Tech Corner: Course banners

― Jeanne M. Slattery

Figure 1. Three options for course banners in D2L.

Figure 1. Three options for course banners in my D2L course.

I’ve been prepping Abnormal Psychology, which I haven’t taught in about six years, and am preparing to post materials online for my students.  I was working on several options for course banners (Figure 1), which I posted on my Facebook page for feedback. Interestingly, although my Facebook friends clearly preferred the night scene, then next the mountain scene, a significant group also liked the dandelions.

Why do I use course banners? They make the site warmer and more inviting for me ― and I hope for my students. I post frequent assignments and, if I’m going to go to the site daily, I should set it up so that I want to go. I also want them to visit regularly. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I want to wake the course warmer and engage my students more effectively.

I got two requests for help with creating course banners ― and I expect that more want and need help in creating banners. This is for those of you wanting help in doing so.

  1. Figure 2. Center your photo on the active area of the slide.

    Figure 2. Center the desired part of your photo on the active area of the slide.

    I start with an 8 x 1.5″ PowerPoint presentation (you can change the slide size under Page Setup on the File dropdown menu).

  2. Simply lay a photo over the PowerPoint slide, being careful to center your photo over the active space in the slide. You can see the active space peeking out to the left in Figure 2.
  3. Add your text. When satisfied with placement, save both as a PowerPoint presentation and as a jpeg. Saving as a PowerPoint presentation will allow you to edit your work as needed.
  4. Figure 3. The finished banner.

    Then make your widget in D2L. To make your widget, click on the Widgets menu on the Edit Course tab in D2L, then click on Create Widget. Name your banner on the Properties tab, then put your finished jpeg in the Content tab. I often have to drag my jpeg to make it somewhat bigger to show well on my Home page.

Figure 4. My course homepage, with my new banner.

Figure 4. My course homepage, with my new banner.

Voila! This is my banner inserted into my course’s homepage!

Some thoughts:

  • I find it’s difficult to clearly put text information on a busy photo, which is why I often use nature and night scenes for my banners.
  • I prefer having at least some relationship between my course content and banner. As you can see, though, I focus on metaphors. In this banner, I’m talking about growth, while in my night banner Myra Bullington saw the unconscious, and others saw both darkness and light/hopefulness. Elisabeth Fulmer saw the dandelions as signifying hope for the future.
  • Figure 4. Banners can take many different forms, including this simple one for the Partners group ― using a photo we took.

    I use different banners for each section of a course (I’m doing two sections of Abnormal Psychology). This helps me differentiate between courses and remember what information I’ve added, where. By the way, banners can take many different forms, as in this banner used in Partners’ D2L organizational site.

Thanks to Janet Knepper (English), who is a master designer of D2L banners and has helped me with them over the years, as well as the numerous people (30+) who commented on my banners and helped me think through what I want from them. Thanks to Randy Potter who read and responded to an earlier draft.

Jeanne M. Slattery is a professor of psychology at Clarion University. She is interested in thinking about what makes teaching and learning successful, and generally describes herself as a learner-centered teacher. She has written two books, Counseling diverse clients: Bringing context into therapy, and Empathic counseling: Meaning, context, ethics, and skill (with C. Park), and is writing Trauma, meaning, and spirituality: Research and clinical perspectives. She can be contacted at


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7 Responses to Tech Corner: Course banners

  1. Dan Clark says:

    I also use banners simply to separate my course from other courses. I have adopted Jon Touster’s method of scanning the spine of the course textbook so that the D2L shell is easily recognized.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cupprof says:

    I love using banners too… But I often struggle to find legal-to-alter photographs and content.
    ~ John


    • jslattery22 says:

      Good question! What about your own photos?


      • cupprof says:

        I typically use my own or stuff I find in creative commons. I think we should work hard to model that it is NOT ok to just use anything we find on google. (I’m not suggesting you or your readers don’t, by the way.) I just have a tough time convincing students that copyright laws mean anything when they seem to see them being broken on a regular basis. What are your thoughts?


      • jslattery22 says:

        I must confess an all-abiding love affair with Google Image, but I try to identify my source when I use photos from there (trying to model good practices to my students).

        Most of the photos on this site are attributed to the photographer, although not so for the course banners. (Caught me!)


  3. Pingback: Why I Create Pretty Course Sites (It’s Not What You Think) | Hand in Hand

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