During the final semester of the Master of Science in Information Studies (MSIS) program at The University of Texas at Austin, students are required to complete a Capstone Project, thus “capping” their academic experience. The objective of this project is to demonstrate the knowledge gained through completing the MSIS coursework. The Capstone Project is completed by conducting field-work under the guidance of a field supervisor.
The Challenge
The initial goal of this project was to create an introductory visual design-focused course to fit into the undergraduate iSchool curriculum. The course would fill a gap in the current undergraduate course offerings through learning the principles and the theory of visual/graphic design. However, due to changing circumstances, in working with my field supervisor and IT Lab Manager, Quinn Stewart, the scope of the project was scaled back from being a stand-alone course to a specialization for a current School of Information undergraduate course offering, ​Information in Cyberspace​ (INF335). As described in the syllabus, this course is “designed for undergraduate students that provides an overview of the history and social impact of Internet and Web technology. INF335 emphasizes technology self-sufficiency and information literacy.” Over the last two years as a Teaching Assistant in the IT Lab, I have supported multiple sections of this course by assisting professors in developing curricula, grading, and answering student questions. This allowed me to be very familiar with the course including its content and pacing.

The project is an excellent fit for building upon the skills acquired while earning my undergraduate degree, teaching credential, graduate degree, and professional experience. The course content will utilize my knowledge gained while earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from California State University, Long Beach. I will leverage my experience and pedagogy from earning my Single-Subject Teaching Credential in Art. Additionally, several courses I have taken during my coursework at UT, including Understanding and Serving Users, Usability, Human-Computer Interaction, Interaction Design, and Rapid Prototyping/Lean UX Methodologies, will allow me to make connections between visual design and user experience design. Furthermore, several years of professional graphic design and a summer UX Design internship with H-E-B will allow me to consider the relationship between the course content and industry needs.

My Role
I worked with my field supervisor and IT Lab Manager, Quinn Stewart, throughout the semester for monitoring my progress and guidance. Additionally, I worked with my colleague, Chris Repka, to help develop the survey. Finally, I was in contact with former TA and current Information in Cyberspace Assistant Adjunct Professor, Megan Pearson.
the tools
Competitive Analysis
An informal competitive analysis was conducted to see if a visual design or related course is offered by the School of Information department at other top U.S. Information schools:
A survey was launched using Qualtrics to the undergraduate students currently enrolled in an online iSchool course. These courses include Information in Cyberspace, Information in Cyberspace (HCI/UX), and Introduction to Information Studies. There were two main objectives of the survey:
Student Majors
Gain insight into the majors of our enrolled students.
Topic Interest
Gauge the level of interest in different School of Information topics.​​​​​​​
I distributed the survey as an “Announcement” to the online sections I am TA. Additionally, a couple of professors made an announcement regarding the survey for the sections in which I do not TA. 
With the seventeen responses I was able to collect, the results indicate that a course about User-Interface/Graphic Design is the favorite amongst current undergraduate students.
Additionally, all students interested in taking a course on User-Interface/Graphic Design reported at least a “5” in a Likert scale from 1-7 with 1 being “Not at All Interested” and 7 being “Very Interested.”
Learning Objectives
After it was indicated there was a demand for a Graphic Design course, I defined the learning objectives for the course. Some of the objectives were new and some were used from the existing Information in Cyberspace course:
Currently, the specializations offered are, “HCI/UX” and “Choose Your Own Adventure.” These specializations share ten “core” modules with six specialized modules. For example, the HCI/UX specialization includes modules on an Intro to User Experience and Usability, UX Research Methodology, UX Design Methodology, Information Architecture, Virtual Reality, and Video Games. I took this framework to create my design modules:
1. The History of Graphic Design
2. The Elements and Principles of Design
3. Typography
4. Color
5. Branding

I plan to use an existing module from the “Choose Your Own Adventure” specialization about Augmented and Virtual Reality due to their relevance with design.
Each module contains 3-4 pages of content, a discussion post, and a quiz. A discussion post with a minimum word count of 150 words and two peer responses allows students to engage with each other and practice using the vocabulary from the module. A five-question multiple-choice quiz allows students to demonstrate their comprehension of the module material:
Here is a screenshot of an example module, “The History of Graphic Design.” This content was developed because before becoming a designer, students need to know what has been done before them. Having an understanding of the history of design tools, styles, techniques, and designers will make students better designers. Additionally, works of the past will help to inspire future work and help to better communicate intended messages. Furthermore, it will equip students with some of the vocabulary to form their own opinions and dialogue about design:
Final project
In addition to the five new modules, students are required to create a “Final Project” with checkpoints throughout the semester. For the final project, students will learn about the process and software required to develop a personal logo. Ideally, students’ logos will be included in their resumes, personal websites, and more. This will be very beneficial for future employment opportunities for students.

The final project (FP) is broken down into 6 separate assignments (FP0 - FP5) that need to be completed at different times throughout the semester. FP0 is to identify an initial direction for the project. FP1 through FP2 involves sketching potential logo directions by doing thorough logo exploration. FP3 will equip students with the skills to create their designs digitally. FP4 consists of creating a slideshow and video presentation on their process throughout FP0-3. FP5 will serve as a reflection on students’ journeys learning about design and cyberspace.
Lessons Learned
I learned that creating online curricula is very time-intensive. I have developed graphic design content for in-person teaching as a part of my Single-Subject Teaching Credential Program, however, developing online content requires a different skillset. From my experience with in-person teaching, I had some structure for my lessons such as learning objectives, presentations, and demonstrations. The minute details during the delivery of the lesson are spoken based upon my knowledge and experience, therefore, not every thought and detail needs to be premeditated. Developing online content is very different. The Capstone Project allowed me to consider how the information would best be taught and learned online.
Moving Forward
I will continue to put final touches on the course over the summer. I would like to create and replace some of the images used in the course so they are UT’s intellectual property instead of a third-party’s. Additionally, I would like to edit and peer review the content so it is ready for the fall semester. If given the opportunity, I would love the chance to teach this course to empower future designers.

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