Instructors of traditional courses that meet face-to-face can introduce themselves to students personally, providing a sense of their unique background, perspective, and teaching style. One way for instructors in online programs to accomplish this same goal is to post a brief, personalized "meet the instructor" video in an online course at the beginning of the term. The Faculty Multimedia Center (FMC), a service of Information Technology Services, maintains a studio Penn State instructors can use to tape such course-related videos.
This past July, five instructors in the new Master in Geographic Information Systems program used FMC studio facilities to tape one- to two-minute videos to introduce themselves to students. The online master's program, offered through World Campus, was developed at the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute, a unit of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Each instructor was taped in front of a blank green screen, after which backdrops would be superimposed on the videos in place of the green screen to make it appear as if the instructor were on-scene in various locales. The participants were David DiBiase, who heads the program, David OÕSullivan, Todd Bacastow, James Detwiler, and Robert Murray.
For this particular use of the FMC studio, Eric Spielvogel, e-Education Institute instructional designer, shot the video, while monitoring the result on a laptop using iMovie software. However, FMC staff are available to run the studio equipment for instructors lacking the expertise to do so themselves.
The five instructors each took a different approach to personalizing their video. One spoke informally about how he got into the field and about his family and travels. One structured his remarks around a handful of props he held up to the camera, including a piece of the Berlin Wall. Another sported 3D glasses, which the students will be using during the course. A common theme was letting the students know that their instructor was a real person who was looking forward to interacting with them.
At the time of the videotaping, none of the five instructors had finalized which backdrops to select for the final video. Spielvogel said possibilities included a location the instructor had once lived in or was going to-for example, one instructor was headed to New Zealand, a database, an exhibit from a course, or a location at which field work is being conducted. Spielvogel has produced one previous introduction video for a faculty member, in which seven different backdrops were used, including a lounge chair on the beach, the Cambridge quad, and a microscopic view of quartz. He said that it is ideal if the person being videotaped knows what the backdrop(s) will be in advance. He or she can then refer to what is being shown.
Spielvogel said that these introduction videos "serve to humanize you in an online course." Ann Luck, senior instructional designer and instructor with the program, reiterated, "This is a way of helping to bridge the distance between the faculty and the students. By incorporating this kind of introduction video at the beginning of the course, it really sets the stage. It lets the students get to know who their faculty member is, and feel like they have a bit more of a personal connection with them. Then, when they're reading e-mail or posting to a message board, they can "hear" their instructor's voice and "see" them in their head, and I think that's very powerful."
Luck added, "The Faculty Multimedia Center is a great resource for us. It provides all the technical capabilities, the green screen, the lighting, the acoustics, and so forth. It's really nice to have that facility to use."
Any Penn State instructor may set up an appointment to use the FMC. Instructors of resident education courses may use the facility for free. To schedule an appointment with a FMC multimedia consultant, call 814-863-7051 or e-mail email@example.com. For more information, visit http://tlt.its.psu.edu/fmc/.