It’s that time of the year when professors and instructors squeeze their brains and put together their hopefully-comprehensible course syllabi for respective classes. As I enter my fourth semester of teaching a freshman-writing course, I realize there’s a constant urge to put more and more into my syllabus: maybe I should tell my students not to use their cellphones in class, maybe I should tell them I hate chewing gums, maybe I should tell them to bring their textbooks, maybe…
However, as Barbara Fister complained (quoted by Jason B. Jones), the syllabus is becoming less of a resource for the students, but something they skip “without reading-Terms of Service agreements”:
When you add all those rules to the traditional stuff – course description, the list of assigned texts, the class-by-class schedule, and information about major assignments – these documents get incredibly long and complex. … We traditionally go over syllabi on the first day of class, and then we’re annoyed when students miss an assignment or fail to adhere to a rule because “it was in the syllabus.”
So, this semester, I challenged myself by changing my approach to creating the syllabus for my freshman-writing class. By referring my students to all detailed information put on the course website, I reduced the dreary document into a 2-page course overview and added some colors to the layout. I have come to realized that a course syllabus should articulate only the gist of the course, which attracts students to find out more by redirecting them to other more-suitable avenues that contain detailed information about the course.
See the PDF of my syllabus here.
In this Information/Digital Age, I believe teachers, especially instructors of rhetoric and communication, should recognize how information is acquired and digested, and thus consider the more appreciate outlets to communicate with new-age students. Here are more examples of non-traditional syllabus:
- Prof. Nover’s Experience Design and the Computers, Spring 2012
- Susan Sheridan’s Fundamentals of Biological Anthropology, Fall 2011
- Vanessa Alander’s Composition, Fall 2011
- Tona Hangen’s U.S. History II, Spring 2011
- and more!
Do you have a creative syllabus? Link it in the comments!
Updated: Came across this humorous post by College Humor today and so I decided to add it to this entry.
Points made. Period.