Before writing course notes, I analysed everything I did to pick machine quilting up as quickly as I did. I jotted down every technique, why things worked, why problems occurred and how to solve them, and thought about how I could explain things six different ways as not everyone learns in the same way. Some people like a nut sized amount of information and like to work it out for themselves, some like to be shown, and some can learn from a book or notes so I needed to cover all of those bases (on the fly).
My tips for writing notes are:
- use fonts and font sizes are easy to read
- use black for text instead of red or light colours
- write according to your demographic, i.e. use simple words for children
- use two columns instead of one as it’s easier to read
- use bullet points instead of making long lists
- use images and diagrams when possible
- create a cover page for the notes
- write down the link to your website for more information if you have one
I didn’t have anyone around that I could get to work through the notes or proof read them so it put more pressure on me to make sure the notes were foolproof. For the first couple of years, I had very limited notes just covering what was in the course. There were no pictures in my notes. Nowadays, pictures, illustrations and videos are the norm. When I added diagrams and photos to the notes, I bought Adobe Illustrator to draw the illustrations. There are free and cheaper programs and apps around but everything I read said AI was the best option (for me).
Once I became confident in teaching I rehashed my notes and at their height, they were 80 pages long so I felt like students were getting their money’s worth. This did eat into my time and profits substantially, so they were scaled down to 20 pages. I had to stop feeling guilty about getting paid! I think I put a lot of information in the notes so if I didn’t get around to teaching something in class, it was in the notes. You don’t have to write 20 pages, go with what works for your course.
If your notes are several pages long, will you be stapling them, putting them in a display book or binding them? I’ve done all three. I bought a book binder and feel this looks the most professional.
Even if you have written a book based on your class, I would still write a short class notes for students. Some don’t want to buy a book for financial reasons.
I also wrote a set of notes of what I would say in the class. This made me think about how I would explain things. It was a great help and made sure I didn’t forget to mention things and put me at ease…a little!
Your notes will be copyright but the technique is not. Some teachers go over the top in protecting their copyright and this may make the students frightened to use the technique or pattern again. Obviously you won’t want students putting your notes out there for free but make them feel comfortable about using your technique and pattern.
You’ll learn a lot about how you quilt or your technique by writing your course notes. It may seem intimidating but it’s fun at the same time. Have a look at course notes you’ve received in the past to see what you like or don’t like about them. Is there anything online that explains a technique well that you can adapt to your notes? Be careful not to copy or paraphrase them, just look at the layout or their approach to the technique and then write your own notes. Let them reflect your personality.