Here at iDocs, we talk a lot about social presence. We love social presence. Social presence is essentially the way instructors and students insert themselves as individual people into a course. This is more important than it may seem; courses with high social presence have more engaged students and higher retention.
One of the first ways instructors build their social presence is through instructor bios. This is a golden opportunity to connect with students before they even begin to access the course materials. Instructor bios come in many different forms. The most basic is a few paragraphs with some images placed on the page. Some instructors produce narrated slide shows about their backgrounds. Others do quick webcam recordings to introduce themselves. Some instructors include their bio as part of the Welcome Note, others have a page in the Course Information module dedicated to that.
What do students want to know about their instructor? First, they would like to know about their instructor’s professional background including where they earned their degrees, where they have taught or worked before, and where they are teaching/working now. What other courses do the instructors teach? Are they working professionals or a full time university professors? This is a great place to become established as subject matter experts.
Students are also interested in the personal details about their instructors. Where do they live? Do they have dogs or cats? (As always, pictures of pets are a big hit.) Do they knit? Are they Olympic table tennis champions? Did they just climb Mt. Kilimanjaro? Are they published authors of steampunk mystery zombie thrillers? Students would like to learn anything that could help them make a personal connection, even if it’s not related to the course content.
Keep the information to an easily digestible amount, and have fun with it. And remember, as with almost everything, we encourage the use of multimedia.