I’ve been giving a good bit of thought to this particular design challenge as I’m currently in the process of preparing welcome e-mails for the new cohort in our certification program for learning environment architects (CLEA).
For me, the key is to begin by contextualizing the learner.
Earlier in my career, I spent a good number of years teaching required Gen Ed courses (English Composition and Spanish). My students in these courses were inevitably there because they had to be. Even so, I knew it was important to help them find some reason for being there beyond “Because they told me I had to take it.” This was especially true if I wanted them to become truly engaged.
I had to give them a good “why” for the learning experience.
I think the same thing is important in my welcome e-mail to online participants in a course. I want to begin by addressing “Why?” and then move through the following sequence:
Instead of launching into the e-mail with information, I want to set the scene with a question or reflection that moves learners beyond their current assumptions about the course (if possible). From there, I will say “Hello” and provide my core informational message (no more than 3 bullet points). Since my real purpose here is to engage them, I want to move quickly to some sort of personal value statement, get them excited about how this experience will make a difference in their lives or careers. Finally, my goal is to end the welcome with some form of call to action. In this regard, I am inspired by the examples Laura Gibbs creates in her messaging.
Here is my final learning environment model (LEM) for this challenge. I’ll post a link to the actual welcome e-mail once I get it drafted this coming weekend.