(from Faculty Focus). Syllabus Format May Enhance Understanding of Course Requirements. Over the years, course syllabi have evolved from a simple document that outlines course objectives and requirements to an intimidating, multi-paged contract of terms and conditions for successful course completion. A number of writers have proposed syllabus makeovers, including some who’ve suggested the syllabus be offered in newsletter style. Others have proposed quizzing students on the syllabus as a way to encourage them to read it carefully.
We decided to try these two ideas and investigate if they helped students understand four essential course requirements: course objectives, course policies, procedures for late work, and the number of exams. Each of us created one traditional course syllabus and one graphically enhanced syllabus in newsletter format, randomly distributing each type on the first day of class. We quizzed students on the course requirements on the second day of class. Both syllabi contained identical content. One of our goals as instructors is to place the responsibility for learning experiences on students. We thought a more engaging syllabus format might be more intellectually invigorating and better at connecting students with the course. Moreover, for those of us who include student learning objectives (SLOs), we hoped that offering them in this format might stimulate more self-regulated student learning. So, which syllabus format is better for students?