Monday, August 9, 2010

University Posts Course Syllabi Online

The Pope Center posts a column on how a North Carolina university is posting all course syllabi for students to review before choosing their courses.

Three years ago, I made the same recommendation in the Daily Egyptian and -whoa! -- the furious response: "Pandering to the peons" (students)! "This is one step closer to McCarthyism!" Sheesh. Posting syllabi online is proto-fascist? Get a grip.

Seems this common sense proposal is spreading -- and worth considering (again) here at Southern Illinois University. As a former academic adviser, this was one of those legitimate student complaints ("the course didn't match the catalog description!"). All I could recommend was trying to request syllabi (past or present) for a course. But you know if a professor (me) gets toasted for recommending it, imagine the fate of a freshman requesting "please, Professor, may I see the syllabus for the course?"

Post the syllabi with the proviso that it may be changed or updated at the discretion of the instructor. This isn't rocket science. It is good manners.

For professors, it is also a great rebuttal to unfounded student complaints that there is "too much reading" or "too much writing" (whine): "Hey, kid, you knew what you were signing up for when you read the syllabus. Now get to work!"

1 comment:

paranoid said...

When I was a student, going to the first few days of class mattered at least as much as the syllabus. The class that had the intimidating syllabus with homework and quizzes scheduled almost every class period turned out to be easy because the homework and quizzes were short and were directly related to lecture. The class with a reasonable syllabus and reasonable penalties for poor attendance was one that I dropped after the first day. The professor spent the entire first lecture going over those penalties. One of my friends who stayed in the class told me that it never got any better than the first day.

The faculty contract at SIUC already requires that the syllabus be handed out at the beginning of the semester. I suspect that the protests from faculty aren't fear of putting the syllabus out on the Web as much as it is people not writing a syllabus until the last minute.

Speaking of the last minute, have you looked at SalukiNet during registration? A lot of the classes don't even have instructor names then. Even now, a week before classes start, I can find lower-division classes with "TBA" listed as the instructor. It would be hard to provide an accurate syllabus without an instructor to provide it.