Using Infographics in the Classroom
By Amy Erickson
What is an Infographic?
In the May edition of Online Classroom, Dr. John Orlando’s article on infographics caught my eye. Some may be asking, what is an infographic? According to Bovée and Thill (2016), “infographics are a special class of diagrams that can convey both data and concepts or ideas” (p. 238). You’ve likely seen journalists use infographics to tell a story, show a trend, or even demonstrate associations between ideas. If you’d like to view Hubspot’s ten best infographics from 2016, have a look at this link.
In his article, Orlando (2017) suggests adding infographic assignments to the curriculum. He believes that the infographic allows students to creatively present information and determine ways to communicate the importance of information. After reading his article, I tend to agree.
Changing My Mind
As a composition instructor, my initial reaction was to bristle when Orlando suggested that I replace written assignments with something like an infographic. However, the more I thought about his suggestion and the importance of visual communication, the more my mind changed. I realized that the skills needed to create an infographic are relevant to our students and being able to use creativity to present information is important for any line of work.
I am currently teaching a business writing course. We frequently discuss the decision to augment communication with visuals. Our textbook additionally outlines reasons visuals are becoming increasingly important in our communication; the most shocking of which came from a 2003 study by the National Institute for Literacy. The study stated that “only half of the adult population in the United States now has the literacy skills considered necessary for success in today’s workplace” (as cited in Bovée & Thill, 2016, p. 223). So, one’s content may be lost or misunderstood by members of the audience if messages are only presented in a written format. Bovée and Thill (2016) also suggest that individuals who are part of a “visual, media-saturated environment” come to anticipate visual elements to be part of any message. If this is becoming an expectation, we certainly want our students to have experience with things like infographics and be prepared to meet and exceed employer requirements.
As I mentioned before, I understand resistance to supplanting written assignments with infographics. However, perhaps they could be used to augment written work, or prepare students for written assignments. Maybe an infographic could help students understand connections in their research. For example, what if students created an infographic instead of a literature matrix? (For those of you who are new to the literature matrix, it is typically done in an excel spreadsheet.) Students could use an infographic to prepare for a final paper by showing the various themes that have emerged during their research. In some courses, students are asked to create a presentation of their written content. Perhaps an infographic could be an option, alongside PowerPoint. Consider how using infographics could help you as an instructor to communicate information as well.
Oftentimes technical suggestions create a lot of work for instructors. I’m happy to report that this is not the case with creating infographics. I used the website recommended by Dr. Orlando (http://www.canva.com) and found it very user friendly. I also found this helpful video that walked me through creating an infographic. It took me about fifteen minutes to create one for my own website. I think you’ll enjoy this creative approach to information sharing and encourage you to try it for yourself.
***Below is the infographic the author created on the Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Assessment website.