Syllabus crafting

Barbara Fister, “The syllabus as TOS”.

These days syllabi are looking more and more like those Terms of Service that pop up when we use software. You know, the long documents in fine print with a scrollbar that we click through so we can move on. I thought nobody read them, but it turns out the excellent people at the Electronic Frontier Foundation actually track changes to them for us. (The EFF points out that these documents have a sinister side. They are contracts that we cant negotiate, and they contain provisions we might not agree to, if we understood what they actually meant.) But the most striking thing about TOS is that they are full of rules and very few people read them. So maybe theyre not the best model for the syllabus.

Meanwhile, ProfHacker Jason B. Jones features some syllabi with graphic design appeal: “Creative approaches to the syllabus”. Interesting to many readers will be Susan Sheridan’s Introduction to Biological Anthropology syllabus, full of happy skeletons and visual appeal. Maybe the most stunning was the U.S. history syllabus from Worcester State University professor Tona Hangen, who describes her logic in “Extreme makeover, syllabus edition”.

I go with the single-page syllabus, myself, basically for the reasons Fister describes. I don’t want any information to hide between the pages. But it’s fascinating to see some of these creative approaches.