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My Experience

At a former institution I taught a Freshman Experience course year after year and had a fabulous time. In particular, I found great fulfillment in the deep connections I formed with my students both in and out of class. However, when I taught online for the first time I struggled with creating this same time of relationship. Like many novice online instructors I missed the physical presence and non-verbal cues of my students. Many of my online students also expressed anxiety about the perceived lack of instructor humanity in a distance education environment. After getting this feedback very early in the semester I developed a variety of techniques to increase my social presence in the course. Today I’d like to highlight one of these techniques: weekly update videos.


So what is a weekly update video? Check out these three examples for divergent takes on the genre: 


As you can see these types of videos take several forms – and most update videos combine several tasks. These tasks could include course housekeeping, added-value personal narratives, mini-lectures, demonstrations, recognition of outstanding work, and much, much more. Personally, I used my own weekly videos as a way to tie my own personal experiences to the course content. This approach helped tremendously in creating rapport with my students. 

A Few Tips: Creation and Distribution

If you decide to create weekly (or bi-weekly or monthly) videos for your students consider the following points:

  • Think about your setting: How does the design of your physical background affect the tone of your video? Could you do anything minor to improve your lighting? Are there any ambient noises in your environment that could be distracting/soothing/invigorating to your viewers? How would changing the physical setting of your videos affect your message?
  • Think about your physical appearance: What effect does your clothing style have on student perceptions? Does this matter? What would happen if you changed the way that you looked within or between videos?
  • Think about your technology: What will you use to record your videos? What limitations or advantages does this technology have?
  • Think about distribution: How will you get your videos to your students? Where will you host them? Could you host them on Kaltura? How will you get your videos to your students? Could you post them on the News tool in Brightspace?

The End

So how did my story end? Well, i received several kind emails and end of course evaluations related to my use of update videos. In particular, I remember one student writing “Thank you for the videos – I feel like you really are a real human instead of a machine!”. In general, students commented positively on 1) my use of informal camera techniques (like filming myself while walking), 2) using a wide variety of settings, 3) changing up levels of formality in my clothing choices, and 4) my practice of sharing details of my personal life and experiences related to the course content. On my end I feel that students were more likely to come to me with course issues because I appeared on camera as a full human being.

If you need help in creating weekly update videos don’t hesitate to visit the CII! We can provide several types of assistance in this area including equipment, technical guidance, and pedagogical expertise.