The traditional syllabus is a hard copy that instructors hand out to students at the beginning of the term. This is a legal document (at least in Washington state – the last state I taught at the college level). It meant that whatever was in the syllabus the teacher had to follow. Changes had to be explicit and communicated to all students. Students who were absent for whatever reason were the teacher’s responsibility to connect with about these changes with as well. It could be time consuming and there could be consequences if anyone slipped through the cracks.
I chose to meld the class website and the syllabus. I clearly communicated to everyone using it that the website WAS the syllabus. For ease of navigation I made the format the same for every class, changing only cosmetics and content details.
For those who wanted an “at a glance” of the whole syllabus, the “course information” tab has all the information with the exception of daily activities and homework, and assignment details. These are referred to in course information. This is the tab I used while going over the syllabus on the first day of class at the beginning of each term. After doing this I showed them how to navigate things.
This made changes much more feasible for two reasons. I made it a class policy NOT to print out the syllabus, or to print it out at the students’ own risk. I told them that although I set the schedule and curriculum, that I would tailor and tweak the schedule as necessary depending on what their needs as a group were. If they were internalizing certain concepts faster, then we would spend less time on them. If we needed to slow down and have more hands-on time or discussion on another, then we would do that. This would mean updating the schedule, changing or adding assignments, changing due dates, etc. The nature of web design allows for that. By having these policies right in the syllabus, the legality of the document is satisfied.