Professors – Design an Effective Course Syllabus – Professional Touches

As you finalize your course syllabus, keep in mind that it should provide the increasingly overextended students who will populate your class with a complete and detailed course overview and agenda. Remember as well, that we are not preparing simply to deliver a single course, but also are playing a role in the future learning of a course in miracles. As such, one of our goals should be to challenge students to assume greater responsibility for their own learning. A well-developed syllabus contributes to achieving that goal. Your overall syllabus should be a thoroughly conceived, effective and appropriate communications tool for the specific type of student that your course is designed to serve.

A few other components that you might want to create for inclusion in your syllabus (or what many people call an “extended syllabus”) are described below. (Note: all of these would be modified to an extent if you are doing a web-based syllabus without any paper form)

Title page for course When you develop the official version of your syllabus, you may want to include a title page. On the title page would be the course number, title, a graphic related to the course, your name, a place for the student’s name, the time and location of the course, and any other quick reference information you want to include. It is a welcome page or an entry page into the extended syllabus and the course. Make it attractive and approachable.

Table of contents for extended syllabus With an extended syllabus that includes the myriad components that are expected, along with handouts or other support materials, you and your students will want a way to find information quickly. A table of contents allows for this. It only takes a few minutes to create but will save you and the students multiples of that time throughout the semester. By taking the time to put together a table of contents, you show the students that you are aware of their time constraints and their need for fast retrieval of information. And, you definitely set yourself apart from others, in terms of going the extra mile for students’ convenience.

Letter to students Consider writing a letter to your students. In your letter, you can introduce yourself (using some of the information you’ve previously generated), the course, your expectations, what students can expect, etc. It is a friendly (and unexpected) way for students to be addressed at the onset of a course. This letter may be the very first item in the extended syllabus.

Resources Oftentimes, there are resources we know about or have learned about from previous students that would serve the interested student in the pursuit of the course goals and objectives. Spend the time to list these for students–and make the point that while you are not requiring these, you are endorsing them.

Course calendar In student focus groups recently conducted by the author, students made it clear that one component they want in their syllabus is a distilled version of the calendar–with dates, due dates, readings, etc. It is not that students do not want the extended versions, too, but sometimes, they need a quick reference page that they can keep in their planners or to grab when they are running to the library.

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