Report Encourages Early Access to Course Info
Aug 6, 2008
For those of you attending college, this situation is probably very familiar: new courses get posted, and something with a vague and obtuse title but a promising course number is listed in your major. You may want to take the course, but you know that if you register without doing further research, your chances at having a stellar schedule will likely go out the window as you're stuck with a class you never meant to choose. I learned this lesson when I wound up in a course called "Language, Society, and Culture" that was listed as an American literature and culture elective but turned out to be an introductory linguistics course--something I had no interest in taking.
At various points in my college career, I often found myself cramming detective work into my already busy schedule as I tried to find out just what a course with an intriguing title was actually going to cover. As I waited impatiently for e-mails from professors and ran all over campus looking for a mythical department secretary who once saw an early draft of a course description, I often wondered "why couldn't they just post this information online?"
A recent report issued by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in North Carolina echoes this sentiment. The report recommends that professors publish syllabi online and do so early, preferably right around when courses open up for registration, so that students get a better idea of the courses they're taking, the work expected of them, and the material they will need to cover, and thus will be more likely to succeed and less likely to drop the class. Additionally, it also will allow students, departments, and other groups to make comparisons between professors easier, will aid in determining transfer credits (if your new school can see the number of papers you wrote for your half-completed English major, maybe you won't get stuck retaking Composition I), and will aid in the sharing of information among professors. In other words, online syllabus sharing is a good thing for everyone and more professors should do it.
For those of you still working on the college search, this makes a great question to add to your list to ask during your campus visit. Ask whether professors have resources available to post syllabi online and how many of them actually take advantage of the option. Little details can make a big difference when it comes to choosing the right college.
As colleges continue to add online courses and to encourage online components in traditional courses, expect more professors to post syllabi online. In the meantime, a little encouragement couldn't hurt. Next time you find yourself in unfamiliar parts of campus trying to find out the reading list for a class that could potentially help you fulfill all your college goals, consider printing a copy of this report and giving it to the instructor in question.
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