Make your course documents visually engaging

Joe Hedges, Northern Kentucky University and Miami University Hamilton

I teach beginning art and design students who are inundated with black and white rubrics, assignment information sheets, syllabi, etc. Most of these documents look like they were prepared for a fax machine, rather than pdfs for distribution online. Take a little time and redesign your course materials to be more interesting with dynamic layouts, images, and COLOR. Not visually minded? Consider finding a graphic design student and offering them their first paying job.

Creating my syllabus in the style of a contemporary magazine or reference book rather than in the style of a legal document sets a positive mood for the course. Good design engenders interaction and interest in students, while showing that I care enough about the course material to invest the time to present the content in a way that is enjoyable to read. Books are judged by their covers, and syllabi indicate expectations for a course; an aesthetically pleasing, professional-looking syllabus indicates that the course itself will be interesting and professional. Particularly with art and design students, who are continually working with the elements and principles of design, creating a visually engaging syllabus is good modeling, engendering confidence in me as a visual thinker. Additionally, designing a syllabus rather than simply writing one forces me to more carefully consider the hierarchy of information I wish to present; certain text may benefit from larger or smaller fonts, in a side column, et cetera. Delivering content in this way ensures that the students know what is most important to remember in order to have a successful course, and ensures that all the information in the syllabus can be found quickly and easily. The first day of class, students sometimes remark that the syllabus looks nice. I tell them that I have tried to make a document that I myself would enjoy reading, in the hopes that they will too!