Introduce Yourself: Student Videos Build Community

LeGrandDr. Sara LeGrand’s first assignment for her Duke Kunshan students in her course, Social Determinants of Health: China and the World was to introduce themselves in order to build a learning community in her classroom. Instead of asking students to introduce themselves in a classroom, Dr. LeGrand asked each to create a brief video within Sakai.

Each student was required to include the following elements in a less than three minutes video:

  1. Background (such as your name, your hometown, your major, etc.)
  2. Why are you taking this course?
  3. What interesting things do you do during your spare time?
  4. What do you want to do after you graduate? What are your career goals?

At Duke University, the multimedia conversation tool Voicethread is integrated into Sakai and made sharing these introductory videos simple. Students were able to record with their computer’s webcam, or use an app on a mobile device, directly into Voicethread. Students could practice recording before uploading the final version to share with the class. They prepared with written scripts and were able to practice their English before making the final version available, which was very helpful for international ESL students.


Creating the videos and commenting on them was both fun and effective; and a great way to connect the instructor and students.  The videos also helped the instructor form diverse teams based on students’ interests, backgrounds, and majors. Furthermore, it prepared the students for later on team video projects, which I will describe in a later blog post.


In my last blog post, I introduced Dr. Sara LeGrand and one of her teaching techniques called the Power Walk, which encouraged team work even on the first day of class.

Dr. LeGrand teaches Duke students using well-designed teaching techniques and innovative technology to motivate and engage her students. She has traveled all over the world for her research, but teaching at Duke Kunshan University (DKU) was her first time teaching outside of the U.S.

[Note: The screenshots and the video are from the course site. All rights reserved]


Haiyan Zhou

Author: Haiyan Zhou

Haiyan consults with faculty on the integration of technology into their teaching, primarily with the Health Sciences, and on developing online course materials and planning ways to offer programs through online or blended online/face-to-face formats. Her professional interests include collaboration tools, online teaching methods, e-learning, and internationalization in higher education.