlights how much my own video-making has improved with some practice and, more importantly, how students respond to being welcomed in this form (see the extract below):
Here are two more examples of welcome videos I’ve made in 2013 and 2016 respectively, in case they might provide some ideas for your own video-making.
It’s worth noting that while these videos were made for specific (and now discontinued) units, which limited their use in one sense, some of the ideas and footage within could be re-used elsewhere. I’ll come back to the theme of ‘recyclability’ in creative media-making in a future post…
Thanks for reading/watching. I’d love to hear about how you use welcome videos – and please feel free to get in touch if you’d like to chat about making videos for students in general…