Skip to content

Turn your syllabus into an infographic

August 26, 2014

Erin D syllabus infographic Erin McLaughlin teaches “Multimedia Writing and Rhetoric” at Notre Dame — some readers may remember an earlier article about Doctor E’s audio narrative. Erin is usually at the head of the pack when it comes to effectively integrating technology and this fall she has done it again, producing a beautiful infographic of her course syllabus (excerpt at right).

While I don’t suggest everyone should drop the idea of a traditional syllabus, nearly any course can benefit from a simplified visual overview that quickly gives students a sense of what will happen during the semester. If necessary, you can follow up with a more detailed document or a set of web pages.

The challenge of visually summarizing a course syllabus can be a very meaningful endeavor. Dr. McLaughlin shared these comments with me:

I figured the infographic approach would be a good opportunity to examine the syllabus as a piece of multimedia rhetoric in and of itself, and the exercise of graphically presenting the content was a valuable reminder of challenges and opportunities students may run into when engaging in similar intellectual tasks.

It’s too late to create an infographic syllabus for the fall semester, but that’s just as well. This is not a quick-and-dirty project. You’ll need to spend time thinking about which key aspects of the course you want to highlight – and how to do that visually. See the examples at the end for ideas. In the meantime, here are some types of content you may choose to include:

  • Learning goals – don’t forget these!
  • Big questions the course will address
  • Major assignments
  • Course organization – key dates, topics,
  • Required materials – books, technology, etc.
  • Grading – visualize how much major components are worth

As you begin to work up the content for your infographic, remember the audience. Your students don’t know the material yet, so be careful when making assumptions. Also, keep the amount of text to a minimum. I know that’s hard for academics, but we’re talking about infoGRAPHICs here … Finally –and this is most challenging bit– try to follow a visual metaphor or create a story line.

Visual design

What is an infographic?

Absolute basics of infographics

You may have seen a visually enhanced syllabus before, but the infographic genre implies certain restrictions. Ideally, it presents visual information in a way that quickly and clearly makes a point.

  1. Start with a pencil-and-paper drawing. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but it will save you time in the long run.
  2. Limit your color palette to as few as three colors. You can get ideas from Adobe Kuler.
  3. Keep the overall design simple, not cluttered. Empty space helps make the elements you include stand out.
  4. Use simple graphics, like vector images and line drawings.
  5. Limit the size – under 735 x 3600 pixels.
  6. Use readable fonts – big enough and not too fancy.

In terms of technology, Erin used Piktochart, a web-based tool that offers free basic memberships to educators. The software will even let you incorporate a video if you want! Venngage, a similar tool, offers very reasonable educational pricing on 35 premium accounts for one month. Premium accounts on both sites provide things like more templates, no branding, and high resolution downloads.

For more information on infographics, try these earlier articles: Infographics – tools and student projects and Infographics in the classroom. For related ideas, see Creative Approaches to the Syllabus (ProfHacker).

Sample Infographic Syllabi

See what you think. Some are really posters; they have way too much text to be called infographics. However, each one illustrates good ideas.

Please use the comments to submit other examples of infographic syllabi, as well as suggestions for content or design.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris Clark permalink*
    August 28, 2014 7:21 am

    [posted to an email list]

    I did something similar using an infographic to explain how my chemical engineering students could complete their team projects, which involved creating an infographic on a chemical engineering topic. See https://magic.piktochart.com/output/1077938-flow-2. The assignment required each group to determine how they could present information succinctly and visually to their targeted audience. For extra credit, they could print out and laminate their infographic. I covered my office door with their projects, which drew favorable attention from my CHEN colleagues because many of the infographics were about their research interests. Also, the students appreciated knowing that their instructor had completed a similar assignment to the one they were required to prepare.

    ______________________________
    Cindy Raisor
    Bush School of Government & Public Service, Texas A&M University

  2. cegosasiapacific permalink
    August 27, 2014 2:33 am

    Great blog and a great idea! Really helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  3. kbv7001 permalink
    August 26, 2014 11:29 pm

    Reblogged this on technologylearning and commented:
    Excellent way to offer a visual look at the course requirements! Fun and engaging!

Trackbacks

  1. Building a visual syllabus | NspireD2: Learning Technology in Higher Ed.
  2. Turn your syllabus into an infographic | Autour...
  3. A clever approach/idea: “Turn your syllabus into an infographic” [McLaughlin & Clark]
  4. Turn your syllabus into an infographic | Edtech...

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s