Friday, August 10, 2012

Are Some Fonts More “Trustworthy” than Others?

Here in the WVU iDesign office, we’ve spent a lot of time talking to faculty about readability concerns, and the importance of choosing a clear font for your text. However, like any type of designer, we love to use creative fonts in our headers, graphics, and sidebars. A new study by writer and filmmaker Errol Morris suggests that your choice of font affects the reader’s view of how trustworthy the text is.

In Morris’ recent NYTimes blog post, he shares an anecdotal story about the possibility of a college student’s font choice affecting his paper grades. However, rather than stop there, Morris decided to actually study this issue. His results show differences between the rates at which people agreed or disagreed with the same passage set in different fonts. The front-runners for trust-ability? Baskerville and Georgia.

This is fascinating from psychological and sociological points of view, but may give educators an easy tool for emphasizing key points. Presenting the most important point on the page, or the one-sentence final summary in Baskerville may be a small tool among many that can be used to guide students to the key take-aways when reading educational material.

You can delve more deeply into Morris’ story by reading his blog post at

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

100,000 students! Are you kidding me?

Maybe you have some of the same questions I have about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). You know, the ones like those out of Stanford and Yale among other places. I've taught online, and I know how demanding it is to give individual attention to every student even if you only have 20 enrolled. So.
  • How can you possibly respond to 100,000 students? 
  • How do you grade that many papers or exams? 
  • How can you give immediate feedback to that many people? 
  • What kind of rigor is involved? 
  • How could it possibly match up to a real university course? 
  • That kind of course couldn't possibly be personalized, can it? 
  • A discussion board for 100,000 students has to be a nightmare to monitor, even if you split then into groups. 
  • So how do students interact with each other? 
  • How can these courses use active learning strategies?
  • Do people really learn demonstrable skills from these things?
Any of those your questions, too? Before you decide that such a large online course is just a watch-this-do-that endeavor, watch this presentation by Daphne Koller, Stanford professor and founder of Coursera. I found it very enlightening.

So now, do I fear for the future of online programs here at WVU? No. There's still the value of a degree from an accredited university. But I expect Coursera and it's cousins will definitely have an impact as we go forward.