Week 4 POT — Syllabi

Duh!!! I just realized that I have the second edition of the textbook, Teaching Online: A Practical Guide, which I checked out from the PDP office. No wonder the chapters are different….

I am not really sure what the creators of the POT course are referring to in the assignment (The reading includes a number of recommendations you might find questionable or interesting. How does what you read contrast with the method presented in the workshop?) Perhaps it has just been an exhausting week and I’m having trouble reading between the lines, but I’ll try…Hopefully the old (2nd edition) of the book I have doesn’t differ so much that I’m missing out on a ton of updated information.

MiraCosta Letters professor and POT moderator Jim Sullivan has in the past often presented on the interactive syllabus, and after viewing Jim’s syllabi and learning more about what a syllabus should contain and how it should be written for basic skills students in particular, I did a revamp of my syllabus a few years ago using a newsletter template that is visually appealing, changing the wording to make it less distant (from “the instructor” and “the student” to personal pronouns “I” and “you,”), adding an “About Me” section with my photo, and a “Tips for Success in this Class” section.  I have some ideas of how I could transform it to be suitable for online display, but I have also realized that (without being aware of it), I have actually have incorporated pseudo-online syllabi before, when I used to use blogs and wikis for on ground classes. Looking at those now, I can see that they were very basic and could be improved upon quite a lot, but my original purposes were more to provide students with online supplemental practice, display student work, and keep my lessons and materials organized (this was before the cloud).

I guess there are a couple of point I can with a smidgen of intelligence reflect on – I appreciate that the authors mention that the syllabus needs to be explicit about participation, grading, expectations, and so on.  On the other hand, I have seen some syllabi for on ground classes that are so explicit that they end up being 6 – 8 pages of text that is unfriendly and reads like a contract or a manual, and it’s very hard to find specific information!  Obviously disciplines are different, so we need to write our syllabi with our audience in mind, but for my audience (nonnative speakers of English), the syllabus needs to be like an Ikea product assembly instruction pamphlet (I don’t mean with translations in 25 languages but rather with lots of visual cues).

I believe that with an online syllabus, being explicit could be somewhat remedied with links, but even then, who wants to click 15 times?  The example of online syllabi provided in the edition of the book I have are just too wordy, in my opinion (one for a UCLA writing instructor: Seventy-five percent of your grade will be based on completing assignments..blah,blah,blah…That is, you could receive a B for blah, blah, blah…[it goes on and on and includes rhetorical questions that seem a bit sarcastic and very conversational in nature]). I get their point – to provide students with the “voice” of the instructor, but with the tools available now, a video or audio file would better suit this purpose.

A fine example of how course information (grading criteria) could be better conveyed to students is a simple pie chart (this is not my original idea – I saw it on Pilar Hernandez’s syllabus for her online Spanish class).  This is not a good example (I just grabbed it from Google Images), but to give an idea of what I mean:


The other sample syllabus provided in the chapter, by the author, is also not very visually appealing.  I am by no means a layout/design expert, but there is nothing on the page that catches my (tired) eye.

I did like that the authors equate the syllabus to a contract, and I usually have students in my classes sign a contract to ensure that they have read the syllabus and understand the policies of the class.  I believe that, going online, the syllabus will need to also be considered a contract to students (not just expectations of students but what students can expect from the instructor in terms of email reply times, online meeting times, etc.).

So, POT course developers, not sure if this analysis was what you were hinting to with the questions posed for this week.

I end with a video that has absolutely nothing to do with this post whatsoever but in order to fulfill the requirement of this week’s assignment (to embed a video).  I wish I could speak with all these accents – notice that the French accent is not even in English.  If I can tie this video to this week’s assignment in a very loose way, I suppose I could say that we all have different “accents” and thus our syllabi should be individual, reflecting the teacher’s personality, be suited to the discipline, should create interest, be clearly articulated, and should consider our audience above all… that was a stretch!


2 thoughts on “Week 4 POT — Syllabi

  1. Pingback: Week 14 POT – Presentation and Final Post | MCC ESL Buffet

  2. Pingback: POT Week 14 – This is the End | MCC ESL Buffet

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