The Wayne State English department created a course sampler to give students a general understanding of what they can expect from different courses. It is useful in understanding the basics of what a class is about, what will be expected from the instructor, what sort of assignments there will be, and other helpful information. However, the Wayne State English department’s course sampler suffers from some issues. I have identified these issues and resolved them with my own design of the course sampler.
I found the original course sampler to be unattractive and difficult to navigate. Its design—a general black-and-white format with underlined levels and bolded titles—is not only unappealing, but makes sorting through the many pages of courses a grueling process. There are no page numbers or table of contents. The only sort of organization is the titles of the levels (1000 Level, 2000 Level, and so on), but without page numbers and a table of contents, the user does not have much reference to exactly where they are in the document. Each course sample is different from the next. They all contain basically the same sorts of information, but in a large and unorganized paragraph format.
With my course sampler, my idea was to create a document that was easily navigable, standardized throughout, arranged in a clear and simple manner, and attractive to the user. I decided that since the course sampler may appear in many forms—online, printed out, etc.—it would be best if it did not rely on interactive elements. I chose to keep it simple—a description explaining the course sampler, a table of contents, and then the courses themselves. I designed a layout template that would be standard for all the courses. If a user only has to deal with one template and organization of information, that would make it easier for them to locate what they are looking for. The size of the pages is the size of normal printer paper—8.5in wide by 11in height—in case they are printed.
I use several design elements throughout the document. A multicolor banner appears at the top of both the introduction/table of contents page, as well as on each of the course sample pages. To distinguish essential but short information, I created small text circles which correspond with my multicolor color scheme. These circles enclose the “Fall 2016” title on the introduction/table of contents page, the page numbers on the course sample pages, and information on the course sample pages such as course number, number of credit hours, course setting (traditional, online, etc.), requirements fulfilled by the course, and attendance policy. When necessary, I use a black line across the page to separate titles from content. I chose to use Malgun Gothic 20 pt. for the main title, 16 pt. for the content titles, and then 13 pt. for the content itself. Malgun Gothic is clear and easily readable.
My course sampler begins with the introduction/title page, with the semester at the top right in an information circle. The title of the page clearly states the document to be the Wayne State English Department Course Sampler. After that, I include a brief description of the course sampler itself, as well as a short explanation of what the user can expect to find on each course sample page. The table of contents is a recognizable and easily understandable design, as it is basically a standard table of contents. It is meant to be simple so that the user can easily skim the courses and find what they are looking for. I include the full name of the courses (ENG 1010: Basic Writing rather than just ENG 1010) because I understand that some users will be new to the college experience and will be browsing rather than searching for a specific course.
Each course page includes the title of the course, the instructor’s name, an overview, objectives, assignments, course expectations, and then smaller info circles at the bottom. The overview gives a basic outline and explanation of the course, the objectives explain what the instructor wants to accomplish with the course, the assignments give a general list of what the student should expect to work on in the duration of the course, and the course expectations describe what the instructor expects of the students themselves. I created two columns on the page—one with Instructor(s) and the overview, and the other with objectives and assignments. I placed course expectations at the bottom stretching across the page because while the rest of the sections are an explanation about the different formal aspects of the course, this is a separate section where the instructor can address the potential students about what he or she would expect from them in the duration from the class.
I did not bold any of the titles. Instead, I changed the color of the text to coordinate with the colors on the banner. I did the same with the information circles at the bottom as well. I made this choice because I believed it would brighten up the pages and make the experience of browsing through courses more enjoyable. I chose the banner specifically for its colors, which I find not to be too overwhelmingly bright and distracting but still create a colorful presence on the page.
As I described earlier, the colored information circles at the bottom of the course sample pages are designed to give the user crucial information quickly and easily. They describe aspects of a class that a user might want to know without having to read through paragraphs to find them. Information such as whether the class is online or is in a traditional setting did not fit in the Instructor/Overview/Objectives/Assignments/Course Expectations sections, but was necessary nonetheless. The color of the circles draws attention to these important pieces of information while keeping with the color scheme.
The course sample pages were designed to be clear and simple but attractive to the user, and I made my design choices based on those goals.
I created my course sampler to be easily navigable, appealing, and simple to use. With my various design elements, including my chosen typeface, color scheme, and organization methods, I believe that I produced a course sampler that presents generalized information about each course in the most effective way possible.