The Welcome Message
Sending students a welcome message before the first day of class helps remind them about the course, calms anxieties for some students, opens communication, and prompts others to do the tasks they need to do to get ready. It is an important step in establishing the tone of the course and your online teaching persona.
This message should include vital information for the course without repeating your entire syllabus. Use this message to welcome students, establish a comfortable class environment, provide basic information to help students off on the right foot. Send it by email assuming students have not yet been to the course on the LMS. Use bullet points and headings to reduce text and make it easy to pick out the important information. Use other formatting judiciously, ensuring that you have not created an overly busy document by using bolding, underlining or italicizing everywhere to stress information.
Some instructors use video for their welcome messages. Remember our "Preflight Check" theme? Actually the airline greeting and safety message is a useful example of the creativity that is possible when you move from the constraints of a live performance to recording technology. Nowadays, it doesn't take much equipment or tech savvy to record and upload a video. It's possible to stick with the standard messaging by text-only email: "Please place your tray tables in their locked and upright positions, etc. etc." Or you can branch out like these airlines did http://mentalfloss.com/article/67178/11-creative-flight-safety-videos-around-world. May they be an inspiration to your own creative take on the standard welcome message!
Here are some recommended sections to include in your message.
Vital Course Information
This is the first opportunity you as the instructor have to address what the course is about. At the top, repeat the course number, course name, and CRN. Consider including the overall structure information of the course, including any synchronous or face-to-face time that is required. Briefly describe the course and address any common misconceptions. Encourage them to see the message as more than a courtesy but as an important summary of what they need to know (so they should read the whole thing).
- About you Be sure to include your name and a brief introduction to you including your availability and best ways to reach you.
- Book(s)/ Materials Information Inform students of the course materials they need. Students may be able to purchase course materials in multiple ways. If specific versions of books or software are needed, explain that here. Be specific in your message where students can purchase it. For instance, the book or course packet is only available at the campus bookstore. It is recommended to provide both the 10 and 13 digit ISBN. You can also include a thumbnail photo of the book or item to help students visually identify the right choice. Provide the students information about when the materials are needed (e.g.,. first day or by 2nd week of class). This allows students to plan accordingly.
Give students proper information about the course. Keep instructions basic and try to include all steps! Logistics may include how they access the course the first time, how the course is delivered, including any special items--this might include a requirement to log in on the first day, a requirement to meet with the professor face-to-face or take exams on campus, or any other logistics that the student may need to remember. Logistics may include:
- Delivery Method: State and explain the delivery method of the course. (e.g., F2F, Blended, Online) It may have been some time since the students registered for courses.
- Location: If your course meets face-to-face, include a map to the building. Student may not be familiar with campus (especially if your discipline accepts a large number of transfer students).
- How/When to access: If the course utilizes a Learning Management System (LMS), provide the steps to reach the LMS login page if possible, as well as the login information and when the course will be available.
- Where to go for help: The role of the instructor is not to provide technical support. Point the students to the correct technical support resources and hold the students accountable for knowing how to access the course online.
- Course time commitment/logistics: you may wish to include here the time commitment expected from students to complete the course activities, as well as reminding them of the length/dates of the course from beginning to end, and any course routines that may help them know what to expect (e.g., an announcement will be sent every Monday that provides the assignments for the week; Discussion forums are due each Thursday, etc.).
- Online readiness information: Consider including tools that allow the student to assess online readiness. This may include the freely available OEI online readiness modules, or it may simply be a list or handout related to student readiness for online learning. See below for more resources.
By sending a message before the course beings, you open a communication channel and help build community in your course. Students have the ability to ask questions about your message in addition to their own concerns. Addressing questions of this nature before the course allows students to adjust their personal/work schedule or reconsider taking the course at this particular time. Be sure to include any info you want about your protocols for communication: when and how are you available? What time frame can students expect to wait until they hear back from you? Repeat your contact information.
Welcome Message Examples
- Annotated welcome message for fully online Nutrition and Foods 10 course
- Welcome message for hybrid Java course CISP21
- Welcome Message to fully online course EME2040 University of Central Florida - Mr. John Raible
- Welcome message to hybrid course University of Central Florida - Mr. John Raible
These are just a few of the sample welcome videos out there. Think about how much more this tells students about the tone of the course and the professor. Please note that videos do need a transcript or captions to make them accessible to all students. These may replace or supplement the written message.
- Nursing Video Script is a sample script for a welcome video. Here is the Video for Women's Health Issues NSP 4425 from the University of Central Florida - Dr. Susan Ricci
- Video script sample and video from Music 4932 course at the University of Central Florida - Dr. Nora Lee Garcia
- Intro to Public Speaking at University of Washington by Matt McGarrity
- Welcome to Information Literacy Course at Rappahannock Community College by Michael Greene
Learning Resources for Welcome Videos and multimedia
If you would like to create welcome videos and other multimedia for your course, consider this or other Lynda.com courses that are freelyavailable through Mt. SAC.
- Creating Multimedia Learning: https://www.lynda.com/Education-Elearning-Classroom-Management-tutorials/What-multimedia/360033/385438-4.html
Simply go to the Mt. SAC portal and log in with your Mt. SAC credentials. Under the "Employees" tab, you will find a link to Lynda.com. Here you will find courses of different lengths and for different levels. There are many topics on the design and technological aspects of making videos and other multimedia for courses.