Episode 3: Syllabus Components

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Episode 3: Syllabus Components

*Content originally published at Teach With Care

In this episode we let you in on our conversation about the syllabus as an important document. How can we make that document as accessible or student friendly as possible?   Kate Sonka shared that there are resources for creating accessible materials out there. You should definitely check out the MS Word accessibility checker. Dartmouth and Michigan State also have resources on the topic. The W3 consortium also has resources. Adam shared some of the gotcha points. Jeremy Van Hof shared the Non-designers Design Book by not that Robin Williams, and the importance of C.R.A.P. (Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity). Adam shared the University of Auckland’s accessible materials infographic. Jeremy shared that you should include the required items (either explicitly via policy or implicitly via culture). Their ombudsperson requires basic course stuff. But don’t get lost in the trees! Remember you’re selling your course. Adam reiterated that the context matters. Share out extra stuff in your campus LMS. Adam made a dad joke about Jeremy’s comments not being “CRAPpy” (*drum rim shot*). Kate shared the Dartmouth Syllabus Guide. These are broken down into components. Adam mentioned that the previous template wasn’t accessible nor all that usable. They really wanted it to focus on the practices and standards that are helpful. This was also informed by the CAST UDL On Campus Syllabus resource. The Syllabus Guide is also presented during the course approvals process. Kate pointed out that Dartmouth includes a section for “Teaching Methods & Philosophy” in the syllabus guide. Adam reiterated that it’s important to orient students to the teaching methods in a course so that students are educated about things like active and experiential learning going into it. This helps students to think about their engagement and making an educated decision for course selections. Jeremy shared that a syllabus should justify the type of instruction and modalities in the course and communicate the instructor’s decisions in design. Kate pointed out that the statement on “Teaching Methods & Philosophy” also helps with inclusion. This helps students to plan their resources and make decisions. Could also help with anticipating accommodations. Adam brought up that inclusive teaching practices should be embedded throughout the document, but making a statement about it can be helpful too. Anticipating these questions can be difficult, reach out to your on-campus resource networks like your accessibility office. Kate brought up the age-old case for/against having laptops and technology in the classroom. Jeremy shared his own experiences in K12 and it’s dual capability as resource and distraction. Adam shared that it should be built more around establishing norms and avoiding othering the students who might have accommodations for these things in class. It also creates an opportunity for collaboration. This ultimately comes down to self-regulation for the learners in many ways. Jeremy came back to saying that you need to be explicit about you “Laptops and Technology” policy. Kate came back to saying that we’re ultimately modeling and integrating information literacy. Adam brought up the question of how to integrate engagement and participation into the syllabus in a way that values Universal Design. Jeremy emphasized the importance of being intentional, inclusive, transparent, and explicit about it. Jeremy added that a course outline and learner resources are important to include too. Adam mentioned that QM first introduced him to it. Adam shared that learner resources are important to communicate to students who may not be aware of the resources available to them. Kate shared that we should include course outlines for both transparency and helping to understand the “whys” of the course.
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ksonka@msu.edu