Are you looking for some fresh ways to present data and charts in your course? What about designing the right look and feel for custom courses? Well, USA Today's Snapshots might be just the inspiration you're looking for.

"What are Snapshots?"

Snapshots are these really fun, graphical polls that appear daily on each of the paper's four main sections. They're simple, visual and easy-to-read public opinion "snapshots" on current trends and topics.

In addition to visual inspirations, Snapshots offer two specific benefits that make them relevant for e-learning designers.

  1. Content: Snapshots are designed around a wide range of topics similar to what you're already designing. The content drives the visual design choices.
  2. Design: Snapshots are visually aligned to the topics they're presenting. Their visual voice supports the data and topics of the polls.

Let's look at some ideas for just how Snapshots can help course designers.

Better graphs and charts

The majority of Snapshots include percentages and most of those are represented as bar graphs. This makes Snapshots a great resource for designing more visually engaging graphs.

Keep in mind that getting too creative could mislead or misrepresent the data, but that's the case anytime you're working with numbers and graphs. The important thing here is to evaluate how you're currently working with charts and look for more visual ways to present them.

Branding and style guide workarounds

In design mapping, we work to identify the common course elements—fonts, colors, objects, characters—and how to go about selecting the appropriate elements based on the content.

The challenge for many e-learning designers is that corporate branding prohibits tampering with, or disabling, the existing style guide. That's okay. We can work with that.

Snapshots work with similar constraints—they use the same font style and colors and slide design for each graphic.

This constraint emphasizes the importance of visually aligned elements over player templates and corporate branding.

Reduce on-screen text and bullet points

If you're looking for another way to present course objectives, consider leveraging the graphical solutions from Snapshots.

Rewrite the objectives as statements or stick with your measurable approach. Either way, the visual presentation emphasizes the importance of each objective giving learners an immediate sense of relevance.

Visual quiz designs

Snapshots are poll results and present mostly percentages and bar graphs. But their format and visual elements also work for designing more graphical quizzes.

Additional resources

Here are some sources for Snapshots. 

I also found a book on Amazon that highlights several hundred of the most popular Snapshots.

What do you think?

Hopefully this gives you some idea for ways to approach your course designs.

What do you think of Snapshots? Would something like Snapshots work with the courses you're currently building? What are the risks with using graphics and images to present data?

(Special thanks to Kelly Smith who inspired this post after a recent Skype conversation)

Post written by David Anderson

Kim Hannan
David Anderson
Efrat Maor
David Anderson