Creating a Course Trailer

Author: Haboun Bair, Taylor Institute

December 22, 2016

A course trailer is a compelling invitation that uses multimedia to help students become better acquainted with a course. Shown on the first day of class, in two to four minutes, an effective course trailer has the potential to communicate the significance of a course, the intention behind how the content will be explored, and what students will be able to take away from their learning experience. Engagement is key. Dr. Larry Katz, a professor from the Faculty of Kinesiology, created a course trailer for KNES 213: Introduction to Research and reflects on the benefits of his trailer, “If the trailer is well designed, I think it gives the students some insight about the course before they take it. In the first lecture we try and convey the purpose of our course, but it is not easy to make that connection especially since we are also discussing the course outline.  The two-minute trailer really gets their attention.”

No invitation is complete without a response and a course trailer is a great conversation starter. As students begin to situate themselves in the course, think about how you can extend the dialogue sparked by the trailer across the semester. Encourage your students to share their thoughts, misconceptions, and apprehensions about the course by connecting their contemplations to the themes and ideas illustrated in the trailer. Katz confirms, “Unless we as instructors ask the students questions about the trailer, I do not think they will comment directly to the instructor.  I did notice some discussion between students about the content and some smiles as they recognized some of the situations.”

Engage students with a course trailer

As students discuss the course from their own lens, some questions you might ask to prompt their reflection are: Why is taking this course important to you? What is your role in your own performance? What will you do to be an active participant in your own learning? 

Katz says, “I like to ask pointed questions with regards to parts of the actual content to see if they can identify the issues and purpose. This gives me more insight.  If I had it to do again, I would also show the students the Trailer at the end of the course and ask them if the trailer conveyed the proper message.” All of a sudden, your course trailer is more than just a video invitation that opens the course, it provokes students to think about themselves as a protagonist of their own learning. In this way, the course trailer becomes a provocation, setting in motion the actions students will take to get to where they need to be. So how is this achievable? Katz reveals, “Once I bought into the idea, I made it a priority.  Having two members of your team available to help, made it achievable.  I did use some of my own resources to have the video edited professionally.”

How to start

Think about your intention for your students

Re-envision your course as a two to four minute video

Ask yourself questions: What is the significance of this course? Why is it being taught?

Initiate a plan and outline for your course trailer

Lay out a storyboard to organize your content, narrative and sequence of events

Experiment with video production technology and applications

Revisit your intention; Reflect on the process; Record your trailer

Seek feedback, Share your trailer with students

Set TRAILERS in motion!

Sign up for an upcoming Course Trailer Workshop

Access sample trailers, resources, and contact information from our course trailer website.

Sample course trailers

Related Content

Online Assessment in Higher Education


Keeping Students on Track in Online Courses


Additional resources

Free video production applications and software to experiment with:

If creating a course trailer is something that excites you, the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning offers workshops, personalized faculty or department sessions, and consultations to meet your needs. We can’t wait to work with you!