Recommendation 3.1: Welcome Message
Lay the groundwork for positive working relationships with students by sharing a “welcome message.”
Synopsis from Self-Review
The aim of inclusive teaching is to make each student feel welcome, valued and supported in their learning. Students who feel welcomed can focus more on course content, and more easily trust and collaborate with fellow learners. Creating a welcome message or video sets the tone for inclusive learning in your course and models what is generative and appropriate to share in order to cultivate positive working relationships.
How to Put Into Practice
A welcome message to the class—in the form of a video or written introduction—can help your students feel welcome, valued and supported in their learning by creating an initial sense of you as someone who cares about your course topic or discipline and cares about student learning in the course.
If you opt for video, know that it does not have to be highly polished to be effective. A simple design can be more accessible and model an emphasis on substantive communication for your students. The strategies below will help you decide what to include in your welcome message, and, if you opt for video, link to technical resources on how to record and post it to your Canvas site.
What to include in a welcome message
Think about giving a brief personal description of yourself and your relationship to the course. This is not the place for a detailed description of your syllabus, but rather a chance to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the course topic, set a professional but approachable tone, and share encouraging words as students begin their work.
Note that including some personal details in your self-introduction—hobbies, pets, family, etc.—helps humanize you as an instructor and demonstrates the type of information that is appropriate to share in a professional context when establishing a positive working relationship. Be mindful of your own comfort when deciding what to share, whether in a welcome message or other interactions with students. The point here is not to make your life an open book, but to break the virtual barrier and help students feel more connected to you as their instructor.
As you conclude, tell students what their next action should be after reviewing your welcome message. Inform them of any additional resources they should review before the start of class and any preliminary assignments they need to complete.
Where to post your welcome message
If you have a homepage on your Canvas course site, this is a great place for a welcome message to live. Other good places to post this video would be as a Canvas Announcement, in an orientation module, or in Canvas email communication with the class early in the term. (See Recommendation 2.3 Course Orientation for templates for home pages and course orientations.)
Resources for recording and posting videos to Canvas
How to record the video:
There are several campus supported tools for recording and editing videos. Consider this list of campus-supported recording tools for help deciding which video recording tool is best for you. When it is time to record, find a quiet space and use a headset if you have one to ensure your voice is audible.
Add captions to your video or upload a text-only transcript once it is recorded to ensure its accessibility. This resource from DoIT outlines the benefits of making content accessible and links to different paths to adding captions, depending on whether it is related to a student accommodation plan registered with the McBurney Disability Resource Center or is for other purposes.
How to post a video to Canvas:
Using Kaltura Mediaspace as storage for your course videos allows you to post easily to Canvas. This guide to posting videos using Kaltura in Canvas outlines the steps, or reach out to your department’s contact for technology or instructional support.
What is this?
A welcome message introduces the instructor and the course less formally than the syllabus. It establishes the instructor as a person with an interest in the course content and in students’ success.
Why is this important?
A welcome message can be written or video or audio. In an online setting, the messages you share, especially in the beginning of your course, are one of the main ways you establish “teaching presence”—the feeling of being taught by a real person. Evidence shows that this can have a real benefit for students, leading to better learning.
Where is this?
Typically a welcome message is included on your Canvas homepage, in an orientation module, or as a pre-semester Canvas Announcement.
Success Factor 3: Instructor-Student Interaction
The course is designed to include regular and substantive interaction and communication between student and instructor. Regardless of modality, a fully-realized educational experience provides students with ample opportunity to ask questions, receive answers, and obtain feedback and guidance from instructors.