Visual Syllabus

A visual syllabus is a graphic representation of key syllabus information. This type of creative document is recommended as a supplement to the more formalized, official syllabus document, such as those required/recommended by individual departments.

A visual syllabus can be valuable for:

  • Effectively communicating course elements, such as grade distribution, weekly structure
  • Engaging students in appreciating the salient course information, drawing their attention to a summary of the most relevant aspects of a course

Activity 1: What makes these visual syllabi effective?

Each of the below Visual Syllabi were designed using Canva. What elements or qualities do you find effective/ineffective?

Download (PDF, 73KB)

Download (PDF, 772KB)


Activity 2: Determining Content

While there are essential elements to the official syllabus (course description, evaluation, assignment details, policies, etc.), a visual syllabus is a complement with some greater opportunity for creative liberty. Consider your syllabus – what information is most important to students? How can this information be summarized visually, graphically, or in fewer words?

Consider the following possibilities:

  • a graphical representation of mark breakdown
  • a flow chart of weekly, modular, or course activities
  • learning outcomes summarized in fewer words and icons
  • a call out box for instructor contact information
  • a photograph, image, or quotation that sums up the course and it’s focus
  • required readings
  • contact information for help and resources

Activity 3: Drafting

four white boxes are arranged in a square. Each white box is divided into sections
Possibilities for page layout

There are no Canva templates for this type of design, but a blank page shouldn’t be intimidating! Here are a few starting point considerations for getting started:

  • sketch out a rough idea of what you envision before starting in Canva
  • start your draft by thinking about your page in chunks – partition off sections of the page for the different types of content you’d like to include. For example, the header, a sidebar, the body (divided up into sub-sections), a footer, etc.
  • add your assignment/grade breakdown visual first, if applicable
  • aim to summarize rather than detail your syllabus. All the formal details will still be available in the official syllabus.

How to start designing a Visual Syllabus in Canva:

  1. From the main log in page, look to the top banner for Create a Design and select the US Letter dimensions
    1. If Infographic is not one of the main choices across the top, select More and find US Letter  under Documents
  2. Start editing using elements, text, background and/or uploads
Locating the US Letter dimensions in Canva

Download your design from Canva

To export your design from Canva, locate the Download button in the top menu bar. Select file type (PNG recommended) and download locally to your computer.

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