Having students create and present posters as a final course assignment is a great alternative to traditional term papers. Not only does this type of assignment allow a creative approach to synthesis and application of course concepts, but it also offers a fun end to the semester that emphasizes collaboration and community.
If this idea intrigues you, but you feel unsure of how to implement the practice, today’s blog post shares the resources that you and your students will need to create and present posters. While the examples below are from science courses, students in any discipline can benefit from this assignment type.
Why ask students to present posters?
Creating posters allow groups of students the opportunity to collaborate while applying course concepts to a topic of their choosing. They can gain valuable content mastery and communication skills when compelled to explain their findings to an audience in a new context, and they need to be able to present this information in a concise and visual manner. Depending on the type of poster, it also gives students the freedom to present content in a creative way, and it is good for them to see how other students engaged in research and presented material. And if you invite guests to act as reviewers/judges (other instructors, local professionals, AIs, CITL staff members, etc.), students get to be the experts on their topics, explaining their ideas to novices from beyond the course. Finally, if your field uses posters in professional settings, you are giving students a head start on learning what it is like to present their findings and engage in discussions in a disciplinary context.
Who is doing this at IU?
Faculty members across campus use this type of assignment, although we see more of it in programs where posters are a familiar part of professional conferences—often more in the sciences and professional schools.
Dr. Andrew Libby, Assistant Director of the Human Biology Program, shared this information about the program’s use of student poster sessions:
We use posters in Human Biology because we want students to become adept and comfortable at communicating science to non-scientists. We always try to host our poster sessions in a public space like the Jordan Hall Atrium or the Wells Library Learning Commons so that passersby will have a chance to engage with our students. The result is that our students learn both the joy and the difficulty of doing science as well as explaining science to others.
Do you have to teach students how to make a poster?
Luckily, you do not need to spend time showing your students all the details of creating a poster. IT Training has created a Canvas course that explains what a research poster is, explains basic page layout principles that will help your students create well designed posters, and shows your students how to create their posters in one of three different programs: PowerPoint, Illustrator, or InDesign. You can view this Canvas course which includes short videos and related poster design resources for your students. You then can import the course from Canvas Commons and decide which modules you want your students to review. Alternatively, your students can enroll in the existing Canvas course and then decide which program they want to use to create their posters. You may still want to teach students about any aspects of posters unique to your discipline, maybe providing them with a few examples of posters from your field.
Where can students print their posters and will it be expensive?
Students can print their posters in the Wells Library (fourth floor). Currently a 3′ x 4′ poster costs under $20 for students to print in the Wells library.
If you would like help in designing, implementing, or evaluating this type of assignment, please contact the CITL. One of our consultants will be happy to meet with you about incorporating a poster assignment into your course. And really, we love to be invited to poster sessions, so let us know if you want visitors.
Thank you to Beth Nolen, Senior IT Education Specialist for UITS IT Training, for her assistance with this post, and to Dr. Libby and his students for sharing their poster.