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Instructional Design & Support

Deciding Where to Begin

Improving the visual design of your course materials can be a small project or a large one, and can take a few days or more than one semester. Here are a few ways to identify visual design improvements you can make to your materials, lectures, or courses.

Consider overall themes in your course

What areas would you like to make more memorable or compelling?

A dramatic photo or illustration, especially repeated throughout the semester, can help students connect overall themes.

Think about individual concepts in your materials

What topics do students typically struggle with or miss on exams?

Are there similar concepts that students tend to mix up? What misconceptions do students have when they start the course? You can choose graphics that clarify a concept by showing the concept and its opposite, or emphasize the difference between similar concepts with contrasting images. To identify and correct student misconceptions, you can conduct a short, image-based quiz at the beginning of the semester.

Support your teaching style

Do you intentionally use a “teaching style”? What images would best show it?

If you like to use humor in class, there may be a meme or cartoon that can act as an icebreaker or make a topic more memorable. (Since the meaning of individual memes can change over time, run your proposed meme images past a few people to identify issues before posting.) What cartoons or humorous images might help you engage the students’ attention?

If your presentation style is more formal, choose images that exemplify professionalism in your field; carefully considered graphics will elevate the conversation and reinforce the expectations you set for class. What images would convey gravity, depth, or the importance of taking your subject seriously?

Since many instructors apply a mixture of humor and seriousness throughout the course, use graphics to alert the students to the “mood” of upcoming topics. They will be glad to have additional cues as to what to expect. What graphics would help your students transition into class time, focus on new concepts, or remain alert through a lengthy topic?

After brainstorming responses to the questions above, use the Visual Design Updates spreadsheet to list the course(s) you plan to update, along with specific Canvas pages, PowerPoint slides, or other materials (a few examples have been added for you). In the “Changes” column, add a broad description of what changes will be made to each. For instance, you can note the type of image you’re looking for (i.e., “historical image of women in the workforce”).

When you have several items listed, visit how to find high-quality images without the copyright issuestake or make your own images, or partner with OIT to start gathering images.

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