Does your course deliver what your syllabus promises?

Creating a syllabus is a daunting task.  Once created and shared with students, does your course actually reflect what you have written in the syllabus?  Having the course one way and allow the course to deviate is like a builder having a blueprint for a house and then you deliver an apartment or mobile home to the customer.  (I am not sure if this metaphor works, but I hope you get the idea.) This is especially problematic when you put content in a learning management system. Here are three main problem areas and some suggestions.

Content:

Most syllabi describe a list of topics presented in a particular order.  Make your course reflect that. When using your LMS to organize your course, do not use the course space as a landfill to dump everything without a particular logic to it. Use modules to organize your content in folders.  Arrange the folders in chronological or topical orders as you have described in the syllabus.

Dates:

In the syllabus you may have a course calendar marking the dates of readings and course activities, but your course may not show some of the due dates, or show old due dates you inherited from the last iteration of the course.  This would almost always cause confusion. I would recommend that you set the dates in LMS for activities that you can assign dates, which will create calendar events, which in turn will be tied with personalized notifications students receive.

Grades:

Last but not the least, the most frequent problem is the mismatch between syllabus and course in grades. In your syllabus you may have categories for various types of assignments. Each category may be worth a certain percentage of the total grades.  For instance, quizzes will be worth 20%, papers 30%, exams 40%, In many courses online we find that the grade book does not reflect what you say in the syllabus.  You can fix that by creating categories and weigh them according to your syllabus. If you have done that, your grade book will automatically calculate grades (including final grades) for you and the students. This really helps students to keep track of their progress all the time. You will save yourself time by not having to calculate the grades with Excel or calculator.

If you use letter grades, remember that the default grading schema of your LMS may not be what you have described in your syllabus. For instance, your LMS may make 95%-100% worth A, while you have 90%-100% to qualify as an A. Usually you can create your own schema to reflect descriptions in the syllabus. For instance in Canvas, you can define your own schema from course settings.

Once you get these problems straightened out, I promise that you will have fewer housekeeping emails, greater student satisfaction and more quality time with your students.

If you want any help aligning your course with your syllabus, contact the Instructional Team for help.

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