[Image via Whitney Quesenbery]

This week’s electionlineWeekly includes some news I’ve been hinting at for a while but am very excited to share: we will be adding an election design course to the offerings at our online program starting this fall! Whitney Quesenbery and Dana Chisnell have more:

If you want to bring out your inner election designer, or just learn how identify good and bad election design, there’s a new opportunity designed just for you.

As part of the first-in-the-nation Certificate in Election Administration at the University of Minnesota, we are really proud to be teaching the first-in-the-nation course on election design. The program is the brainchild of Doug Chapin, aiming at current and future election administrators and anyone interested in civic engagement.

The course is entirely online, and built on the idea that adults learn best by doing. Through small, weekly assignments students practice new skills with real election materials.

We will be there with students the whole way, with group discussions and collaborative reviews because we’ve seen that the best ideas happen when there’s a place to brainstorm and people to do it with. Usability testing will help students learn from their own voters (and to see how to make it part of all of their work).

We encourage students to work on real projects that need doing in their election offices, so they can improve instructions, forms, websites, or other election materials while they earn two credits.

In case you’re wondering if we’ve lost our minds: We know. This is a big election year. We are with you. That’s why we’ve built “project weeks” into the schedule, so students can fit the work around the election crazy and a generally busy schedule. Of course, we plan to pay attention to what’s happening out there in election-land, bringing those lessons into the online classroom. Students will come away with more tools and skills to help them understand better where process problems are coming from, and how to remedy them through design. [emphasis added; note also that we plan to offer the course again in the spring semester starting January 2017. – DMCj]

The 16-week course covers the voter journey through an election and all the ways an election office communicates with voters. Think of the titles of the Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent and you’ll have a good idea of the topics — like:

  • Plain language
  • Usability testing
  • Election forms
  • Accessibility
  • Designing election department websites
  • Voter education and voter guides
  • Writing instructions
  • Ballots
  • Polling place materials

Hoping we’ll see you in class!

Here’s the fine print:

  • The official name is PA 5975 – Election Design
  • Class starts on September 6, 2016
  • Anyone can take the course – you don’t have to be admitted to the program [or, for that matter, a current election official – students and curious observers welcome! – DMCj]
  • Students will average 6 hours a week of course work, including interacting with the instructors and other students
  • Students earn 2 credits
  • Enroll in the certificate program by August 1, or register for the course by August 12.

You can get all the information about registering here; you can also contact me or my colleague Lea Chittenden for all the details.

This is a huge “get” for our program and is the direct result of the support for the Field Guides and other election design work from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Election design is a must-have skill for the 21st-Century election administrator and we’re glad to do our part. I’m very excited about bringing Whitney and Dana on board and I hope to see many of you join us for the course starting this fall! [Thanks also to electionline‘s Mindy Moretti for helping to spread the news …]

We are also hard at work on other new courses for this fall and beyond … stay tuned!