by John Sullivan
Generally, syllabi look like the example on the left:
plain, dull, and rather uninteresting. Syllabi are generally
considered a necessary evil, to the extent that some
professors don't even pass them out, but syllabi are required
by most colleges for most classes. In fact, they are a
legally binding contract, but do they have to look like
a parking ticket?
How did you respond when, as a student, you entered your
classes and received a copy of the instructor's syllabus?
Were you interested in reading through it?
What did it tell you about the instructor? How often did
you reread it?
Most students experience the same reactions that we had
when we were students -- syllabi are dull, useless pieces
of paper that teachers seem to think students need.
But a syllabus is more than just trivial information,
and it needs to reflect this importance -- but how?
on any image to enlarge for more detail.
if your syllabus looked like this?
Over the past two years, I have changed all my syllabi
over to publications that look more like newsletters rather
than a legal document, and this has had a profound effect
on my students. I have found students actually reading
the syllabus outside of class.
The changes have made the syllabus more interesting,
more appealing, and it says to my students that I have
already invested time and effort in their education process.
The look of the syllabus also contains more "visual
candy" than standard forms. This is important to
our students because the socialization that they have
received through television, movies, and music -- the
things that most students are usually familiar with --
has made them more responsive to information that entertains,
rather than that which just informs.
While we don't see ourselves as entertainers per se,
more and more pedogogical research shows that teachers
who are more "entertaining" have students with
greater success rates; so entertainment, that is, the
stylistic way in which we deliver information, has a substantial
value for our classrooms.
This lesson will take you through the steps for setting
up a syllabus in Microsoft Publisher. We will use the
major sections that I have placed in my syllabus as a
template; for a brief tour of one of my syllabi first,
go to the next page.