In one of my online instructors’ groups there was a discussion about graphic syllabi. I’ve been trying to think of ways to make information more accessible for my upgrading students–I teach pre-Grade 10 English (Fundamental), Grade 11 equivalent, and Grade 12 equivalent, so there are varying levels of literacy involved here. Interestingly, I’ve realized that even students with high literacy levels (my Grade 11 and 12 equivalents) process information differently than I do/did when I was in school, and part of my job is helping them parse things like relatively difficult to access scholarly journal articles.
I know some people feel like it’s coddling to present information in a simple to parse way for students, since it’s our job as educators to help them learn to navigate a world that isn’t necessarily going to adapt for them. However, as I participate in more discussions about plain language, universal design for learning, and indigenization, I see very few downsides to presenting the basics of what is needed to navigate my courses in an easy to understand way. I’m still going to teach them how to read a scholarly journal article, but I don’t need to obfuscate (deliberately or not) my contact information, the expectations for the course, or when their assignments are due.
I came across a really interesting article on presenting information on your syllabus as an infographic. The author provides a thoughtful take on whether graphic course syllabi are useful:
Curtis Newbold: Would a Course Syllabus Be Better as an Infographic?
I’m not sure how effective infographics would be for all course syllabi. But I do know that there wasn’t a single question during this May term course from students about what was due, when it was due, and what my expectations were. That is rarely the case when I use my much-more-thorough syllabi in other courses. Is more being lost in our syllabi when we give too much information? Should we be reducing content for clarity by using infographic-style communications in the classroom? My initial reaction would be probably.