Student-created infographics: three practical ideas for active learning
Dr Olga Kozar
Infographics: flipped classroom and assessment ‘game-changers’
We are witnessing a true democratisation of graphic tools, such as infographic or banner templates. With a growth of free or freemium (partially free) online services, such as Canva, Easel.ly or Piktochart and an increasing number of free quality templates (e.g. Slidego), creating a professional-looking infographic is easier than ever, and can be done even by beginners.
This democratisation of infographic creation presents teachers with a unique opportunity to incorporate infographic-type activities to increase engagement (VanderMolen & Spivey, 2017) and enhance assessments (Dyjur & Li, 2015) in their teaching. Not only can using infographics foster a skill of visual communication, which is highly valued in various industries, but it can also create sustainable learning and teaching objects that can be reused in future offerings of the same subject. What is more, infographics can also contribute to the culture of diversity and inclusion (Ortiz & Redmon, 2020).
Below are some ideas for incorporating infographics in your teaching.
Idea 1: Increase engagement with otherwise ‘dry’ content, like reading
Recent research seems to indicate that up to 80% of university students currently do not read their assigned readings (Deale & Lee, 2021). This has an impact not only on the quality of class discussions, but, most importantly, on student learning and final outcomes. It also tends to undermine teachers’ efforts to flip their classrooms and make their synchronous sessions more interactive and discussion-based.
Asking students to create simple infographics with the key information from their assigned readings (or other content, like watching a lecture recording) can become a real game-changer, as infographics hold the potential of promoting deeper learning among students prior to their synchronous sessions and they are also ‘quick-to-process’ for the educator and other students.
When students formulate key messages of the reading in their own words, and arrange this information visually, they engage in higher order processes, and are therefore more likely to both process content on a deeper level and retain it long-term.
More and more teachers aspire to ‘flip’ their classrooms and therefore need students to engage with content prior to synchronous sessions. It is widely recommended that teachers use a ‘pre-class assurance of learning’ task to minimise the biggest hindrance to a successful flipped classroom – students not having consumed the content. In my opinion, infographics can be a valuable tool in teachers’ ‘pre-class assurance of learning’ toolbox
Benefits of infographics as a ‘pre-class’ task
A big advantage of infographics and the reason why they are increasingly used in all kinds of industries is that they are quick to process. It takes less time to see an image with text and a visual representation of the relationships, such as cause and effect, than to read several paragraphs of text.
This ‘quick-to-process’ quality makes infographics an attractive candidate for the ‘pre-class’ task. For example, students can post their mini infographics in the discussion thread prior to coming to class and teachers can allocate 5-10 minutes at the start of the class to collaborative viewing of these artefacts.
The creative nature of infographics can also increase the likelihood of students engaging with, and commenting on the work of other students.
Bonus idea: Seek your students’ consent to use their work in future offerings, and you will have excellent and versatile teaching tools. For example, you can feature student-created infographics with proper attribution in your lectures or content delivery or ask students to analyse and suggest improvements to (potentially anonymised) infographics. Student-created infographics can also serve as great revision or enhancement resources.
Idea 2: Using infographics as ‘assessment tools’
Communication skills are critical for career success in different industries, and infographic-creation both requires and vividly demonstrates good communication skills. Replacing some written or oral assignments, like reports or presentations, with infographics gives students an opportunity to practice and develop their communication skills and gives students a tangible object that they can later share with future clients or employers.
Introducing infographic-based assignments can also increase markers’ enjoyment of the marking process and can potentially take less time than marking a presentation or a text-based assignment.
For example, Dr Rimante Ronto, a lecturer in the Department of Health systems and populations at my university and a recent recipient of a national teaching award has been using infographic assignments with great success for several offerings. She finds that this assignment is often transformative for students, which resulted in her being recognised as an award-winning educator.
Rimante suggests carefully scaffolding infographic-creation skills by providing students with ‘how-to’ resources and videos as well as examples of other students’ work to provide a benchmark.
An easy way to provide students with support is to share 2-3 infographic creation tutorials from Youtube. See links at the end of this chapter for some free video tutorials.
Idea 3: Use infographics to compare different theories or discipline controversies
Infographics are a unique tool to visually present a comparison of different theories and controversies. If your discipline or topic has a variety of perspectives or approaches, asking students to present them visually in an infographic form can be an enriching and effective teaching method, which will also result in lasting and reusable artefacts for future students.
In summary, student-created infographics is a versatile technique that can be adapted to different contexts and tasks, ranging from low-stakes ‘pre-class assurance of learning’ in a flipped classroom to replacing some of the assignment tasks. It provides a range of benefits, such as (i) increased engaging with otherwise ‘dry’ readings; (ii) deeper learning, (iii) improved communication skills, including multimedia skills; (iv) contributing to learning resources for future cohorts and (v) creating artefacts that can be shared with future employer.
Free video tutorials
Deale, C. S., & Lee, S. H. (2021). To read or not to read? Exploring the reading habits of hospitality management students. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education, 34(1), 45-56.. https://doi.org/10.1080/10963758.2020.1868317
Dyjur, P., & Li, L. (2015). Learning 21st century skills by engaging in an infographics assessment. In P. Preciado Babb, M. Takeuchi, & J. Lock (Eds.), Proceedings of the IDEAS: Designing Responsive Pedagogy Conference (pp. 62-71). Calgary, Canada: Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. https://prism.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/50860
Ortiz, M., & Redmon, A. (2020). Creating a culture of diversity, equity & inclusion through active learning using student-created infographics. AURCO Journal, 26, 117-127.
VanderMolen, J., & Spivey, C. (2017). Creating infographics to enhance student engagement and communication in health economics. The Journal of Economic Education, 48(3), 198-205. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220485.2017.1320605