One type of technical writing that often gets overlooks is content prepared by teachers for students as part of their coursework. These materials almost always serve some technical function, whether it’s guiding students to action, providing them a framework for evaluation, or even just informing them of a schedule for their semester.
I take designing documentation for students very seriously. I find that if I’m clear in communicating my expectations for them, and I lay out my methods for evaluating them as explicitly as possible, everyone is far more likely to understand what’s expected of them and be more likely to meet those expectations.
This is perhaps most clear in the materials from my most recent course, Content Management, WRA 420, at Michigan State University in 2013. This is a sample of the materials I created for that class:
- Course Website (still available in MSU personal space after 5 years) – I created this site to live outside of the learning management system in use at MSU, giving me far great control in organization and presentation of our materials.
- Syllabus (pdf) – created with a visual hierarchy, including distinctive headers and subheaders, meant to make the text more skimmable and readable.
- Session Slides (Google Slides) – for every session I produced a new set of slides using Google Slides that I linked to from the course site and in the class notes (each one still available today)
- Project Rubric – for each project, and every point at which students would be assessed, I produced a comprehensive rubric shared well in advance that laid out the criteria for that deliverable.
- Final Exam – my finals are always a bit unconventional, but this one is also a writing-based exam that pushes students to apply what they’ve learned for a real-world job application.
From an information design perspective, I try to make sure that each of these documents communicates what it needs to as directly as possible, particularly when they lay out requirements for student assessment. From a visual design perspective, I try to be consistent between each document, using the same font styles and colors so that there’s uniformity and familiarity between each document type.