The “course trailer” phenomenon: Fellowship post #2

The purpose of my STELLARNet fellowship is to examine practices undertaken by academics and educators in networked publics. These practices fall under the general heading of “digital scholarship” and these individuals have been called “digital scholars” or “open scholars.”

This past week was quite productive, with both data analysis and writing activities proceeding smoothly. Today’s entry will discuss one of this week’s foci: “course trailers”

FILM240X Media Studies Course Trailer from Sidneyeve Matrix

The “course trailer” phenomenon refers to the production of a digital artifact (most often a video posted on a video-sharing site such as YouTube) to describe and advertise courses. While faculty members have always promoted their courses (e.g., through departmental listservs), recent initiatives have seen the development of course “teasers” in which faculty attempt to excite students, encourage follow-up, and (perhaps) enrollment. While some course trailers have been developed with university backing, are relatively formal, and have high production values (e.g., as in the case of some Harvard course trailers), the majority that I have seen posted in public were developed by individual faculty members. Even in the case of the Harvard General Education course trailers (see link above), the initiative was inspired by an individual faculty member’s efforts.

The fact that course trailers are conceptualized, developed, and shared by individual faculty members is important. Individual development of course trailers highlights (some) modern faculty members’ take-charge attitude and willingness to act in transparent and public ways. Note that we are not discussing the average faculty member here. We are discussing the early-adopter, the technologically savvy scholar, who is willing to circumvent the institution in order to better conduct the work that s/he was hired to do. This scholar reminds me of the communities of practice literature. In the same way that workers figure out new and improved ways to do their job in the face of organizational obstacles, these modern scholars engage with others in creative and fun ways, promoting their courses and the learning experiences that they are capable of providing. The course trailer is an example of scholars “going public” with their work.

Examples of other course trailers include:

If you’ve come across other course trailers, I’d love to learn about them!


Inclusion of Computer Science in K-12 Core Curriculum


Ethics of Doing Research in Online Networks: Fellowship post #3


  1. Many thanks George for featuring my FILM240 course trailer in this post, and for pointing me to the Harvard video, which I had not seen, and really enjoyed. I sincerely appreciate your generous feedback and analysis.

    I should share two things that might be useful to profs contemplating doing a trailer: first, in terms of budget, I collaborated with a student (Hayley) and paid $300 for her time/skill in co-creating this web video — it took us 2 drafts/2 days start to finish. Second, as a result of distributing short course videos and promotional e-flyers for students to share, all available seats in this course were filled each year, and it has grown from 0 to 1,100 seats in 4 years. Students enthusiastically Facebooked/Tweeted the trailer, and their word of mouth enthusiasm generated incredible excitement for the course. That led to impressive attendance/engagement, strong PLNs composed of friends, great outcomes, and very positive evaluations. Well worth the effort to do this trailer!
    Thanks again,

  2. Thank you for your comments and advice, Sidneyeve! It’s great to learn the details behind the development of your course trailer and the amazing results that you have had.

  3. I work for an A/V manufacturing company that has started to do the same thing for our corporate training courses. We do “external” (dealer-focused) training, and we wanted to initiate engagement and increase enrollment in our courses. Our hope is that not only will more students enroll in the courses, but that the students will be more excited about the course coming in, thus hopefully increasing engagement with the material before and during the class. This should hopefully increase student retention.

    -Kyle Davis
    AMX University

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén