Simple Methods for Creating Video Welcomes and Bios

One of the best ways to build rapport with students is through a video welcome or bio. Videos capture our attention. Videos also humanize us to others and help kick off the teaching relationship.

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One of the best ways to build rapport with students is through a video welcome or bio. Videos capture our attention. Videos also humanize us to others and help kick off the teaching relationship.

Topics and formats

There are two basic topics of a video welcome—the class and you, the instructor. You might want to do a separate video for each. The first might introduce the class—what it is about, why it is important, and your expectations of students. The second could introduce yourself—your hobbies, why you became a teacher, and anything else that the students might find interesting (e.g., you were a roadie for Guns and Roses).

There are two basic video formats: webcam and digital storytelling. The webcam format is simply a shot of yourself speaking to the camera with your webcam, whereas a digital storytelling format uses images with voice narration. You might want to do one of each. A webcam shot could be more appropriate for a course welcome, as there is not much in the course content that is visual, whereas a digital story might be more appropriate for a bio, since you can use images of the places and things you discuss.


A webcam shot is potentially the easiest and quickest way to make a video. You simply turn on your webcam, start talking, and post the results on a hosting site like YouTube or Google Drive. Humans are genetically attuned to faces and human speech since that is the only way we communicated for 99.9% of our evolution, so a live shot will grab your audience's attention much better than text. Take a look at this example:

The drawback, though, is that you will likely need to do multiple takes before you get a clean version. This means that you should make your webcam shoots short—five minutes at most. If you want to cover content that takes longer than five minutes, you can break it into multiple shoots that you stitch together with transitions using a video editor like the one described below. You can also shoot the videos at different locations, like your office, living room, and kitchen, and then stich them together, which makes the breaks more natural since you are not trying to create a seamless sequence.

With a live shoot you also have to worry about lighting, which can be tricky. Plus, while the microphones on a webcam are surprisingly good, they are not as good as a headset microphone, so the sound quality is usually not as high as with the digital biography format. Take a look at this brief tutorial with hints on how to shoot a webcam video:

The most important thing to remember when shooting a webcam video is to not drain all the life out of your face and voice. Don't read from a script in a monotone. Speak off the top of your head with enthusiasm, as if the person you are speaking to is right in front of you and you want to motivate them to take interest in your course, which you do. Digital biography

The digital storytelling method can take longer than the webcam method, but the results are easier to control. There is also no acting involved, which is a relief to the acting-adverse, and there are no reshoots to cause frustration. Digital stories allow for quite a bit more creativity than webcams because you can use images to illustrate your message. Here is an example of a digital storytelling bio:

When creating a digital story, always start by recording the narration, since narration provides pacing. You will tell your story through the narration and then sync the images to it. Audacity is an excellent free, open-source sound recording and editing tool for recording and your narration. See this tutorial on how to record with Audacity:

Once you have your narration, you will add the images with a video editor. One excellent option is WeVideo, a very simple, intuitive, online video creation system. A nice feature is that it allows you to perform all three steps of the creation process in one place: record narration, add the images, and upload the results to the hosting site. Take a look at this tutorial on how to use WeVideo:

Here are two important tips for making a digital biography:

Use images, not bullet points. The fundamental rule of visuals, whether in live presentations or videos, is “No bullet points, period.” Visuals are not for projecting your notes; they are for amplifying your message with imagery. If you are talking about your year spent in Antarctica, show a penguin, not a bullet point.

Focus on your personal biography, not your professional biography. Faculty tend to project their CVs when asked for a bio, but students are not interested in where their teachers went to school. Did you choose your college classes based on where your professors went to school? Going to an instructor's bio and getting CV information is like going to Dell's webpage to buy a computer and getting photos of the factories. Similarly, higher education tends to “show them the factory” rather than what the user wants. Instead, talk about your personal life and interests. If you do mention your professional experiences, weave them into a context that makes them relevant to your students, such as why you got interested in your subject in the first place.