I recently presented about Creating Research Posters at the SIGUCCS 2017 conference, as it won Best in Category for the Electronic How-To Guides Communication Award! I had so much fun talking about the process and the course – and also had fun crafting this amazing poster.
For those interested in reading through the poster’s text, read on!
About Creating Research Posters
Creating Research Posters is an online course, hosted in Canvas, which guides interested learners through the process of creating a research poster in popular programs used for poster design. It also introduces learners to page layout principles that will help in creating an engaging poster, and helps with making sure a poster is ready to print. It’s loosely based on two of IT Training’s workshops, InDesign: Creating a Poster and Page Design and Layout Basics (another Communications Award winning workshop) – both of these workshops focus on laying out a poster for printing, and the design principles involved in the process.
Saving IU from research poster frustration
Many academic courses at Indiana University require students to create research posters for projects, and students may also be creating posters for poster sessions held by academic departments or groups such as the Hutton Honors College. Faculty may also need to create posters, for conferences as well as poster sessions with IU departments such as the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. However, the process of actually creating a poster was sometimes confusing and frustrating. People needed instruction on how to effectively design a poster with commonly used tools for poster design, like Microsoft PowerPoint, and recommended tools, like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe InDesign.
Another frustration with the poster creation process was getting the poster printed. Often posters would be sent to the plotters with many issues: the poster itself may not be sized correctly, images would come out fuzzy, and gradients would print out strangely. This often caused posters to have to be fixed and reprinted, wasting paper in the process.
To help remedy these problems, IT Training set out to develop training that would help people make attractive and effective research posters, in programs users are familiar with. Many people use PowerPoint to make posters, despite it being a presentation program, and this course walks learners through the process of properly setting up a PowerPoint slide for poster creation. For those who might be new to Illustrator and InDesign, this course aimed to make the prospect of creating a poster with those programs a little less intimidating
Making the course
We used the following tools to develop the course
- Camtasia Studio 8, for recording screencasts and assembling final videos
- Adobe Audition for audio recording and editing
- Adobe Illustrator for basic visual elements incorporated into the presentation slides
- PowerPoint for presentation slides
- Kaltura, IU’s video hosting platform, to host the finished videos
- Wrike for project manangement
As mentioned earlier, we took inspiration from InDesign: Creating a Poster and Page Design and Layout Basics, and pulled the most relevant information from each workshop to help form the basis for the course. The decision was made to do this as a video-based course with three separate tracks, each focusing on poster creation in PowerPoint, Illustrator, and InDesign. Each path consists of the following videos:
- Intro to what a research poster consists of
- Design principles that will help make an engaging poster
- Properly setting up a document for poster creation
- Adding images, text, and additional items and shapes to a page
- Preparing poster for printing
The video development process we used consisted of the following:
Outline content > script > storyboard > create visual assets > record screencast and audio > add visual effects like call-outs and popups > final edit > export and publish
The entire development process took three months, from initial content outlines to publishing the finished course in Canvas. We chose to host these videos as part of a Canvas course for a number of reasons – first, it allowed for easier organizing of content, as opposed to simply directly linking to the individual videos or creating an embeddable playlist that’s then included in a website. Canvas also allows for framing of content with additional resources, such as collections of effective research posters and design inspiration. Using Canvas Commons, instructors can also directly import the entire course or a specific path into their own courses for students to use.
We did encounter some limitations as we worked through the project, but managed to overcome them as we went along. This was the first time IT Training had made anything like this course, so we were entering unknown territory – so not only did we need to create the development process for a Canvas course, we also had to create a development process for video development – and the video development was the more complicated piece for this project. The development process for these videos (outlined previously) was developed along with the videos we were creating, and that involved some growing pains as we determined what steps were necessary and how much time to devote to these steps. Wrike helped immensely with this process and helped us keep organized as we worked through creating the course. Another limitation involved the technology we had access to. For the introductory video, we wanted to include the two presenters for the course, Beth and Peter, on screen with the slides to make the content more engaging – however, we didn’t have access to a recording studio at that point. That video ended up made with what we had on hand – a fancy point-and-shoot camera, a USB microphone, and a web-based teleprompter system to scroll through the script as the video was recorded. Despite these limitations, Creating Research Posters was completed successfully, and we learned a lot about the development process for training videos.
What people thought about it
Creating Research Posters was very well-received at Indiana University. The course was immediately distributed to the Student Technology Center groups responsible for the plotters, so they could distribute it as needed to help students with printing issues. There were also many requests for us to host in-person sessions focusing on the course, where we’d come present to a group about the basics of what a research poster consisted of and basic design principles and show the group how to get to the Canvas course. We held a number of these for various campus departments, including Hutton Honors College and the Center for Excellence of Women in Technology. IT Training also hosted Creating Research Posters as a webinar, outlined similarly to the in-person presentations, for the general IU community to attend.
Future adventures for Creating Research Posters
There are a few things in store for Creating Research Posters in the future. There has been discussion of redoing the first two videos for the course, now that we have more experience in creating videos and online courses. We also have access to a recording studio, so the introductory video will have a much more professional look and feel. The course may also have cosmetic updates to match other IT Training offerings, now that we’re offering more Canvas courses aside from Creating Research Posters. We also may add additional resources and supporting text to the course, to help provide interested learners with any additional information they may need. As it is, though, Creating Research Posters is already an incredibly useful tool for the IU community, providing just-in-time training to help anyone needing to create a research poster get started with the process.
Interested in the course? Check it out here – it’s open to the public.