Demystifying the Syllabus

As students, we need a road map of sorts that guides and directs us in any given class. This road map is the syllabus.  Just as maps have various symbols to represent different points of interest along the way, syllabi point out the steps we need to take to successfully arrive at the end (of the semester). It is our responsibility to fully understand the syllabus, what it asks of us, and to ask questions (and keep asking them) when anything is unclear. Click here for a handout on how to analyze a syllabus and course assignments.

Many of the classes at CIIS are blended, meaning there are face to face (f2f) components, as well as online, or distance elements. If the class does have a f2f opportunity, take advantage of it by asking professors, TAs, and perhaps even fellow students for clarification on the syllabus. We can’t reach our destination without directions.

One easy way to utilize the syllabus is to pull out the important dates in it, and create your own calendar. Mark the due dates of each assignment in bold so that it stands out. From these dates, back track the number of days or weeks you anticipate it taking to accomplish what is necessary. For instance, perhaps a paper is due on the 15th, and there are 2 books and an article to read and reference in the paper.  Taking into consideration everything else in your life, estimate when you need to begin reading those books and article. Mark that date in bold, so that it stands out.   You get the idea. There are a number of great, free calendar apps; or use poster board and markers.  Whatever your preference, set something up to help manage your time.  We’ve found what seems to be an excellent software program that has a cool syllabus tool that extracts information in your syllabus and puts it into a calendar for you. Check out PERRLA for more information. We’ll have more information on this cool tool in the Software Resources page.

Another way to utilize the syllabus, is to refer to the prompts listed by the professor for the writing assignments. Copy and paste the prompt(s) at the beginning of the blank document staring at you. Using the language from the prompt, begin writing keeping the prompt in mind as you generate your ideas, thoughts, and research onto the page.

We’ll come back to this topic as the website grows. Please feel free to post your thoughts and ideas on how to use the syllabus to your advantage. What has worked? what hasn’t?

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