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by John Sullivan


Why Change?

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?

NOTE: Click on any image to enlarge for more detail.


What 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.






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