Lee Hall

Online Class Syllabi: The Devil is in the Detail

Blog Post created by Lee Hall on May 13, 2018

   I know this is a little nerdy of me, but I love syllabi, particularly for English literature classes since I am an English grad student. However, all versions of syllabi fascinate me. Math syllabi, with their concentration on practical examples; History syllabi, with the main focus being on reading and memorizing dates and facts; or English, with their focus on book chapters and paper guidelines. The syllabus is a crucial part of the college classroom for a myriad of reasons, and every student interprets and uses their syllabus in different ways. For some instructors, the syllabus is a nightmare; just one more piece of writing to do that stands between them and the actual class material. For others, the syllabus is a way to connect with their students, to establish a personality, and to excite (ok, prepare) the students for what is to come in the semester. However, different types of classes require different types of syllabi. 

   Online class syllabi are another syllabi altogether. Instead of focusing on the physical interaction between the instructor and the students, online syllabi put their emphasis on the expectations for the online classroom and the students. I've come up with a few differences between an on-campus and an online syllabus. I've also included a link to an example online syllabus, which can be extremely beneficial in planning your own online class.

 

1. Tone

The tone is an important part of the online syllabus mostly because it is the only interaction between instructor and student, and must convey the seriousness of the work assigned while allowing the instructor's personality to come through. 

 

2. Computer Requirements 

This is an example of a syllabus item that works solely for online classes. This is important because many students are not aware of the types of software they might have to download or different types of media they might have to watch. Outlining these requirements on the syllabus is imperative for the organization of the student, and yet, I can say from experience that I have never seen this section on any online class I have ever taken. 

 

3. Netiquette

The online class syllabi needs to be a place to practice the ways in which people interact online. This discourse, called netiquette, is a way for students to learn about the effective and ineffective methods of online interactions argument and discussion. 

 

4. Links

Another example of online-only syllabi design are links to specific websites and articles that will be used throughout the class. I have taken a number of online classes where the instructor gives no links to anything that they will be using to teach the class. This is frustrating, to say the least, and ensures that I take time to hunt this information down myself. Personally, I do not believe this should be the student's responsibility. Students struggling to maintain good grades in different classes need to be able to focus on the actual work, not the mechanics of where to locate it. 

 

 

These are just a few examples of how online syllabi differ from that of an on-campus syllabus. There are different needs and requirements, and both instructor and student need to be aware of the differences--it will make the online learning environment an easier place to educate and be educated. 

 

This sample syllabus is from the Pasadena City College website. 

http://online.pasadena.edu/faculty/files/2012/02/Online-Syllabus-Example-CANVAS-New-Login.pdf 

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