overhauling the syllabus

I currently have a huge issue with copious note taking. i’m reading extensively on syllabus recommendations as I write an article about the syllabus in online composition courses. nothing groundbreaking or earth shattering. some great ideas for updating my own syllabus. most importantly I’m seeing recommendations to apply web design principles to course syllabuses, especially those not distributed in paper form. This means smaller blocks of text, broken up by images, boxes, etc. It’s these ideas that have me rethinking the one document, super long syllabus with the hidden “Subject to change” line allowing me to make it different which sometimes encourages students to pay less attention as the document is not *complete*

So with these web based, user-centered design principles in mind, it seems to make more sense to break the syllabus into separate parts, separate documents, smaller chunks. This would possibly encourage students to access the daily assignment frequently since they won’t be required to wade through all the policies, and could allow for specific portions to be highlighted at the instructors preference. I’m also considering an outline daily schedule in the syllabus with specific deadlines housed in the Module folders [for online courses?]. For example, I could highlight learning outcomes, assignments and grades in one document (or one document per learning module) while highlighting course expectations, student expectation’s, and attendance in a separate document, organizing like portions of the course together (demonstrating organization) and communicating better to my audience (demonstrating rhetorical principles).

Question #1 – If I create one  folder in my [online] course with 10 documents, will they be read? How do I apply gamification or game-like learning principles to encourage students to read? I’m thinking ARG style puzzles hidden throughout with an assignment or extra credit for students who complete by a specific time?

Question #2 – I’m an advocate of a different approach to the syllabus in an online course than in a face-to-face course. The classroom design and student expectations (i’m not even talking netiquette here, just basic how-to-be a student ideas) differ so significantly that the syllabus must accomplish very different goals. So how do I consider this interaction differently to clearly and effectively communicate to both populations of students in these very different contexts? In an online setting I’m not present to read, explain, and answer questions – usually a problem arises before an online syllabus question is asked.

As a side note, I don’t use this space, or Google sites, or any third party space for my syllabus presentation. I dislike requiring students to look in, learn, and use multiple systems to be students in my course. This is entirely personal preference, to my knowledge no one has researched whether there is a difference. Also, as a former functional IT employee who worked on systems that required firewall protection of student data, I try to protect my student’s writing and security behind school provided firewalls (we do discuss what this means for them, and why I do this, etc.) which means I use the university provided LMS.


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