Tuesday Teaching Question

I have literally startled multiple fellow faculty members in the past week upon stating that I would be posting my course outline (a.k.a., syllabus) on Blackboard for students, taking a quick survey in class on opening day to gauge familiarity (doing a “how to get on Blackboard demo” as necessary) and NOT passing out paper versions to students.

One colleague said that he was told, years ago now, but still, that he was required to hand the students a course outline. Others have been surprised, but not opposed. “How does that work?” they’ve asked. “So far so good,” I say. I did it last semester, too. In most of the classes, I’ve had one or two students say they were not familiar with Blackboard. Today one class had seven–by far the highest, so I did a quick demo in class, and told them, as I tell the rest, that reading it is their first assignment and they’d have a quiz on it on Wednesday.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, right? Surely others out there make their course outlines available online rather than hand them out…right? Either way, today’s teaching question on this second first day of school is as follows: what do you do with your course outlines, and why? How do students get them and what’s your justification for not doing it differently?

10 thoughts on “Tuesday Teaching Question

  1. I post my syllabus online before the start of the semester, but I also bring hard copies to the first class. I figure since much of the first class is devoted to discussing the syllabus specifically and the course generally, I want to make sure everyone has the information handy. I’d say about half the class normally brings an already printed copy of it from Blackboard.

    The first-week syllabus quiz is also a great idea, PhiloDave. I do my mine on Blackboard. That way I know students are logging-in the first week and getting familiar with accessing course content, because after bringing hard copies of the syllabus to the first class, all subsequent course documents are electronic only.

    • That’s a good idea, Matt. I didn’t think about putting the quiz on Bb…Thanks.

  2. We have been slowly moving to a paper-free environment in our program. I post my syllabus on Blackboard and LiveText. I also bring a hard copy to the first day of class; I think it is psychological rather than practical – something to hold and write on. All other course documents are usually electronic. Some students print them out, some don’t.

    I also incessantly refer to the syllabus throughout the course and ask folks to look at it with me at some point in almost every class session. Usually I do this because I don’t remember everything in it and I need to look at it often myself (I’m always changing things between semesters).

    I like the idea of doing the syllabus quiz on Blackboard. I haven’t done any testing functions on Bb. I should check it out. Thanks!

  3. I too have been moving towards “greener” pasture. I’ve posted the class assignments on Blackboard for the past two semesters, but I did not think of posting the syllabus online until Dave changed my mind. I’m all green now, including online reading quizzes via myartkit.com.
    To make sure the students received a form of the syllabus to view in class on the first day, I used the LCD projector and did a quick overview of the file and asked them to access it for themselves after class.
    I turned on the feature that allows you to monitor who has accessed the syllabus. A few had done so this morning and I sent a friendly reminder… just… in…case…
    I’ll see what tomorrow brings. We are going to get to the meat and potatoes of what they’ve read.

  4. This is my second semester posting my syllabus on BlackBoard and not handing out paper copies. I don’t go over the syllabus until the second day, because their first homework assignment is to log on to BlackBoard, print the syllabus and bring it to class. Not exactly “green”, but if I am preparing these students to transfer to a 4-year university that exclusively uses online systems like BB and CourseCompass (MyLabs) (as many of the Chicagoland schools do), then I think that it is better to get them used to using these things in a “safe” place where they know that I will be there to help them through it. I find that the students like using BlackBoard, and don’t mind being responsible for getting the syllabus on their own (this forces many of them to figure out how to put money on their IDs for printing). I also give a quiz on the syllabus, but I do this on the third day of classes. The first day is full of group activities where they get to know each other, do some work together, and hopefully start to form a bond that will lead to voluntary study groups throughout the semester.

    • Do you check them off for having it on the second day or anything like that? (I like the quiz on the third day, and the forced printout, both–maybe not green, but I like the required responsibility implied.

      I hesitate sometimes with stuff like that (and checking if students have logged in, etc.) because I DO want to treat them like grown-ups and blah, blah, blah, but…well…let’s just say that I hate the red light cameras at intersections but I run fewer red lights now (and even feel a little glee when I see them flash at a car that ran through one).

      • I don’t check to make sure that they have it. We go over it, and I mention that they will have a quiz on it, so it’s up to them to read it if they want to pass the quiz (I put some very specific questions on there that I don’t necessarily talk about in class). I don’t check to make sure that they log in, but if they don’t then they can’t do the homework either, so it catches up with them.

  5. This semester, I’m using a hybrid hard-copy/electronic version. Some of my syllabi run about seven pages, and I only post that on blackboard. I also prepare a one-page abbreviated syllabus, that include my contact information, book titles & editions, attendance/course conduct policy, method of evaluation, course outline, and a line about plagiarism. I then pass out the abbreviated version in class and spend five minutes talking about it. Then I talk about Socrates.

    • I like the abridged version. That’s a great idea. Mine are 10 or 11 pages long now, depending on the class. The one pager would be a handy reference. I likey, Mikey.

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