Thursday, May 21, 2009

What Sections Should Your Syllabus Share?

A syllabus for an online course needs to account the integration of the technologies being used and also should be much more thorough than a syllabus for a face-to-face course in order to avoid the small questions which students will have (which might raise their anxiety). Over-explaining is encouraged in an online course; students who are nervous will get the answers they need, and all others can quickly skim through the documents feeling reassured that if they have a question later, they will be able to find the answer quickly.
Here are some specific sections you might include as headings in your syllabus for an online course.

  • Instructor(s) and Department Contact Information
  • Instructor(s)'s Teaching Philosophy and Course Pedagogy*
  • About the Course
    • Course Description (University Catalog)
    • Prerequisites
    • Competence Statement and Course Learning Objectives
    • Required Textbook and Resources
    • Are You Ready for This Online Course?
    • Course Methods
    • Measurement of Learning Outcomes
  • College / University Policies
    • Drop/Withdraw
    • University Grading Policy
    • Disability Services
  • Communications
    • Questions and Answers about the Course
    • Email: When to Use and What to Include
    • Major Life Trauma
    • Return of Assignments / Feedback
    • Attendance and Course Communications
  • Instructor Policies and Requirements
    • Preparation
    • Quality of Response
    • Professionalism and Respect
    • Collaborative Work
    • Plagiarism and Copyright
    • Course Incomplete
    • Late Work
    • Extra Credit Policy
  • Technology Expectations
    • Backup Copies of Assignments / Save of Returned Assignments
    • Online "Snow Days"- What to do if the IMS is down (alternatives)
    • Technology Requirements and Expectations
    • Computer Hardware and Software
    • File Management
    • Document File Names
    • Campus Resources
    • Other Free Resources
  • Evaluations and Grading
    • Required Competency Activities (if these are not completed; student fails course)
    • List of Assessments and Instructions for Completion
      • Course Orientation Assignments
      • Chapter Quizzes
        • No Trick Questions - Obvious Answers are Correct*
      • Exams
      • Discussions - Participation and Posting Expectations
      • Weekly Research and Analysis Activities
      • Peer Reviews
      • Written Papers
      • Projects and Presentations
    • Grade Scale:
    • Bonus / Extra Credit Opportunities
* Students in online courses might not get as much of a chance to see your personality or to gauge whether or not you are a "trickster." If you like to play "Devil's Advocate" in Discussions, or if you use humor to try to make your points - disclose that to students right up front - so that they know you are not making fun of them. Also - to reduce testing anxiety, it is helpful to clearly state something like "when taking quizzes and exams, you will not face any trick questions. If you are very well-studied, the answers should be obvious. Don't 'over-think' a question; always pick the answer which works best in the widest variety of situations."

As a separate document, a Schedule of Assignments should be created which indicates specific due dates, readings and topics, and activities/assignments which needs to be completed. Rather than burying this information in a syllabus, placing this information in a separate document makes it much easier for your students to reference.

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