The Online Teaching Welcome Mat: Energizing Learners with Animoto

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Starting a new online class is often a stressful, nerve-racking experience for students.  This anxiety can challenge a student’s early success in a class during that first week, as they are managing financial aid, purchasing materials, getting familiar with course expectations and instructor requirements, and getting socially connected to their peers and instructor.

As I prepare to teach an online class, I think a lot about the overall appearance of my course and the first impression it will have on my students when they first log in. Is the navigation lucid?  Are the links active? Are the dates current? But beyond the course design mechanics, I also think about the visual aesthetics of the course and how I can leverage the potential of images and video to create a positive social experience. There are some things that text on a screen just cannot deliver.

The first time a student logs into my online class, I want them to know that I’m an online instructor who cares about my students. I want them to know that I love to teach online. I want them to know that they are going to experience an engaging class. Most importantly, I want to comfort their nerves and pique their interest in our course objectives. I want to lay out the virtual welcome mat with a little fun.

So, I created this video:

Fostering Social Presence Online

When you watched the video, you noticed brief snippets of “me” in the form of 10-second videos.  The introduction of very brief video recordings of myself  empowers me to weave my social presence into the welcome video. Social presence is essential to online students’ success. When we teach in a face-to-face classroom, we clearly don’t think about fostering our presence because we are, uh, present. But online, our presence isn’t magically cultivated. And text-based communications will certainly deliver a degree of presence to your students, but they are not going to convey who you are or convey your passion and energy for teaching as effectively and as quickly as video will. And if you can successfully convey those two things to your online students the first time they log in, you will make an impact. You will begin to soothe your students’ nerves and get them energized to learn.

But… How’d You Do That?

Making the video was simple! I used Animoto.com. Animoto offers free Plus accounts for educators, which means you can create unlimited full-length videos for up to six months. Also, Animoto will provide you with a special code that you may share with 50 of your students and they, too, may create education accounts and create videos for free! Pretty awesome, Animoto!  Sign up here.

Animoto is extremely easy to use and will make anyone look like a video editing pro — really, I promise!  Simply upload your files (and/or choose from their royalty free image/video collection), drag the media files into your preferred order, select a style for your video, choose a song from their library, and then let Animoto know when you’re ready and it will mix your video for you!  Oh, one more thing — the simple white text over the black background can be easily added within Animoto.  This is a very clean and easy way to incorporate course objectives into your welcome video.

A few things about the video clips used within my video.  They must be no longer than 10-seconds each, so forget about lecturing! Keep it simple! I recorded mine my webcam using Quicktime. I simply saved the files to my desktop and then uploaded them directly into Animoto. Click here for more details about video file formats and other criteria.

After just a few minutes, your video will be produced and you will be alerted via email.  Then you will you have your impressive masterpiece which you may share directly to your YouTube account (where you could add captions to make it ADA compliant), grab the embed code from Animoto and embed the video directly in your course management system, or download it to your computer.

Integrating the Video Into Your Course — Placement is Key!

Depending on the tool(s) you use to teach your course, you may have the option to embed the video directly onto the entry page for your course.  Of course, this is the most effective placement to ensure students are “greeted” with the video upon their first entrance.  For example, in Blackboard, the video may be embedded into an Announcement and when the Announcements page is set as the course entrance point, students would see the video embedded at the top of your most recent announcement, which is how I integrated it into the course, see screenshot below.
BBWelcomeVideo

Other Uses for Animoto in Class

Animoto has lots of great uses in teaching!

Have you used Animoto? What do you think?

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