Welcome Videos to Build Community

Welcome Videos to Build Community

Spring 2021
UMass Amherst Center for Teaching and Learning
Elizabeth Porto
Area of Study
Business Communication
Email Address

Many of you have adopted a best practice for remote teaching of having students create brief videos introducing themselves to the class members. While we know this can help humanize the online classroom and build community (Darby & Lang, 2019), we decided to dig a little deeper into the how and why of these videos and get some new fresh ideas for the new semester from faculty member Elizabeth Porto, Senior Lecturer II in the Business Communication Program.


What are your goals in having students create introductory videos?

I have a few goals. First, I use the introductory videos as a way to give students practice with important professional skills. I teach management communications, and it’s important in our field that students know how to introduce themselves personally and professionally. Isenberg students have to develop an elevator pitch in their first year, and this is basically another version of it.


So much in business is about how you introduce yourself and realizing that with any communication you are projecting an image of yourself and the organization that you represent. This requires self-awareness of yourself as a communicator, and knowing your audience, purpose, and the context in which you are speaking. This first assignment of creating an introductory video is a way to have students immediately practice those skills.


Second, it’s an important part of building community that students know who is in the class. I’ve found that it can be really hard for some students to introduce themselves on the first day and difficult for everyone to remember what has been said. Also, some students miss the first day and then miss out on those introductions. Having students record videos on their own time allows them to take more time with it and add creative or personal touches. I then show four or five of the videos at the beginning of each class for the first few weeks.


Why did you choose to use class time to show each students’ introductory videos?

It spreads the introductions out over the first few weeks and makes it easier for everyone to remember what was said. I’ve been doing this since before we went remote, and I’ve found that students often remember the details from each other’s videos, in a way that they wouldn’t if we just went around in a circle saying our names and telling the class a few facts about ourselves. In my midterm assessments and final course evaluations students have commented that they like the feeling of community in the class, and I believe the videos help set that in motion. Also, students who enroll late can participate too, so others don’t miss their introductions. The videos are only one minute long, so it only takes about five minutes of each class and sets a nice tone for the day. I have about 24 students, so this is feasible for me.


What kind of guidelines do you give students about the videos?

On the first day, I show the class my introductory video so that they see an example of what I want. The guidelines are straightforward: their video can’t be any longer than a minute; they must introduce themselves personally and professionally; it must include both images and voiceover narration—including video is optional; and they need to use a specific free online tool to create the video. I emphasize that they do not have to share personal photographs (although most choose to do so), as its critical that students do not feel forced to disclose more personal information than they feel comfortable sharing. They can use images from the web—which then becomes an opportunity to show them how to properly use images that are not their own. They also see that my video is pretty simple, which helps them not feel intimidated by the assignment.


I give students full points if their videos are turned in on time and meet the guidelines. I don’t grade them on content because I want them to feel free to be creative on this assignment. If they have technical problems, I grant them extensions, which is easy to do given that the videos are shown in class over the first few weeks. Lastly, I don’t give them guidelines on how to use the technology as I want them to learn by doing, but other professors might find it appropriate to provide students with links to existing online tutorials (see below for UMass resources if you need assistance with video creation tools for students).


What are your next steps?

Equity and inclusion are very important to me. Although I think this assignment helps build an inclusive learning environment, I want to make this even more accessible to all students. I am looking into how best to caption these videos and whether that’s something that students can do themselves.


To talk more with Professor Porto about her course, email her at eporto@isenberg.umass.edu



Darby, F., & Lang, J. M. (2019). Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes. Jossey-Bass.

See online instructor Michael Wesch’s introductory video included in the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) Online Teaching Toolkit.

For technical assistance with video creation, contact the Digital Media Lab at dml@library.umass.edu

For an asynchronous option, check out how UMass supported VoiceThread can allow commenting on student videos with this example from Duke University.