I found Canva.com a few years ago when I decided I’d like to design a postcard for a Christmas concert without fussing with the nitty-gritty details of layers, margins, and image placeholders in Adobe InDesign. I still use ID, but I’m a busy person and sometimes I just want to get the job DONE in about 10 minutes without getting sucked into the process of refining every little detail.
In an academic setting, Canva.com can help an instructor create visual media that helps communicate content to students and the wider academic community in a visually effective way. Canva.com makes “pretty” designs—modern, stylish, trendy. This is not “digital humanities”—there is little data, almost no analysis, and not many surprising ways of re-presenting our research. Someone could probably argue that the process of compiling and arranging the data for an infographic requires a degree of analytical processing. Regardless, this is an example of using a digital tool to compile, organize, and share something with students, which is in itself an amazing way of adding depth and more ways of connecting with our classes.
Canva.com’s design tools are available after you’ve created a log-in (or used another common ID like Google to log-in). You can proceed by either choosing a pre-existing template in the Canva “marketplace” or designing something from scratch.
Here are some ways I envision using Canva.com in an academic environment.
- bookmarks—distribute these at the beginning of the term to encourage students to spend time with physical books
- event posters—get the word out about your lectures, workshops, meetups, study-sessions, etc.
- social graphics for social media banners and event images—self-explanatory
- infographics—these take time to pull together but help students quickly acquire the scope and highlights of a topic
- planners—this may help structure or scaffold students’ progress with a big research project or it may help you think of ways of dividing the labour in a group project more fairly among the team members
- presentation slides—sometimes the Powerpoint and Keynote formatting options don’t do justice to the content we want to show our students
- programs for an end-of-term conference or another type of event on campus
- worksheets—use the templates to spin off your own homework or in-class activity
This evening, I quickly redesigned my Twitter header using one of Canva’s pre-loaded and free stock images. I don’t have a strong personal “brand” or visual identity, but I think this image connects with my Byzantine art background in a much better way than my previous header did. (It was a photo of the apse of San Vitale in Ravenna.)
I’d love to learn more ways of using Canva (or other desktop design tools) to visually structure our academic materials in a way that helps inspire our students to engage more deeply with our academic teaching and learning. Leave a comment with your ideas—thanks!