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Guest Post: Jazzing Up Your OM Syllabus

January 10, 2013

Howard WeissOur Guest Post today comes from Prof. Howard Weiss, at Temple University. Howard is the developer of the POM for Windows and Excel OM problem solving software that we provide free with our OM texts.

When I began teaching in 1975 I would write my syllabus by hand and my secretary would type it on mimeograph paper for duplication and distribution to students. The mimeograph morphed to Xerox, and in the 1980s I began to type my own syllabus using my PC. When the internet became available I stopped reproducing the syllabus and had the students download it for themselves. I kept the syllabus black and white since many students did not have a color printer.

At this point, color printing is available to all of my students, either at home or in our computer labs. This allows me to include graphics (eg, Labor day, Halloween) on my syllabus in order to make it more engaging.

wordleMore recently I have begun to add a word cloud to my syllabus. A word cloud is a visual representation of the content of a document or web site. The size of the font of the words in the word cloud is proportional to the number of times the word appears in the document or web site. This enables viewers to very easily pick out the more important terms and concepts in the document.

Wordle.net is a web site that enables users to very easily create their own Word clouds. I have taken my course syllabus, modified it some, and used wordle.net to create the word cloud (shown here) that I have included on my syllabus. Wordle gives the user the opportunity to customize the cloud by selecting the font, the colors, the layout (horizontal, vertical, mixed), and the maximum number of words in the cloud. The word cloud improves the appearance of my syllabus and it gives a sign to the students that I am current in that I use the recently developed word cloud representation.

Another use: When a colleague retired recently, we took his resume, imported it into Wordle and gave him an 18” by 24” framed picture of his resume’s word cloud–a very unique, highly appreciated gift.

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