Making a First Impression With Your Introduction Videos

Steven R. Crawford, Ed.D.

first impressions on movie clapper

We know that it is important to make a positive first impression with our students and when teaching an online course, we need to make sure that we are intentionally delivering that impression. This first impression will help us establish our “presence” in the course and the use of video can help us do that.

Role of Instructor and Course Introductions

The Community of Inquiry Framework is comprised of three components: 

  1. Cognitive presence
  2. Teaching presence
  3. Social presence 

Garrison and Arbaugh (2007) describe cognitive presence as the ability to encourage critical thinking, teaching presence as how a course is structured and facilitated, and social presence as the ability to establish open communications. Through research on this framework, social presence can be further defined in the terms of “participants identifying with the community, communicating purposefully in a trusting environment, and developing interpersonal relationships.” (Garrison, Anderson, and Archer, 2010)

During the first week of an online course, students are looking for cues about the course and will look at available resources to establish an opinion of the instructor, the course, and what to expect. (Dennen, 2007) As for how to communicate, Borup, West, and Graham (2011) identified that video is more effective than text for communicating personality to students. While it may be tempting to provide a voice-over slide presentation instead of a video, studies show that the presence of the instructor on screen can lead to a higher level of instructor presence (Wang and Antonenko, 2017; Wang, Antonenko, and Dawson, 2020).

Course and Personal Introduction Video Content

A dedicated course introduction video can help you meet several QM Specific Review Standards (SRS) while also improving your connection to students during this critical first week. Your course introduction video is a great opportunity to explain the purpose of the course as guided by SRS 1.2. While some of this information will also be included in your course syllabus, this is an opportunity for you to provide additional information in a way that shows your enthusiasm for the topic. You will want to allow your passion for the topic to come through in both your voice, body language, and any visuals that might be appropriate.

When creating a personal introductory video, SRS 1.8 suggests we share a bit of ourselves with our students. This is an opportunity for us to provide some background information about who we are, such as our professional and personal background, our hobbies, interests, etc. When planning these videos, we need to consider what we will be asking our students to share when they introduce themselves as guided by SRS 1.9 so that we can model the way for our students. 

Video Production Tips

If you have never created a video for your course, an introductory video is a great choice for learning how to create a video. There are several things to consider before beginning your video, including equipment. If you already have access to everything you need, you’ll only need to be mindful of a few technical things to be successful.

Personal Video Equipment and Setup

Camera: The first thing you need is a camera that records high-definition video. These types of cameras are built into most laptops and mobile devices. You may come across numbers like 1080p or 4K. These numbers refer to the amount of “lines” or vertical pixels. While 4K is a higher resolution than 1080p, 1080p is the most common video resolution for the type of video we are creating.

Microphone: The next thing you need is a microphone. Again, most of our laptops and mobile devices have a built-in microphone, but we have to be careful about the quality of the microphone. The clarity and quality of the audio that the microphone detects can be impacted by noise that is generated by the hum of lights, air handlers, and our computer. Another factor that affects sound quality is related to our distance to the microphone. We might be hard to hear because the microphone can barely pick up our voice, our voice is echoing off the walls, and other environmental sounds such as dogs barking and hallway conversations. If you are outside, the microphone could pick up wind noises as well. Your built-in microphone may work but you will want to experiment with the microphone before recording. If you discover that your microphone will not be sufficient, you may already own an alternative such as a headset with a microphone or you may have a set of earbuds for your phone with a microphone attached to it. 

Lighting: The last item you need to consider is lighting. Make sure you minimize the number of light sources that are behind you as this can potentially cause you to look like a dark silhouette on screen. To prevent this, you want your primary light source, such as your desk lamp, window, and sunlight, behind your camera so that it is shining on you from an angle. Having two light sources at opposite angles behind the camera can help reduce odd shadows on your face. Also, do not rely on your computer monitor as a light source as it can make you look bluish or another color.

Technique and Approach to Recording

Be prepared: When recording a video, know what you are going to say before beginning to record. Some people prefer to write down only a few thoughts and then try to record based on this list. However, this can lead to videos that are longer than intended. I have found it easier to script things out ahead of time and practice before recording. This approach also helps you record your introductory video in a single attempt, thus reducing the need to extensively edit your video. Additionally, it makes it easier to provide a transcript. 

Get in position: Another question is how should you position yourself within the video. In other words, do you just show your face, from the shoulders and above, or your entire upper body? It’s best to avoid being too close to the camera where only your face is visible as this might feel too close to your students viewing the video. If you have a lot of hand motions when speaking, you want to show your entire upper body so that your hands will be visible most of the time. Regardless of body positioning, position the camera so that you are centered within the frame unless you are using a specific stylistic approach. Finally, make sure the camera is on the same level as your nose or slightly above as this will provide a more flattering view.

Look at the camera: You also want to look directly at the camera, not at your script that might be to the side or below the camera, nor your viewscreen where you see yourself. By looking directly at the camera, you are looking directly at your students. When your eyes shift just a little bit in any direction, it can look like you are looking beyond your students. While it is natural to look away from the camera from time to time, if you do this too often it can be very distracting to your audience. 

Take a pause: After you start recording, make sure you pause and look at the camera for at least a three-count before speaking and when you are finished, look at the camera for another three-count before stopping the camera. This pause before and after your recording allows you to easily trim the video by providing a clear gap that you can cut later.

Call to Action

If your institution has a video studio available for you to use for these types of videos, you may want to avoid using it for your introduction videos. Lomonte (2019) compared course introduction videos that were produced in a studio with those that were produced in the faculty member’s office using a similar approach and basic equipment that I have outlined above. She found that students preferred the DIY approach and that they had a more positive impression of the faculty member. While these findings were not statistically significant, it does help show that following best practices regardless of the setting and production techniques are important.

I would like to challenge you to create course and personal introductory videos that are about five minutes long for your course using these techniques to help meet SRS 1.2 and 1.8.

References 

Borup, J., West, R. E., Graham, C. R. (2011). Improving online social presence through asynchronous video. Internet and Higher Education, 15(3). 195-203. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.11.001 

Dennen, V. P. (2007). Presence and positioning as components of online instructor persona. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 40(1), 95-108. https://doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2007.10782499 

Garrison, D. R., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2007). Researching the Community of Inquiry Framework: Review, issues, and future directions. The Internet and Higher Education, 10(3), 157-172. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2007.04.001 

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2010). The first decade of the community of inquiry framework: A retrospective. The Internet and Higher Education, 13(1-2), 5-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.10.003

Lomonte, C. (2019). Producing positive perceptions: Effects of video production in instructor introduction videos on student perceptions (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://repository.asu.edu/items/53577 

Wang, J. & Antonenko, P. D. (2017). Instructor presence in instructional video: Effects on visual attention, recall, and perceived learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 71. 79-89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.01.049 

Wang, J., Antonenko, P., & Dawson, K. (2020). Does visual attention to the instructor in online video affect learning and learner perceptions? An eye-tracking analysis. Computers & Education, 146. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2019.103779

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