Questions? Read the Syllabus

October 30, 2019

By Jodie Nehrt (IDLT), Niki Glick (ITS)

At the October 23 Midweek Mentor Session, Wren Mills, Assistant Director for the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at Western Kentucky University, shared her experiences and recommendations for creating a quality syllabus for an online course. Dr. Mills focused on details, using the phrase “more details mean fewer emails.” SIUE faculty in attendance shared their thoughts on valuable syllabus content as well, and some of the items that may be easy to overlook between on-campus and on-line courses are included in this post.  

When determining the content of your syllabus, imagine those online students who you may never see during the course of your time as their instructor. You won’t have a class the first day to clarify and highlight important points or to assess your students. They may be: at any level of experience with online learning, competent with or intimidated by technology, and in any time zone around the world.

 Consider the following:

  • Deliverables: Include all major assignments and enough description to give students an idea of the total workload.
  • Course Schedule: Include, at minimum, major due dates and any recurring activities.  
  • Communication Policy: Allow both yourself and the students reasonable response time for returning emails and receiving assignment feedback.
  • Technology Requirements: Be explicit! Even basic equipment expectations may take a student by surprise. Refer students to the ITS Knowledgebase for Blackboard and other SIUE-supported application tutorials.
  • Late Work Policy: In addition to the usual expectations, be prepared for inclement weather delaying submissions, even in an online course. Establish a policy before the storm hits.
  • Last Modified Date: It will help you as much as the students to guarantee accuracy in the information presented. If you have concerns about your intellectual property, include a copyright. You can determine your preferred licensing at Creative Commons.
  • Review your Syllabus: This should occur each time you teach the course to verify your dates and assignment description, and remember to conduct a thorough review at least once per academic year to ensure accurate polices.

 A well-written syllabus can make course preparation and design easier for you as well as removing some of the anxiety for your students. Think about including a syllabus quiz during the first week of the course, and spend some time creating a video that introduces the students to you, your course, and the syllabus. You may not have a traditional first day of class, but you still have a chance to make a positive first impression and set the tone for the coming weeks.

 SIUE Instructional Design and Learning Technologies Team maintains an Online Syllabus Template. This editable document includes common University policies and is written in an ADA accessible format. The Graduate Course review committee created a best practices document that is available for all to reference.

 What methods have you found to be successful creating an online syllabus and helping online students orient themselves to your course and your expectations?

Categories: All Categories, Classroom, Courses, Students