The Picture Bio

A more engaging way to make introductions

It’s a standard first-week assignment in online and even some hybridized face-to-face courses… “Post a short bio paragraph to the discussion board and introduce yourself to your classmates.”  Maybe it’s that I never had the foresight to copy and paste my bio from one class to the next, making the umpteenth re-typing seem a bit tedious, but I was never a big fan of this task.  It could also be that I was subconsciously adding up the time I would soon have to devote to reading through everyone’s posts in order to find the connections that make for a good course experience. (What if the one post I didn’t read was the person with whom I had the most in common?)

Don’t get me wrong; the purpose of this assignment is great.  Especially in online learning, building that early sense of community makes a difference in how much time and effort students put into a course.  Having your students share their personal stories leads to better results than working with a class of complete strangers, but I can’t say that I have frequently made friends via paragraph form.  So this semester, try something a little bit different.  Instead of, or as a part of, the bio paragraph assignment, have students create picture bios.

The Good:

  • It’s more interesting to see the families, hobbies, things done over the summer, etc., than it is to read them as a list of facts.
  • It enables a more effective and efficient skim. Not everyone reads all of the paragraphs, but if we can scan through and see our college logo or a picture from our favorite vacation spot, we instantly know more about that classmate.
  • The easier recognition of connections leads to more communication among students.

 The Bad:

  • Some students may not yet know how to combine images into a collage. But don’t worry, scroll down for a handy tutorial video that will help students quickly create a picture bio and post it in Canvas.

 The Awesome:

  • Using one of my favorite online tools, ThingLink, students can make their images interactive. Buttons can be added to include pop-up factoids, videos, maps, hyperlinks, and more.  Click the example below to experience the interactivity.

    Click to see the interactive version

    Click to see the interactive version

However you choose to implement it for your students, the visual aid that this revamped task provides, as well as the creativity that is allowed to come through when compared to a short bio paragraph, will make it a welcome change to the students as they begin your course.

Handy tutorial video:



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