Ten Ways to Improve Educational Videos

Webcam on a computer monitorThe move to online courses has many of us working to create videos that replace the explanations of concepts and demonstrations of skills that we would customarily do in the campus classroom. The strategies below help make those videos more effective.

  1. Focus
    Cover only one topic in your video. Focusing on one topic allows students to hone in on the ideas by lowering the cognitive load. They can take clearer notes and recall the information more effectively. Equally useful, later when a student needs to review a specific concept that is unclear to her, she can quickly find the exact video that addresses that topic.
  2. Keep it short
    Effective videos are approximately 6 minutes long (Guo et al., 2014). Longer videos include more information than students can remember. Breaking your course content up into
    shorter videos increases students’ ability to comprehend and recall the information.
  3. Forecast
    Provide an overview of the point you will cover at the beginning of your video. Your forecast will serve as an advance organizer, telling students what to watch for and providing structure for the video (Ibrahim et al., 2012).
  4. Reinforce
    Highlight, or signal, key terms and main ideas in the video by emphasizing them verbally and including the terms on screen (Ibrahim et al., 2012). Place text on the screen near the portion of the image it corresponds with in order to reduce students’ cognitive load (Mayer & Moreno, 2003; Mayer, 2008).
    Ideally, the complementary terms and graphics will match those included in your opening forecast (see #3 above), reinforcing the information further.
  5. Limit distractions
    “Weeding” irrelevant content out of your videos increases students’ attention and retention (Ibrahim et al., 2012; Mayer, 2008). Extraneous information in videos includes unrelated background music and sounds as well as irrelevant and purely decorative visual elements.
  6. Use basic recording features
    You don’t need an entire production team to create effective educational videos. Guo et al. (2014) found that higher production features actually decrease student engagement with videos. Just set up a webcam at your desk for videos, or use screencasting software for demonstrations from your desktop. Focus on what you want to teach students, and forget all the bells and whistles.
  7. Set the stage
    Check the background for what students will see in your video. If the video shows a shot of you talking, check what is behind you and remove anything that is unnecessary or unprofessional. If the video shows your computer desktop, remove any irrelevant icons from the desktop and close software that you aren’t using. In particular, be sure that you have no filenames or open files on screen that reveal private information. Taking these steps ensures that students focus on the content, rather than random information in the background.
  8. Add closed captions
    Captions help all students, not just those with hearing loss. In a 2014 study, “students commented that the captions made it easier to take notes, improved understanding by watching and reading, helped them learn the spellings of words, enabled them to watch the videos with the sound turned off, and enabled them to follow the videos more closely, as the captions helped focus attention” (Berg et al.).
  9. Name videos specifically
    Students will make better use of the videos you record if you choose specific titles and filenames. If your videos are named Lecture 1, Lecture 2, etc., students have no idea of knowing what content they will find. A student trying to find a specific concept won’t know which one to choose. If the videos were instead named plant cell structure and photosynthesis, students would know exactly what each covers.
  10. Provide supporting materials
    A video alone can help students understand key concepts and learn new skills. A video accompanied by explanatory and descriptive text, related activities, and relevant textbook readings can do even more. Thomson, Bridgstock, and Willems (2014) found that “video is much less effective when it comprises the sum total of the standard lecture/learning experience” (p. 71). Supporting materials, in other words, can make a difference in what students learn and retain.

References

Berg, Richard, Brand, Ann, Grant, Jennifer, Kirk, John S., & Zimmerman, Todd. (2014). Leveraging recorded mini-lectures to increase student learning. Online Classroom, 14(2), 5.

Guo, Philip J., Kim, Juho, & Rubin, Rob (2014). How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of MOOC videos. Proceedings of the First ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale Conference – L@S ’14, 41–50. https://doi.org/10.1145/2556325.2566239

Ibrahim, Mohamed, Antonenko, Pavlo D., Greenwood, Carmen M., & Wheeler, Denna. (2012). Effects of segmenting, signalling, and weeding on learning from educational video. Learning, Media and Technology, 37(3), 220–235. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2011.585993

Mayer, Richard E. (2008). Applying the science of learning: Evidence-based principles for the design of multimedia instruction. The American Psychologist, 8. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.63.8.760

Mayer, Richard E., & Moreno, Roxana. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 43–52. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15326985EP3801_6

Thomson, Andrew, Bridgstock, Ruth, & Willems, Christiaan. (2014). “Teachers flipping out” beyond the online lecture: Maximising the educational potential of video. Journal of Learning Design, 7(3), 67–78. http://dx.doi.org/10.5204/jld.v7i3.209

Photo credit: 7 Best HD Webcams in Pakistan for 2019 by Sami Khan on Flickr, used under public domain.

 


Last Updated on
This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Using Google Forms to Jump Start Your Video

Red Jump Start Cables with red handles and black handles, on a TableNow that everyone is teaching online, active learning strategies like minute papers and muddiest point are hard to manage spontaneously. In a campus classroom, you can ask everyone to share responses out loud or on a piece of paper. In an asynchronous online class, students aren’t able to participate in quite the same way.

Google Forms can give you a quick and easy solution. Create a form with the question you want to use to begin a presentation or demonstration, students respond using the form, and you use their responses to frame your presentation.

Create Your Form

  1. Log into your Google Drive account.
  2. Create a new Google Forms file, using Google Help if you need more details.
  3. Give the form file a straightforward title (such as “Presentation Topic Survey”).
  4. Add a description or explanation if desired. I added details on how I would use the survey.
  5. Change the question type, if necessary. I changed the question to “Paragraph” so that student have room to write a few sentences as their response.
  6. Add the one question that you want students to respond to. I used the question “What topic have you chosen for your presentation? Give me specific details in a sentence or two.”
  7. If desired, click the Palette icon on the upper right and customize the appearance of the form.

My example Presentation Topic Survey shows what the resulting form looks like. You will notice that I added a second question asking students for contact information if they wanted a personal response. That step is completely optional.

Share Your Form

  1. Click the large SEND button in the upper right corner of the page. The options shown in the screenshot below will appear:
    SEND Form Options, described in the text below
  2. Choose one of the following options to share your form:
    • Click the envelope icon to send the form to students by email, and fill out the remainder of the SEND form accordingly.
    • Click the link icon to copy a hyperlink to the form that you can share with students.
    • Click the angled brackets icon to copy the code that you can use to embed the form on another webpage.
    • Click the Facebook icon or the Twitter icon to share the form on social media.

Prepare for Class

  1. Log into your Google Drive account.
  2. Open the Google Form that you created.
  3. Click the “Responses” link at the top of the form.
  4. Use the Google Help instructions to view the responses in a variety of ways.
  5. Review students’ responses just as you would review answers they shared on paper.
    • If desired, remove any answers that do not meet the requirements or focus of the assignment.
    • Look for patterns to address with the class. In my example, I would look for answers that were strong and specifically focused to highlight. I would also look for those topics that could be improved by focusing more specifically.
    • Copy the responses to a word processor file, if desired, to share the answers with the class.
  6. Choose two or three strong examples and a few examples to demonstrate how to improve the responses.

Use the Responses in Your Video

  1. Prepare to create a lesson to share with students. This post will focus on producing a 5 to 7 minute video. You could also create a handout or audio recording.
  2. Begin your video session in a synchronous forum like Zoom or using your favorite video recorder to share asynchronously.
  3. Open your video by referring to students’ responses. You can share a link to the responses or a link to the word processor document you created with the responses.
  4. Review the qualities of a strong response. For my example, I would talk about how a strong topic is specific and well-focused.
  5. Point out strong responses and explain why they succeed.
  6. Review weaker or incorrect responses and demonstrate how to improve them.
  7. End your video by reviewing the qualities of a strong response.
  8. If desired, give students a follow-up activity to complete:
    • For synchronous meetings, ask students to share ways they can improve their responses in light of the examples.
    • For asynchronous videos, have students share their ways to improve responses in a discussion forum or email.

Photo credit: Jumpstart cables by Michael Pedersen on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 license.


Last Updated on .
This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Online Is Different from Face-to-Face

 


This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Explain What to Do in an Emergency

Red push button on the wall labeled, Emergency Stop for ComputersProviding students with instructions on what to do in an emergency is always a good idea. It’s even more important now as all classes are moving online and many students are relying on technology resources more than they are used to.

You may be thinking, “Oh, I will wait and deal with trouble if it comes up.” It’s nice to be optimistic, but trust me, eventually something will come up. You may not think of it as an actual emergency, but a panicked student may. Add the complication of the sudden reliance on resources students don’t have experience with, and the panicky emails are sure to start filling your inbox.

How to Address Emergencies Before They Happen

  • Brainstorm a list of the basic hurdles students are likely to encounter. Consider the issues that have occurred in previous courses you have taught, and reflect on challenges you and those you know have had as they work online. Combine any challenges that will have similar responses (see the example below).
  • Outline what students should do in each situation. Include specific details that will walk students through their response. Students coming to this list are anxious. They not catch the nuances of what you say, so be sure that everything is clear and concrete.
  • Emphasize trust and calm in your explanations. Let students know that you take their situation seriously. Maintaining a sense of calm will do much to solve the challenge. Panic can make everything worse. If you persuade students to remain calm and trust that you will help them, reasonable solutions to the problems will become easier to accept.

An Example Policy

Here’s a version of the emergency policy that I use with my courses. The policy (like all content on this site) is content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Share-Alike 4.0 International License; thus, you can copy and customize the policy to use with your course.

Emergency Policy for Technical Writing

Slogan Keep Calm and Carry On shown on Red British War Poster with white letteringProblems with vt.edu websites, LinkedIn Learning, or Canvas
If something goes wrong with one of the websites we are using, don’t panic. Send me an email message, since I may not know there is a problem. I will fix it if I can, and if necessary, I’ll adjust any due dates or expectations. If appropriate, contact 4-Help and explain the situation as well. Once you have contacted me, keep working as you can until the situation is resolved.

Problems with something in your world
If something goes wrong for you personally, send me an email message explaining the issue and relax. We can come up with a solution. Things such as a broken computer or a change at work that messes up your schedule fall in this category. Getting sick or having an accident (such as a broken bone) also fall into this category. Your situation may feel horrible, but we can work it out. Don’t worry if I don’t respond immediately. It just means I’m not at my computer.

Emergencies and the 911 policy
If you have an emergency, first take care of any immediate danger. Make sure everything and everyone is safe before you worry about this course. When you can, email me and begin the subject with 911. For example, a subject line might be “911 Struck by Storm.” Give me the details in the message (e.g., The storm knocked out your power. Your work is going to be delayed until things are fixed). Save these 911 messages for emergencies please. I give 911 messages priority and answer them ASAP. Again, don’t worry if I don’t respond immediately. It just means I’m not at my computer. When I get back online, I will do whatever I can to help.

Photo: Emergency Stop by Daniel Nisbet on Flickr, used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 license. Keep Calm and Carry On Poster, from the UK Ministry of Information, used under a CC0 Public Domain license.


Last Updated on
This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Turn Your Handout into a Video

You can make a simple video that pairs key information from a short handout with images using the free web-based tool Lumen5. You can edit the video components (the text on screen, how it appears, and the image shown). As you are moving course materials online, Lumen5 can be a quick way to add a visual element to your course materials.

An Example Handout and Video

The video below was created with the text from a webpage that explains my labor-based grading system and a tip-filled infographic on how to do well in the course. The result is the following video:


Video Transcript

The video took me about three hours, though most of that time was spent searching for appropriate, diverse images and for the background music. The result is far more interesting than a Zoom video allowing students to watch me read the information to them.

How to Create Your Own Video

The process is straightforward:

  1. Create a free login on the Lumen5 site.
  2. Use the Create Video button at the top of the dashboard page, which you reach after logging in.
  3. Choose one of the available options (start with a blog post, paste in text script, use a media file, or begin with a template), as shown in the image below:
    Video Options in Lumen5 (start with a blog post, paste in text script, use a media file, or begin with a template)
  4. Provide the text for your video, following the on-screen prompts.
  5. Wait while Lumen5 uploads and processes your text, adding images and key phrases to the video slides.
  6. Edit the slides as you wish, changing the placement of the text, editing the text, choosing new images, and changing the options for the images, all shown in the screenshot below:
    Lumen5 edit screen, showing different layout available and other options.
    Notice on the upper left that you can also choose different media, templates, and music for your video when you are editing.
  7. Click Publish when you are happy with everything, and the video will process and then prompt you to download.
  8. Share the completed video as you like—in your CMS, on YouTube, or elsewhere.

Last Updated on

This post was inspired by a piece written for Bedford Bits: Convert Handouts to Videos with Lumen5 and originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Ten Tips for Moving Your Class Online Quickly

You’re probably working away at moving your class online. Even with the extra week to prepare that some of us have been given, there are weeks of work ahead of us. We’ll all have to rethink activities, change things that aren’t working, and give up on some things that are beyond the possible right now.

Your work will be easier and more successful if you keep these ten tips in mind:

  1. Choose online tools you know. This is not the time to innovate. It is hard enough to migrate all your course materials online. Don’t add to your workload by choosing a new tool to do it. Whatever you’re using is good enough.
  2. Remember time zones matter—as do personal schedules. Students are no longer in the same place and time. They are spread all over the globe. Their time zones are different and their personal obligations are different. Asynchronous work (work that doesn’t require everyone to be online at the same moment) allows everyone in the course a fair opportunity.
  3. Keep it as simple as possible. The activities and expectations should be clear and straightforward. Break things out into smaller steps, rather than creating one larger activity. You’ll help students keep track of what they need to do when they can complete an activity in one sitting.
  4. Let students track their own work when they can. Ask students to keep track of how they are doing in the course. They can keep a log of what they have posted easily, for instance. All you have to do is review their logs. That’s much easier than you having to keep track of every thing that every student has done.
  5. Allow reasonable accommodations and exceptions for everyone. With the many additional demands and challenges we are facing, we can all use a little extra help right now. Give students who ask for more time an extra day. Allow students whatever they need, as long as it’s reasonable.
  6. Share accessible resources. There are students in your class who will not have the resources that they need. It may be their textbooks, class notes, or library books. If you can share PDFs or offer alternatives, do so. Students may have no other option if you cannot provide them an alternative.
  7. Be clear about your availability. When classes meet on campus, students know when they can find you. If all else fails, you’re about just before and after class meets. With classes online, students have no idea. Will a response to that urgent email message take a few hours or a few days? Be specific about when you are online and working so they don’t worry needlessly. For example, tell students something like “I am usually online and answering messages weekday afternoons, from 1 PM to 3 PM, Eastern.”
  8. Explain yourself. Tell students the reasons behind your choices and decisions for how the course proceeds. Don’t expect students to guess what you’re thinking or expecting. With all course interactions online, you can help things run much more smoothly by explaining logistics and other class decisions.
  9. Encourage students to help one another. Create a space in your course resources where they can ask one another for help. Whether the questions are about the course, Internet connectivity, or which grocery stores are open, students can help one another—and their effort will reduce your workload while building community.
  10. Give up on perfection and absolutes. Set reasonable expectations for yourself and your students. It would be nice to imagine there will be no Internet or software issues and that students have access to all the resources that they need. It’s not likely to happen that way however. Scale back your plans, allow for changes as needed, and have alternatives and back-up plans ready. You’ll thank yourself later.

Last Updated on
This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Set a Consistent Schedule

Every aspect of a college student’s life is in flux right now. All the familiar routines they are used to are changing because of COVID-19. One of the best things you can do is provide these students with a consistent schedule that they can rely on.

Why do these routines matter so much? There’s no way for a student to know when you will post something online. In the campus classroom, you probably hand out or share assignments, pass back or post graded work, and so forth. When classes move online, students no longer know when to expect these things to happen. Either students leave it to chance, hoping that they will notice when you post something or when work is due, or they spend every moment online refreshing class resources in an attempt to catch updates the moment they are posted. Neither of these options is ideal—and both can lead to a great deal of anxiety and stress.

If you establish a regular schedule however, students know exactly what is supposed to happen when. I established a weekly schedule for the classes I teach entirely online, which I share using an inforgraphic similar to the one below:

Weekly Course Schedule, explained in the accompanying text

Because the schedule is an image, I provide a transcript as well, publishing the details from the image beside it. As you move to migrate your course online quickly, a table with the details will work just fine. Students will care about having the details more than how pretty the schedule is.

For your schedule, include as many days and as much information as necessary. For instance, if your course was meeting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, just include those days on your schedule. If your course runs on two-week units, go ahead and include two weeks in your schedule.

Keep in mind that this schedule is not a substitute for the class calendar. Its job is simply to outline the repeating structures that students can rely on each week. It’s a simple piece to add to the resources you share, but establishing consistency in this way can help students stay on try, especially at a time when COVID-19 seems to be disrupting everyone’s schedule.


Last Updated on
This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Preparing Students for Online Classes

Teaching completely online writing courses quickly taught me that students needed additional preparation and support in most cases. While students at my university are online often, they are not frequently online for academic purposes. Now, thanks to COVID-19, they are online for every course—and they are unlikely to be prepared for it.

I made the infographic below to give students some quick things that they can do to make sure they are ready. I use it at the beginning of every term, along with other activities and resources.

How to Succeed in this Online Class

You can use the infographic as is, if it fits the needs of your course. Note that it does make reference to Canvas (our LMS at Virginia Tech). Download a copy from Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/DWAs78. It’s shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Share-Alike 4.0 International License.

If you need to tweak the infographic to work for your course, visit the template on Canva (a drag-and-drop web-based design tool). You will need to create a free Canva login to customize the image.

If you do use the infographic, remember to also provide a transcript for students who cannot view the image. I handle this transcript by repeating the text beside the image itself, as you can see on this page from my current Technical Writing course.

This text version of the infographic gives you another option for sharing these ideas with the students you teach. You can also skip the infographic altogether, copy and customize the text from the transcript (linked above), and publish the resulting version with your other class resources.


Last Updated on
This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Teaching Online 911 Collection on Evernote

Sinking BoatAs everyone scrambles to support students in online classes, colleagues are sharing links to teaching tips, free online resources, and classroom activities.

I have found links in my Twitter Timeline, my Facebook Newsfeed, and my email inbox. Lots of links. Soooo many links.

Every time a new link shows up on my screen, I make a guilty mental note to go back and read it later, when I will surely have more time. But that miraculous blessing of “more time” still hasn’t appeared.

The links keep coming. When I click through, frequently I find even more links. There is an entire ocean of resources out there, and I’m over here bailing out a sinking dinghy. I just can’t keep up.

Not only am I overwhelmed with all these great resources, I’m anxious about missing or losing one of them. That one link I forget to return to will surely be the resource that solves the challenge I’m working on. I’m not sure how to remember all these great ideas, but one thing is clear: I need a way I can find these links later, before any more scroll off my screen.

Evernote to the Rescue!

I have set up a Teaching Online 911 Evernote notebook, filled with all these wonderful links. So far, it’s a great solution. The notebook has just over 40 links at this point, to webpages created recently to address the pandemic-driven need to move online and to established resources that offer good teaching advice for any situation when classes are taught online.

Whenever someone forwards a new resource, I use the Evernote Web Clipper (a browser plugin) to add it to my notebook. The clipper saves the title, a copy of the document, and its link. I published the notebook on the web, so I can share it with everyone.

Visitors to the Teaching Online 911 notebook can either Join Notebook, to connect to their own Evernote login, or View Notebook, to see the notebook without loggin into Evernote. Both options are shows in the screenshot below:

Evernote Public Notebook screenshot, showing the Join or View options

Because I have the clipper save a copy of the resources, anyone visiting the notebook can easily find resources that include relevant information. A search in Evernote checks for the search term in the saved copies and returns a list of found sources with the search term(s) highlighted. The screenshot below shows what such a search looks like.

Evernote Public Notebook screenshot, showing a search term and highlighted results

If you too are looking for solutions and inspiration, give the Teaching Online 911 notebook a try. I hope you’ll find something you can use as you move your courses online.

Photo credit: Sinking Boat by Rodrigo Amorim on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 license.


Last Updated on
This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Design Principles from Career Field to the Writing Classroom

Virginia's Oldest Covered Bridge, Humpback Covered BridgeStudents typically know about design in their own career fields. Civil engineering majors, for instance, typically know what a good bridge, a well-designed intersection, or an efficiently designed airport looks like. They may not be able to design and build one yet, but they can tell the difference between a good design and a bad one.

This active learning strategy taps into students’ prior knowledge on design and then asks them to apply what they know to document design. The activity has two parts: first, students document their own knowledge, and second, they collaboratively draw conclusions about design and consider how the concepts apply to writing. The Individual Activity described below is presented as it would be to students while the Follow-Up Group Activities are presented as instructions for the teacher.

The Individual Activity

Before we begin our discussion of the principles of design that apply to writing, I want you to think about how design principles shape work in your own career field. For this activity, find an object related to your career field that demonstrates strong design principles and then prepare an informal presentation that explains the design principles to your group. Using the presentations from all your group members, you will reflect on what we can say about design across disciplinary and career fields.

Instructions

  1. Focusing on your career field, choose a well-designed object. A civil engineer could choose a bridge. A software developer could choose a program interface. A packaging science major could choose a reusable packaging system. A building construction major could choose a hand or power tool. Whatever you choose, be sure that you would say it is well-designed and that you are familiar enough with the object to talk about it.
  2. Brainstorm a list of features that demonstrate the object’s good design. Just jot down the features that come to mind. You will come back to this list later in this activity.
  3. Find information on your object that you can share in class. Ideally, find digital versions that you can incorporate into your presentation. Possible sources include the following:
    • Photos or screen shots
    • Drawings or illustrations
    • Instruction manuals
    • Schematic diagrams
    • Blueprints
    • Advertising materials
    • Demonstration or instructional videos
  4. Review the information you collected for additional features that point to the fact that the object is well-designed. As you find characteristics, add them to your brainstormed list.
  5. Create a chart that aligns characteristics that make the object well-designed with the evidence from the information you have gathered. For instance, you might point to details in a photo that demonstrate a feature that contributes to the design. You can add or remove features from your list as you work.
  6. Create a slideshow presentation to share the features you have identified as integral to a well-designed object in your field, following these guidelines:
    • Add a title slide that shows an image of your object and provides a title that identifies the object. For instance, you might use a title such as “Strong Design in the Humpback Covered Bridge.”
    • Add a slide for each characteristic of good design you have identified, following these suggestions:
      • For the title of the slide, use a word or two to name the characteristic.
      • Include the evidence that you found that demonstrates that characteristic.
      • Add a source citation for your evidence.
      • Do not add any more description or bullet points since you will explain the details to your group.
      • Add speaker’s notes if you like.
  7. Practice your presentation so that you are ready to share your well-designed object with your group. Aim to share your information in two to three minutes. Revise your presentation as necessary after your practice session.

Follow-Up Group Activities

  1. After students have their presentations ready, arrange the class in small groups and ask students to share their presentations with one another. Have students listen for similarities among the principles that are presented. Remind them that the same underlying principle or idea may not use the same name in every career field.
  2. Once students complete the individual presentations to their groups, ask them to identify five characteristics that transcend a single career field. Explain that students are looking for similarities among all the principles that have been presented. If students need additional help, suggest that they look at what the principles focus on. For instance, are there principles that focus on what the object looks like? Consider how they are similar.
  3. Have groups share their five characteristics by writing them on a section of the board, on a Google Slide, or on chart paper. Ask each group to explain their five characteristics briefly.
  4. Use a full-class discussion to look for patterns and similarities among all of the characteristics that have been posted. Ask students to share their immediate observations, and use questions to help them see any details that are less obvious.
  5. Display a well-designed document, or pass out copies for students to observe. You can also point to a document in your textbook. Ideally, choose an example related to an current or upcoming writing assignment.
  6. Invite students to apply the characteristics posted by their small groups to the example document. As necessary, ask questions that help students apply their career-field knowledge to the example. For example, ask students to apply design principles about an object’s appearance to the appearance of the example document.
  7. Synthesize student observations by listing the characteristics that apply to document design. Take advantage of the opportunity to introduce and discuss key principles of design (such as contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity) by connecting to the principles that students have identified.
  8. Follow this activity with one of the ideas from Examining Design Principles through Active Learning Tasks or ask students to apply the design principles discussed in the class sessions to the drafts they are currently working on. Alternately, students can apply the design principles to their presentation slides.

Final Thoughts

Writing and document design can feel alien to students whose area of expertise lies outside the writing classroom. This activity makes students experts in the classroom, telling us all about their career field and then applying that expertise to document design. Students work as active learners, building connections between what they know and the work of the writing classroom. How do you help students understand concepts in the writing classroom that may not seem obvious to them? Do you have classroom activities or assignments to share? I would love to hear from you. Just leave me a comment below.

Photo credit: Virginia’s Oldest Covered Bridge, Humpback Covered Bridge by Don O’Brien on Wikimedia Commons, used under a CC BY 2.0 license

This post originally published on the Bedford Bits blog.