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I will never forget my first day of school. My mom woke me up, got me dressed, made my bed, and fed me. Man, did the guys in the dorm tease me. —Michael Aronin

Students quickly stereotype teachers. Opening with a joke or funny quote sends the message, “This will be fun, so pay attention.” As Herbert Gardner noted, “Once you get people laughing, they’re listening.”

In the traditional classroom, students typically wait until the end of the first lecture before declaring, “This class is going to suck.” Virtual instruction significantly limits the suck decision window to minutes. Or less.

When teaching in-person, it’s easy to use an interactive, cooperative learning icebreaker to establish a positive first impression quickly. Sadly, the first session of a virtual course is like Tinder – educators have seconds before students swipe to rejection.

Online instruction shares another feature with Tinder. Both are visually-driven platforms in which looks matter. That means teachers should open with a visual hook, such as:

  • A silly subtitle.
  • A funny photo.
  • A visual or cartoon with a humorous caption.
  • A reformatted quote.
  • A cute teacher photo (e.g., infant pic).

Educators, especially college professors, rightfully resist students’ need to be entertained. In the traditional classroom, it’s much easier to uphold that noble pedagogical belief.

Yet, online instruction ain’t the traditional classroom – it’s a screen with a talking head. Paying attention to the screen’s appearance increases the chances of the class and teacher getting swiped to the right.