Why not throw away this tired, old assignment? "Please post an introduction of yourself to the rest of the class on the discussion board."
This is the type of response you'll get to this opening week assignment. (This is an actual student post, although YMMV)
Change the assignment. Tell students to use a free music service such as iMeem or Seeqpod (or any of several others) to create a 3-song playlist that tells you a little something about them. You might ask them to write why these songs speak to them or what these songs say about who they are as a person.
2008 Web Tools Embed
Creating the playlist is free and easy. They can simply link to the playlist in the discussion board, or with just a little bit of effort they could actually embed the playlist into the threaded discussion area for the introductions (assuming your VLE allows students to edit html, which they can in Desire2Learn).
Comic Strip Introductions
Change the assignment. Tell them to go to Toondoo.com and create a comic strip that tells a little something about them. Pretty much open ended - you never know what you're going to get!
Once again students can either link to there completed Doo or embed it in the discussion post. Another option would be to have a wiki set up where students would just edit the page and add their playlist or comic strip so that you have them all on one page for comparison and future reference.
These are just two examples of how you can use free web-based tools (Web 2.0, if you will) to spice up an otherwise boring assignment. These tools are easy for students to learn, totally free to use, and fun. Nothing wrong with having a little fun while you learn.
This post is based on a portion of a workshop I presented with Kim Goudy at ITC09 titled: "It's NOT my Job to Entertain Students." See the presentation wiki here.