Left some thoughts on this assignment at Learningcreep by Helen Crump http://learningcreep.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/pot-cert-week-5-the-online-syllabus/comment-page-1/#comment-40
Students are usually alone online—imagine walking into an empty classroom on the first day and apparently there’s no one to ask the most simple questions. No one there at all, help desks are jammed in the first few days, and yes, this is when everything crashes. No one anywhere.
Regardless if the students paid attention at the “orientation to online” session of those that come, most were overwhelmed in the first 10 minutes by all the information packed into that hour’s worth of information. And those are the ones who are face to face students who can ask the instructor for help at their first class.
Because it is often the first thing read by a student, a syllabus should always have a link back to an introduction to basic online survival. At least “where did my class go and how do I get it back” help for those who crash the first time out.
Steven Brookfield in his “Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher” points to the syllabus as a place to explain the rationale for your particular way of running the class so students can know what they are getting into. Yes, it’s possible the course isn’t “yours” but you are teaching it and need to start relationship building right away. Some examples from his welcome to a “Teacher as Change Agent” class that allow him to “claim” and personalize the course:
“…most courses work best when there’s a mixture of methods–teacher presentations, small group work, large group discussion, reflective silence, individual projects and so on.
That while a teacher can take responsibility for drawing the initial map of where a course is going, the journey will always change, depending on what happens along the way. This syllabus can be changed at a moment’s notice to take account of both your responses to course activities and mine.
So please note the following product warnings:
If you don’t feel comfortable talking with others about yourself and your experiences, you should probably drop this course ASAP.
If you don’t feel comfortable with a loose course structure…”
This sort of information is best kept for higher level courses? I’m not sure. How much responsibility for managing the course belongs to the student? When is it appropriate to release some control? The syllabus can reflect the “style” of class, not just its content. Some of the classes we build have no leeway, the outcomes are rigidly fixed. These courses have micro-managed expectations. Others are more open and allow for direction changes as long as goals are met. I don’t personally think any class should be left unattended for pure self study but some are.