Show the human - using introductions

Using introductory talk channel posts to show facilitator presence.

Caitlin Foran avatar
Written by Caitlin Foran
Updated over a week ago

If you're here, you'll know that facilitator presence is important in online learning and you're ready to start looking at how to do it. One of the first steps is to show other humans (learners) that you too are a human. 

Of course as a facilitator, it’s a bit more nuanced than just showing you're human. You'll probably also want learners to know about you and how you'll be able to help them. There may well be loads of other things you want to show about who you are. For us, we've decided to focus on how to show learners you’re passionate, credible and relatable.

We’ve got two easy ways to do that:

  1. Through introductions

This article covers only introductions. Follow the link above to read about how to do this through profiles.

Introductions

Why have introductions if I’ve got my profile?

When you’re starting a course with a new group of learners, having a collection of introductions in one easy-to-read-through place is really useful. The talk channels (or in-page discussions) are best for this.

Although many learners will check out your (and other’s) profiles, not everyone will. Profiles are typically great for people to duck into when they start working or discussing with someone to remind themselves about the person. But reading through everyone's profiles is generally not the first thing learners will do when they start a course. 

Your bio also has to be broad enough to cover all the courses you look after. Whereas your introduction for a course can be a little more specific or cover things related to that particular course.

If you haven't filled out your profile yet and want to know what you could include, check out Show the human using profiles.

What should I say in mine?

Generally introductions include your background and interests as they pertain to this particular course.

You might want learners to know you’re:

  • Here to help – What you’re here to do and how you’ll help them through the course (your role).

  • Passionate – Why you think your subject (or teaching your subject) is the best thing since sliced bread.

  • Credible – How your background relates to the course.

  • Relatable – A facilitator, but also a human.

  • Contactable – When and how it’s best to get in touch.

Here's an example introduction:

Hello,

I’m Caitlin, your facilitator for this course. 

As your facilitator I’ll be sending out weekly messages to say what you should be completing, checking in on progress, marking key activities and assessment and giving you feedback for them, guiding our group discussions. But really I’m just here to help you learn and succeed.

I used to be a high school science teacher and began my journey into learning technology with just a few online revision programmes. From there I branched into designing for online, distance education while completing my Masters in Digital Education. I think learning technologies have so much to offer traditional education systems – it’s all about finding the right tools and the right blend. 

In my personal life I actually tend to disconnect from technology and spend my time outdoors, especially in the garden. Though I have found that technology can be a real help there too (thanks automated watering systems and planting reminders!).

As I mentioned above, I’m here to help. So, the best way to contact me is either through the talk channels or by email: caitlin@example.com. I check both daily, but typically respond to all queries from the day in the afternoons.

What should I ask learners to say in theirs?

When thinking about what to ask learners to put in their introductions, think about why we do introductions. 

In the first instance, it’s often to help them make connections to other learners. For instance, if you’re at an event your friend is introducing you to someone new, they’ll often include some information to help the two new people find some common ground – “Kai, this is Caitlin. Caitlin does a lot in online learning. Caitlin, Kai works in Human Resources and helps put together the training for his staff”. In this example, our host was finding the common ground of education. So, think about what would help common ground for your learners. It could be:

  • their background or interest in the subject

  • the fact that they’re all studying part-time

  • jobs/skills they’re likely to have.

In the second instance, you want to make sure you’re showing learners that this learning space is for them too. They have a voice. And we want to hear it. So, think about including some questions that could allow them to show who they are. For instance:

  • their hobbies/interests

  • important people/places/things in their lives

  • their goals and aspirations or specifically, what they hope to achieve through completing this course.

Lastly, you might also want to learn a bit about the learners to support your teaching. This might include questions about:

  • how they go about learning/studying

  • where they’re based geographically (useful for regional groups/meet ups)

  • what they already know about the subject

  • what they want to know about the subject.

Of course, as with the bio, asking learners to write about all of these can be way too much. Instead, choose two-four as suggestions for your learners.

What if I’m bored of introductions?

Although the profile and introductions serve somewhat different purposes, you can see there is some overlap between them. For this reason, facilitators often look to other forms of introductions or icebreakers to help learners get to know them (and one another). 

We’ll have an article just on options for icebreakers coming your way soon.

In summary

Introductions are a great first step to show your presence in the online world. And, it’s also a great way for learners to have a voice, feel included and important.

If you’re unsure, start small – just a name and where you’re from. Then next time you start with a new class, come back to this article and choose one more bullet point to include. It doesn’t have to be too serious. Remember a big aim for introductions is to humanise the online space. Show learners the human helping them to learn. Get learners to show the human trying to learn.

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