Learning objectives for this
how a syllabus can address specialized
needs of distance learners
identify essential components
in a syllabus
evaluate online template
syllabi from other institutions
Why is a syllabus more important to
Distance education students
have characteristics and needs that differ from traditional learners. Workman
and Stenard (1996) identified five special concerns of distance learners:
clarity of the programs, policies, and procedures
tend to view
distance learning as frightening and intimidating)
identifying with the
school (they tend to have stronger ties with the college community)
(they tend to establish links with other students and faculty)
learning support services
To address the aforementioned concerns, faculty
should try to provide more information in their syllabi regarding course
structure, course expectations, group work, institutional technical support,
among others. Ko and Rossen (2004) recommend that "in an online
environment, redundancy is often better than elegant succinctness" in an
online syllabus (p. 76). In other words,
a more comprehensive syllabus is usually warranted
in an online course because students do not have the opportunity to participate
in the opening day syllabus discussions which is common in many traditional
courses. In providing a comprehensive syllabus, faculty can help release distance
learners' certain anxieties so that they can adapt more quickly to a successful
online education. Continue to read more about the importance of a
for faculty and for
What are essential components of an online syllabus?
A syllabus is a good syllabus regardless whether it is online or
face-to-face. What constitutes a good syllabus includes a clear layout of
such components as communication practices, assignments, and grading policies.
Such a layout is not only the first gateway to your course, but also a written
document to communicate with your students about course expectations. The
following bullets list some, if not inclusive, components that are usually
included in a syllabus. The Tip next to the components links to suggestions for
an online syllabus.
- instructor contact
- course description or overview
- course objectives
- text(s) and required materials
- course topics
- course format/structure
- evaluation and grading policy
- participation requirements (e.g., how
often to post)
- classroom rules of conduct (e.g.
respect different opinions in the Discussion Board)
- course schedule (e.g., a tentative
- communication practices (e.g., emails)
- technology policy (e.g., Helpdesk)
- university policies
(e.g., academic dishonesty and accessibility)
- late-work policy
information (e.g., Orientation Aids)
What are unique components in an online
- communication plan
-- when instructor checks
and answers emails (e.g. within twenty-four hours or three days).
-- when instructor is available for phone calls.
-- how often instructor
will post to the Discussion Board.
-- when is an online
office hour, if any, and in what format (chat room, phone, e-mail, etc.).
-- how often students will post to the Discussion Board.
-- if Chat Room is used, what is the expectation for student participation?
- Internet Netiquette
-- what is the
informal code of conduct that students need to follow.
-- Netiquette includes respecting
different opinions, perspectives, and values in discussion board and in all
other class activities.
-- Netiquette includes not sending e-mail or messages in ALL CAPS or with
too many !!!!!s, or even asking repetitive questions
in forums that have FAQs posted.
- student resources and
-- how to access course materials in course management systems.
-- how to post to Discussion Board, submit assignments via digital drop box, etc.
-- how to access information on the digital library, if any.
-- how to get technical support
(e.g., can't log in or post, etc.).
How to create
an online syllabus?
Create your syllabus by using an
Compare and evaluate online template syllabi
An interactive introduction of writing a syllabus
Ko, S., & Rossen, S. (2004). Teaching online: A practical guide (2nd
ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
University of Washington Faculty Resources.
Workman, J. J., & Stenard, R. A. (1996). Student support services for distance
learners. DEOSNEWS, 6(3). Retrieved October 15, 2005, from