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How To Make the Most of a Video Introduction for an Online Course

From an instructor's perspective, there is a great deal of thought that goes into the creation of a new course in Moodle — everything from the template and color scheme to the best way to relay contact information, and whether to use weeks or topics to separate time. One of the most important considerations, however, might also be one of the most overlooked: How do you greet the students?

To put in perspective the importance of this, consider an example involving a traditional classroom. When an adjunct faculty member greets a class for the first time and fumbles through their introduction or says they have never taught before, the potential is there for it to skew the students' opinions of the content being presented. Popular culture tells us that we make snap judgments and decisions all the time based on first impressions and those aren't always favorable.

Now imagine that the classroom is an LMS and the feedback that a good instructor would be able to respond to when standing in front of a group of students is removed from the situation. The potential for a student to have a bad first impression, and for it to skew the semester, is now amplified. To head this off, consider adding a video introduction to the course as the very first thing a student must see when enrolling and make it as compelling as you can.

First Impressions
In a previous study attempting to measure the results associated with first impressions (Dulaney, 2013), a series of videos on ethics was created and shown to different traditional format cohorts. In the opening of the first version (referenced as "1A"), the narrator stated that she had "no real world experience" and that "... just a year ago, I was sitting where you are..." while a caption appeared on the video identifying her as a student. In the second version of the video (referenced as "1B"), she instead identified herself in the opening sequence as being "fascinated by ethics" and "pursuing a business venture based on extensive research" in ethics while the caption identified her not as a student, but as an "Ethicist".

Half of the cohorts saw the 1A version of the video the first night, followed by two other videos on respective nights. The other cohorts watched the 1B version of the video the first night, followed by the exact same second and third videos on their respective nights. Immediately after watching each of the three videos, students filled out a short survey evaluating what they had just seen.

By the time the third video came around, there was statistical significance found for five of the eight scale items using independent-sample t-test. Over time, the groups watching the no-experience videos went up in median scores while the group watching the experienced videos went down. In other words, it could be implied that it took time for the content of the videos to win over the audience when that audience thought the content was coming from someone without the appropriate qualifications.

Extending this to Online
In an attempt to measure the impact of a video introduction as a component of an online course, Amber Mathern conducted a study that compared course evaluations when the instructor provided an introduction video, and when the instructor did not. Participants included students from the undergraduate Organizational Behavior course at the Tharaldson School of Business at University of Mary at Bismarck, North Dakota. The results showed that the students in the course with the introduction video initially (during the first two weeks of the course) contributed more often to the weekly discussion boards, and the end of course evaluations were more positive.

In the study, students who did not have access to an introductory video responded 80 percent to 83 percent positive for survey questions pertaining to the instructor. Students who did have an introductory video responded 100 percent positive toward questions pertaining to the instructor. The latter set of students responded on average 6 percent more and had approximately 20 percent more postings per student than the former.

This builds upon findings from previous studies — one of which had half the students told ahead of time that a guest lecturer had a "warm" personality and the other half being told that the guest lecturer had a rather "cold" personality (Widmeyer & Loy, 1988). The subjects were exposed to the exact same lecture and those who had been led to believe the lecturer had a "warm" personality viewed him as a more effective teacher than those students who were led to believe he had a "cold" personality.

Russo & Campbell (2004) found that students liked seeing a photo of the instructor and hearing the instructor's voice. They felt this gave them a stronger connection to the instructor's presence. Another group of researchers (Jones, Naugle, & Kolloff, 2008) found that students appreciated the opportunity to meet the instructor "virtually" before the course started. The students from this study perceived the introduction video as a relationship forming from the beginning of the course which they identified as having a direct impact on their progress in the course.

Content To Cover
Since the goal of the video is to welcome the students to the course and create a good first impression, it is recommended that you craft the content carefully. As with any video, lighting and audio/video quality are important, but here it is equally imperative that you come across as warm, approachable and genuine. Without too much work, you can make it generic enough that the same video can be used to accompany each course you teach. This can be accomplished by saying "welcome to the course" as opposed to "welcome to principles of marketing," for example, and giving the year you started teaching at the institution as opposed to the number of years it has been.

The following is a sample script to use as a building block. Be sure to add to it information relevant to you and the courses you teach:

Hi, I'm Dr. (so and so) and I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome you to this course.

I have been teaching at (whichever) University since (a year), and I always look forward to the beginning of a new semester. Regardless of how well you have or have not done in previous semesters, it seems like every new one — and the new courses that go with it — provide for a fresh start. As great as that is, sometimes it can also be a little intimidating: You have to learn a new topic from a new instructor in a new format and so on. I want you to know that you are not alone in this journey. I am here and I'm available to help.

My contact information is in the syllabus as well as at the top of the course information in Moodle. You'll find that one of the best things you can do when you have a problem is seek help. If you were in a traditional classroom, you'd undoubtedly raise your hand if you had a problem and you should do the same here.

Lastly, I know that there are a lot of choices today when it comes to education. Those choices include different schools, different courses, and even different instructors. Your choices led you here and I want to thank you for that. Working together, we can have a great semester. I know I am looking forward to it, and I hope you are, too.

Posting the Video
When using an introductory course video, there are a number of ways to make it available in the LMS. If you want the video to be an optional component that students can choose to watch or ignore, it can be posted in Moodle, for example, as a label or as a link.

If you want it to be something that they have to watch, however, then it should be posted as a SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) object and set the Grade Method to Learning Objects. This records only 0 (not watched) or 1 (watched) values and is explained in greater detail in one of our previous posts, available on

Studies point to an introductory course video from the instructor welcoming students as being able to cause shifts in course evaluations and discussion postings. For that reason, instructors should consider creating short videos greeting the students and posting them as the first item seen when enrolling in a Moodle course.

Dulaney, E. (2013). Does the Credibility of the Presenter Influence Acceptance of Content in the Classroom. American International Journal of Social Science, 2(4), 14-20.

Jones, P., Naugle, K., & Kolloff, M. (2008). Teacher presence: Using introductory videos in hybrid and online courses. Learning Solutions. Retrieved on March 26, 2014 from

Russo, T. C., & Campbell, S. W. (2004). Perceptions of mediated presence in an asynchronous online course: Interplay of communication behaviors and medium. Distance Education, 25(2), 215 — 232.

Widmeyer, W. N. & Loy, J. W. (1988). When you're hot, you're hot! Warm-cold effects in first impressions of persons and teaching effectiveness. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(1), 118-121.

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