Remote teaching

Course structure: Instructor biographies

When teaching in traditional brick and mortar settings, most instructors open their courses by introducing themselves.  Instructors make these introductions in order to give students a sense of who their instructor is as a person. In online courses, face-to-face introductions are rare. To address this problem, Quality Matters standards call for instructors to include Instructor Biographies in their online courses. As Christine Scherer (2018) at Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies explains: 

[The bio] presents the instructor as professional as well as approachable, and includes the essentials, such as the instructor’s name, title, field of expertise, email address, phone number, and times when the instructor is typically online or may be reached by phone.

Expectations of the relationship and communication style between teacher and learner are culturally influenced. Including information about the role of the instructor and how to address the instructor is helpful to learners from all backgrounds.

The self-introduction helps learners get to know the instructor and, in addition to the essentials mentioned above, could include comments on teaching philosophy, a summary of past experience with teaching online courses, personal information such as hobbies, family, travel experiences, etc., and a photograph, audio message, or video (including alternative formats to ensure accessibility).

In Canvas, instructors can build a “Meet Your Instructor Page” or an “Instructor Bio Page.” This page can include contact information, a written biography, and/or an embedded video. In terms of biography content, there are no hard and fast rules. However, instructorss may want to consider these 5 areas for development:

  • Educational background
  • Research interests and area(s) of subject matter expertise
  • Teaching philosophy
  • Personal hobbies, interests, and family life to curate your social presence 
  • A photograph

By providing these biographies, instructors can foster a stronger sense of community in digital spaces.