While reading chapter 5 the Ko and Rossen text I started a little handwritten chart of recommendations for creating a syllabus for an online course. I made one column of ideas I would use and one column of recommendations I would probably skip and/or recommendations I felt like would not work for me. When I finished reading, I had a long list of ideas I like, but I quickly realized that including all of these suggestions in one syllabus would make for a really busy and detailed document which is not at all what I want. I tend to err on the side of providing too much detail when giving direction, so I know I will already have a tendency to fill up a syllabus with information that students may not need right away.
That being said, I am truly committed to providing students with my expectations of them for each course, so I cannot eliminate this portion. As a student myself, I quickly scan the syllabus looking for the part that explains how to make an "A" before I read anything else. I suspect there are others like me, and I want to make sure I spell this out completely in my syllabus. So the challenge is how to give enough detail without overwhelming the student with information. I may have an idea for a solution to this, though, so stay with me.
I also like the concept of updating the announcements section of an online course at least weekly. I think it's important for students to get fresh content or fresh information so that they do not feel so disconnected. I also think contacting the students via email or text as soon as the new weekly announcements are posted is a great idea. It makes things a little more personal, and could help keep students on track. Of course, there will be students who still fall behind, but knowing that you, as the instructor, have made an effort to reach out to them weekly, allows you to hold them more accountable for turning in assignments on time.
In considering just these two recommendations for an online syllabus I started thinking about how I could connect with students in an online course more frequently if and when the student desires or needs more connection. How can I make a syllabus more interactive yet less wordy? So here's what I'm thinking: In order to offer up a more detailed explanation of the syllabus or assignments outlined in the syllabus and in an effort to keep content fresh and relevant, I am thinking of creating a blog for my online course. I could provide a link to the blog from the very beginning of the course, and update it weekly (or as often as necessary) with information pertinent to that week's activities and assignments. The blog could be a place where students link to get more details about particular assignments. It could also be a place where I announce opportunities for extra credit or provide additional resources should a student want to explore a topic further. I could also post video lectures on the blog or videos where I detail assignments and express my expectations more clearly. The blog could serve as a place for students to ask questions and make comments, too.
Obviously, there were more ideas in the text that I found helpful, and I think I can implement many of them in a way that would not seem so overwhelming if I am able to also provide a place (like a blog) for students who need more information or a greater connection to find those things.
What do you think?