Infographic Projects

Today’s students are increasingly more visually oriented. They are adept at absorbing information from visual material. They are also very good at sharing their own ideas and opinions by remaking images to suit their mood (consider GIFs and their impact on communication). Content is delivered in virtually every space they occupy using visual means.

Infographics provide a rich environment for students to explore the power of telling a story using visuals, particularly data visualizations. When students develop their own data visualizations, they think more critically about their information and its meaning. They also learn how data visualization can be used to mislead or manipulate an audience. Infographic projects, then, are not just engaging; they also build digital literacy skills. (UDL Checkpoints 5.1, 7.1, 7.2)

Check out this video from KQED for a brief overview of infographics:

Make infographic projects meaningful.

Make infographic projects meaningful/authentic.

Make sure this assignment clearly connects to a course objective. If it is a learning goal that supports an objective, make the connection clear. Avoid using technology because it’s cool if it doesn’t support your learning objectives.

As with any project, students should also be able to make a connection between their work in the classroom and the world beyond. The skills students develop for communicating visually and with data are useful in a wide range of careers or academic disciplines. In making effective infographics, students move beyond recall-level understanding and into information synthesis, data analysis, and content creation (Bloom’s Taxonomy). To take real-world authenticity even further, you can encourage students to share their infographics outside of the classroom.

Provide a variety of options.

Provide a variety of options.

A key element in designing infographics is developing a specific thesis and story to tell with one’s research. Giving students freedom to choose their research topic, their thesis, and/or the angle of their message will promote both engagement and critical thinking. (UDL Checkpoint 7.1)

There are many different approaches to infographics that students can adopt for their projects. In the video below seven common types of infographics are briefly explained, including an example of when each could be used. Many infographics combine elements from more than one of these seven types. (UDL Checkpoint 5.1)

 

Set clear expectations.

Set clear expectations.

Determine the goal of the project. Make sure students are clear on the purpose and audience of their infographic as well as the learning objectives. If the infographic has potential use beyond the classroom, such as in internships, on social media, or around campus, establish that at the beginning.

Next, consider your project parameters. How many data points/visualizations do you expect? How should students cite their sources? How many sources should they cite? Is there a “length” requirement? Do they need to provide a text transcript (discussed below in “Scaffold ethical behavior”), if so, in what format?

Be clear about how projects will be assessed. Students are more familiar with grading expectations for traditional papers but not to less traditional projects like an infographic. What are the expectations for the “mechanics” of the infographic (color, data visualization, images, etc.), and how much of the final grade is assessing those mechanics? Using a rubric will help students understand your expectations. A single point rubric that lists the expectations, has room for comments and includes a points column is a natural fit for a project like this.

Provide options for feedback.

Provide options for feedback and reflection.

Because infographic projects require multiple stages, set the assignment up with checkpoints so you have the opportunity to guide the process. Students will be overwhelmed if they receive a directive to produce a final product without formative feedback. Checkpoints might include

  • research question
  • thesis statement
  • data visualization drafts
  • outline
  • rough draft
  • final draft

These checkpoints provide options for formative feedback from peers and/or instructors. Note: when leveraging peer feedback, it is helpful to provide students with a rubric to help them develop skills in constructive critique.

In addition to feedback from others, self-assessment and reflection can be a vital part of the content creation process. We recommend including a reflection component for students to process the experience of developing their infographic.

Scaffold ethical behavior.

Scaffold ethical behavior.

When we think about ethical behavior in creating infographics, we need to consider how this project will give students an opportunity to

  • create accessible infographics (for a wide range of audiences)
  • learn ethical copyright practices
  • develop information validation skills
  • contribute positively to the media landscape

As students outline their work, have them consider those who may not be able to process it as they do. In infographic production, this most often means that you need a transcript for folks who can’t access visual content. The content itself should also be accessible, explaining terms or references to be inclusive to all audiences. (UDL Checkpoints 1.2 and 2.1)

Additionally, that responsibility extends to respecting copyright. If any part of a student’s infographic is something they didn’t make/think/say, then they need to first find out if they’re allowed to use it, and then if they do have permission, give credit where credit is due. Copyright considerations apply to student’s infographics too. Creative Commons licenses give students control over how their work is shared and used by others.

Researching topics and gathering material for an infographic also provides an excellent opportunity for students to practice information validation skills. They will need to evaluate the credibility of the sources they want to use to develop their story to ensure they are sharing information that is accurate.

Finally, at Messiah University, students are growing “toward a maturity of intellect, character and Christian faith in preparation for lives of service, leadership and reconciliation in church and society.” They should be encouraged to reflect on how their work is contributing to the digital landscape — does their infographic reflect these values?