Instructional Tips for Your Syllabus
An online course needs additional information in the syllabus compared to a face to face class. Here are some suggestions.
Establish the Learning Mood
- Establish ways to know the members of your learning community and ways for them to know each other.
- Explain ways to stay connected and to get help.
- Share your phone number, email address, and other ways to contact you.
- Share how to get technical help.
- Share how to get library help (if applicable).
- Articulate goals and expectations.
- Give the students a required number of postings per day/week and be very clear on what they should include. Include this in the grade. Here's an example.
- Include a page that is the course calendar or assignment checklist that clearly shows what students should do each day/week. This is the equivalent of the teacher assignment reminders at the end of each class period in a face to face session. Here's an example.
- Include a page that discusses the ethics of communication online.
- Make students aware of the tools you can use to track their activity in the course. Tell them you can track them and use My Progress to let them see what you know.
- For your own ease, when putting dates in the course, put them only in a couple places, otherwise refer to as week 1, 2, etc. This way you won't have as much to change the next time you teach the class.
- Plan routines into your class. If you have divided the instruction into routines or modules, require the same kinds of activities for each module. For example, each module, you may require some reading online, some reading in a textbook, a quiz, and discussion on the reading in the Discussion area. Routine or structure in the online class is like the walls of the classroom. It creates familiarity and comfort for the students. They become comfortable with the class because they have learned the routine.
Give Rationale and Instructions for Interaction
- Give the students a rationale for student to student interaction in the bulletin board and chat room. Be clear about the purpose of posts. Are they to facilitate dialogue and reflection OR are they simply a "post" of an assignment? Decide and then clearly communicate this to the students.
- This section meets one of the standards for courses on AVLN: Courses developed shall address the relational basis of learning. Refer to this page for more information on meeting the standard.
- Articulate what students can expect from you - how much interaction, how often you will log into the class, times when you won't be able to login, etc. Make sure they know how and when to contact you and what your role is in the class.
Supply Technical Help and Instructions for the Online Environment
- Include in the syllabus or elsewhere in the course instructions for getting around in the course. If possible, offer a two hour face-to-face session to orient the students to the course environment.
For Further Reading
We recommend Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace, by Rena Palloff and Keith Pratt. p. 87-100 cover creating an effective syllabus; p. 109 has guiding questions for the syllabus, and p. 168-188 showcase examples of syllabi.