Just enough and not too much

After having watched Lisa and Jim’s session on the interactive syllabus, I am convinced by their argument that having one is a good idea. I liked Laura’s comment about how making a syllabus interactive requires student’s to look at it more than once at the beginning of the term; it is instead a much more integral part of the course. So I am planning to develop an interactive syllabus for my next course.

One thing I need to think about is where to put it. I took a look at BB, which as I mentioned in my last post I haven’t used before since my uni just switched over to it (well I have done a couple of Blackboard Collaborate sessions, but that’s about it). It is very structured, and it seemed difficult to modify, as Lisa mentioned in the session. I did like Lisa’s Moodle syllabus, but I also think that the POTCERT syllabus has some nice features, with the weekly postings of the readings and tasks for the week, so I may try to work out something similar.

In looking at the Ko and Rossen text, I found the comment that most instructors include too little detail to be an interesting one. I have no doubt that they are right about that. I suspect my inclination would be to provide too few details.  But I’m also thinking that it is equally possible to provide too many details. To have something so busy that students are distracted by it. To have it so much information and so many links and images that it is easy to get lost in them. Indeed I’ve seen a few syllabi for online courses that seemed to me way, way over the top. I suspect I wouldn’t respond well to those were I taking the course.

So a question I have, then, is this: how much is just enough and not too much?

11 thoughts on “Just enough and not too much

  1. Think about what students are looking for when they read the syllabus. They probably want to know what the next assignments is or due dates. Maybe they want the link to the discussion forum or instructions on how to submit assignments. If they can’t find what they are looking for, you may not have enough information, or you’ve included so much extra that they can’t see what they want.

    • That’s good advice, Norm. I’ll try, but potcert actually is the only thing I’ve taken online, so I’m not sure I’ll be a great judge. Maybe I should ask some students to review it before the course starts!

  2. Hi, Claire: I am thinking that making an interactive syllabus is do-able in Bb with a little creativity. If you ever want to brainstorm ideas for it, or if you come up with any, let me know! -Laura

    • Hi Laura, Thanks, may well take you up on it. I wasn’t crazy about the way BB puts stuff into categories. I think I’d kind of like the syllabus to be the main thing…is that possible in BB?

  3. Hi Clair,
    The balance here might be to maintain clarity in the content of the syllabus. Give enough information to draw the student into the course, so they are looking forward to starting it. Lastly, a sense of style to the layout of the syllabus which hints at the flow of the course.


    • Hi Walter, these are excellent points. I particularly like the idea of style conveying meaning and sequence! Claire

  4. I think students really just focus on the dates and assignments when they look at the syllabus. Most of the time I have experienced teachers asking for questions about the syllabus and no one is concerned with where the images came from or why there is color but more about the grading system and the assignments which leads me to believe this is most of the concern. So, to answer the question less is better, stick to the important things like grades, dates, and assignments.

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