The Class Welcome Message

Sending students a welcome message reminds them that the course is beginning and they are enrolled, calms anxieties for some students, opens communication, and prompts others to pay attention to the tasks they need to do to get on track as the term begins. It can also be an important step in establishing the tone of the course and beginning to build a human connection to your students.

A good welcome message should include vital information in a well-organized format for the student to know as the course begins without repeating your entire syllabus. Keep it simple: use the welcome message to target specific points students need to get off on the right foot. Even if you will meet in person, a welcome message can make it easier for students to understand your priorities for the start of the term and can also signal that this class will use Canvas as a supplement and enhancement to exchange information, provide documents, collect assignments, or offer feedback and grades. A few pointers for formatting your message:

  • No requirements can be made of students before the first official day of the semester, so anything sent prior to that should be presented as a courtesy rather than a mandate.
  • Use headings and bullet points to “chunk” the message and place similar information together to make it cognitively easier to skim and still get the main points.
  • Some formatting is good, but too much formatting–bold, italics or use of colors–can create a chaotic, overly busy document that is harder to read than if no emphasis were added at all.

How to Send: Email or Canvas?

Emailing the message may be the best approach because you can assume that students can access email but may not yet have accessed the LMS and may not yet know how to do so. This is also a way to reach waitlisted students who may not yet see the course in Canvas. You can email students from within the portal ( Faculty tab where your roster appears.

If you opt to email students from within your Canvas course, you can use either a course announcement or the Canvas inbox. Either way, enrolled students will receive a copy of the message in their email that links them to your course.

What’s the difference between “inbox” and “announcements” in Canvas?

Honestly, there are not a lot of differences. By default, once a course is published, you can send communications either way. Student notification settings are set to receive both types of messages in their Mt. SAC email by default. They can adjust these settings or add additional ways to receive inbox messages or announcements. Both will strip rich content (media, photos) when they transfer from Canvas to email but that content will still be in the message when viewed in Canvas.

What to Include

Make sure you provide useful basic information about the course in your message. Here are some good items to include:
  • Delivery Method: Is your class in-person, online, or hybrid? Remind students how they attend.
  • Location: If your course meets face-to-face, include a map to the building. Student may not be familiar with campus. If it is online, are there synchronous meetings? Where should they go to access the course?
  • How/When to access: If the course uses Canvas, provide them with info on how to get there.
  • Where to go for help: Include information that supports students, such as the Mountie Student Hub. By default, all students are enrolled in this support resource within Canvas. The course is also open so all Mt. SAC faculty and students from the global navigation menu.
  • Communications from You: Let students know your preferred method of communication and how long it may take for you to get back to them.
  • Course time commitment/logistics: you may wish to include here the time commitment expected from students to complete the course activities, as well as reminding them of the length/dates of the course from beginning to end, and any course routines that may help them know what to expect.

Useful Things to know about Sending Announcements in Canvas

Here are a few tips from experience about how Announcements in Canvas work to help you organize your materials for best success:
  • Canvas announcements and inbox messages strip out any rich content or attachments when they transfer from Canvas to land in students’ email inboxes, so efforts on beautifying messages with images are not very worthwhile. If you have content that is meaningful to the course (as opposed to decorative) use links to content within your course instead!
    • Place the content or document within a Canvas page.
    • Link that page in the announcement or inbox “conversation” message you send out
    • You can decide whether you want the file or page to also be available in Modules, or if the only path to the information is through your announcement.
  • Caption your video(s) and add alt text to photos. Both Canvas Studio and Screencast-o-matic (see below) have automated machine captioning options to make captions easier. If you need captions, use Mt. SAC’s captioning service, also linked under the help button in Canvas (for faculty and staff only).

Useful Info & Examples on the Mt. SAC Instruction page!

Example syllabus language and welcome message ideas can be found under the “Return to Campus information” tab on the Mt. SAC instruction page. This page also can keep you informed of changing circumstances and help you connect students with the most accurate information.
Use Cidi Labs? We have added suggested syllabus language to the Syllabus Blocks to make these recommended statements easy to adopt into your courses as a part of your syllabus.
Want to know more about using Cidi Labs? Check the Tools & Apps page in the Canvas Faculty Center to learn about Cidi Labs and all tools integrated into Mt. SAC’s Canvas.

Making a Welcome Video

At Mt. SAC, there are now several ways to make videos with tools integrated into Canvas. For this purpose, Canvas Studio (easiest) and Screencast-o-matic (more editing options) are good options.

Comparing Tools: Canvas Studio v. Screencast-o-matic

Both Screencast-o-matic and Canvas Studio use the exact same style of recorder but with different features and limitations. Read below to learn more about those differences.
  • you download the free recorder tool.
  • you must follow instructions on our Screencast-o-matic at Mt. SAC page to create your Mt. SAC account for premium tool access and access to your library within Canvas.
  • to access the video in Canvas, you must complete editing and captioning in the recorder tool, then opt to upload to the Screencast-o-matic Cloud. This cloud storage is connected within Canvas.
  • allows you to record screen (or whatever you put on your screen, such as a tour of your course or a set of PowerPoint slides), or a webcam, or both.
  • editing tools allow you to  add or remove the webcam inset view and the mouse activity for any part of the video.
  • allows you to enter a script and work in steps from that script to create a screencast
  • offers machine captions
  • offers more features in editing such as annotation and cropping, clipping or inserting other video than Canvas Studio.
  • more tools mean a bit more understanding in order to use the tools
  • no storage limits or video length limits (but we recommend keeping videos short!).
  • has a mobile app to record from one’s phone.
  • Videos can be embedded in any content field in Canvas or shared on web pages outside of Canvas.
  • you can see some basics about how many views but limited detail on video interaction data.
  • there is no tool to download
  • easy access from global navigation or within course navigation (Settings > Navigation>enable) or from the “plug” in the rich content editor or “External Tool” in Assignments.
  • similar recorder to Screencast-o-matic but with less options enabled for editing
  • simply click Record to start.
  • you can record your screen (or whatever you put on your screen, such as a tour of your course or a set of PowerPoint slides) or you can record from your webcam but not both at once.
  • limited annotation and editing tools.
  • from your Canvas Studio Library, you can add annotations or mulitple choice quiz questions within the video. When created in Assignments, it links to your Canvas gradebook.
  • you can enable comments and use as a Discussion. when used as an assignment
  • already stored in your Canvas account to share with any courses or share a public URL link outside of Canvas.
  • videos do not count against your course memory.
  • for videos you create, this tool has machine captioning and is simple to edit captions for accuracy.
  • Canvas Studio will show you easy-to-read analytics about who viewed your videos.

Welcome Video Examples

Here are a few welcome videos available on the open web for your consideration. If you view them, consider how much more this tells students about the tone of the course and the professor than they learn from text alone. Feel free to Google welcome videos for college courses to find more examples!

Other Orienting Tips from @ONE

There are many resources out there to help you get started and to give you ideas for your course. @ONE, or Online Network of Educators, is a community college systemwide resource for professional learning. Here are a few good resources from their collection. Feel free to check these our or go to the @ONE website to find more!

Still working through your course set up? 

You might find the 5-Day Challenge on Organizing Your Canvas Course from Online Network of Educators helpful.

Decrease student frustration (and make your life easier) by giving students basic guidance as part of your course design. Check out the <5-minute video from @ONE Instructional Designer Helen Graves to learn four simple things you can do to keep students from getting sidelined by inexperience with Canvas.

The One Thing You’ve Been Missing to Keep Students Focused on Your Content

Do you have some more ideas for what makes a good welcome message? Maybe you have a suggestion or two of what you’d like us to cover in our blog this fall… Leave a comment and let us know!

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