Instructional Design

Week 5: The Slippery Online Syllabus

Reading the various articles made me recognize the importance of the syllabus for my online course, as one author noted: “Your syllabus is one of THE most important documents you create for your class” (University of Minnesot’as Syllabus Tutorial).

Map from the Hobbit courtesy of Josh Calvetti (Creative Commons)

I found three reasons that highlight the importance of a syllabus:

  • The syllabus should provide a road map to guide students through the class.
  • The syllabus should use a conversational style so students are more aware of your presence in the course.
  • The syllabus should be a good way to communicate.

Some of the guidelines I consider really useful in my work with syllabus are:

From the University of Minnesot’as Syllabus Tutorial (thanks Jim!)

  • An effective syllabus conveys what the class will be like, what students will do and learn, as well as what they can expect of you.
  • It tacitly records and transmits your teaching philosophy.

3 aspects of an online syllabus to emphasize, from Teaching Online, Ko and Rossen.

  1. the contract: between students and the instructor (participation and grading criteria, student expectations,
  2. the map: course URL, used tools, assignments, document format, contact information, sequence of learning activities.
  3. the schedule: week organization (start, due day)

Some recommendations deepened too much in details, which could result in a very extensive syllabus. I think it is appropriate to build a model that best suits the particular course you are preparing. Each course syllabus may be slightly different.

By Jaime Oyarzo Espinosa

Jaime Oyarzo Espinosa -
Honorary Professor of Research University of Alcalá, Spain
Cátedra UNESCO de Educación Científica para América Latina y El Caribe EDUCALYC
Professor, Master in Experimental Sciences and Technology, National University of Córdoba, Argentina
Boletín de noticias eLearning
Blog (Spanish):
Blog (English):

Awards for educational innovation, member of research groups and scientific councils of conferences and scientific journals.
Instructional design experience, advisor in virtual universities, curricular redesign and university online strategy.
European Union and European Universities projects for Ethiopia and Latin America. Coordination of workshops and courses in instructional design and digital teacher competencies.
I am passionate about the integration of technology and the contribution to a paradigm shift in education.
I maintain a network of contacts with specialists in different areas and countries. I consider education as a key factor for the economic development of developing countries and regions.

6 replies on “Week 5: The Slippery Online Syllabus”

There’s been a lot of discussion on the blogs about how much information is the right amount. There’s no pat answer. As you point out, each course has to be examined for its own characteristics. It’s not necessary to use all the suggestions with every course.

@Norm Wright …. but do keep track of suggestions (as best you can), willing and ready to try something.. and then be ready to send it back to the tomorrow file if it’s not working right for you in a current class. Maybe another time. Sometimes a feature that has been just fine crashes and burns. Replace it but don’t throw it overboard.

Looks like you summed it up really well. I agree with you that there can be too much details involved if we do not look find our own “online voice”. I think our personality as an instructor also comes through in how we communicate with our students whether it be online or face-to-face. I hope to be able to find that “online voice” for myself. I do not think I will implement everything that’s recommended.

Comments are closed.