The syllabus is the ‘first impression’ students have of our course. Because we only have one chance to make a first impression, I believe it is important to think carefully about what message a syllabus conveys. It certainly needs to include some of the standard content: your contact information, the course description, learning objectives, course schedule, and recommended ISU syllabus statements. These components may all be found via the How to Create Effective Syllabus website. But, beyond these items, what message do you want to convey to your students? Do you want to inspire curiosity about your field? Encourage class discussion and dialog about the content? Expect them to engage in meaningful teamwork? Apply new knowledge to problem-based learning? Whatever your plans for the semester, use the syllabus to set the stage for the students.
In addition, CELT has created a Mindful and Learner Centered Syllabus Checklist (PDF) that provides a useful framework for creating a new syllabus, or reworking an existing one.
If you haven’t done so in the past, consider creating a brief (3-5 minutes) video that highlights key elements in your syllabus. For example describe your expectations particularly if the course is in a blended or flipped format. Everyone will be more satisfied with the course if expectations are clear up front. Post the video in your course Blackboard space so students can access it even before the first class meeting. Making course content, including the syllabus, available in multiple modes (print, audio, video) will make the course more accessible to a broader group of students.
Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching
*The title of this Teaching Tip comes from a student who expressed frustration when the received a printed course syllabus with hyperlinks, but the professor did not make an electronic copy of the syllabus available. The class never could access the hyperlinks!