Blog: Idea Exchange

4 Questions About Syllabi Every Institution Should Ask

Nicole Arsenault August 7, 2019

Whether you manage your institution’s catalog, work on a curriculum committee, or prepare accreditation reporting, chances are, you bump up against a common challenge: accessing accurate, up-to-date versions of course syllabi. The syllabus is a pivotal resource for students, but it’s also an essential part of a wide range of processes on campus. Here are four questions about how you currently manage syllabi that every institution should consider.

How easy is it to create or update a syllabus?

In the Hollywood version of university life, a professor might sit at her computer—make that a typewriter—and type out the bones of a course, from what it’s called, to how it’s described, with as much or little information as she chooses to share.

In the real world, campuses have established processes for developing a syllabus, connecting learning outcomes and institutional policies to course development. Most institutions also have guidelines for the information every syllabus should include, and established practices for creating or updating a syllabus.

A syllabus management system provides the templates and approval workflows to ensure that every syllabus contains current, agreed-upon information in a consistent format while ensuring faculty have control over the content of syllabi. Students know where to look for the information they need, and faculty can craft syllabi to suit their courses.

Can your faculty access approved information to include in a syllabus?

Faculty updating a syllabus may find it difficult to locate the agreed-upon course description for a particular semester or term. It may also be difficult to find the learning outcomes or institutional policies that need to be reflected in a syllabus.

The best syllabus management solutions integrate with existing campus systems, like those where you manage curriculum development and curate your catalog. Drawing from “source of truth” systems ensures that the information included on syllabi are current and accurate, while saving time and effort for faculty and others involved in the approval process.

Syllabi are never lost on the computer of a faculty member who has left the institution, but captured in a comprehensive repository, available for self-reflection and improvements based on assessment data and student evaluations of teaching.

How do you provide syllabi to students?

Creating accurate, consistent syllabi isn’t the only challenge, as anyone in the registrar’s office can attest. Once they’re all created, how does your institution distribute syllabi?

Consider a syllabus management system the repository for all of your institution’s syllabi, easing the process for distributing them to students, whether through an online catalog, a web link through your LMS, or PDF printouts handed out in class.

How hard is it to gather syllabi for accreditation and other institutional reporting?

Regional and professional accreditors often require syllabi from all sections of courses taught during the period under review, which means those who are responsible for accreditation reporting must gather syllabi from all corners of campus. It can be an arduous task to locate the individual syllabus for each section of a particular course and validate when it was in use.

With a syllabus management system in place, stakeholders involved in accreditation and other institutional reporting can readily access the correct set of syllabi to satisfy requirements. That’s not just a time savings—it’s a proof point to accreditors that your institution has established processes to ensure students benefit from the work done to improve curriculum and courses.

With a syllabus management system, your institution can ensure syllabi align with curriculum development and change processes, include all required institutional policies, and meet quality standards. Best of all, you can provide a branded, consistent, and accurate syllabus for each course, ensuring students have the information they need to succeed.

Author
Nicole Arsenault