By Online Learning Tips Staff
Admissions Representative, American Public University
Probably the best way to find out what to expect from your class is to read the course syllabus. This document will contain everything you need, from your instructor’s contact information to explanations of your instructor’s grading philosophy. Download or print out the syllabus as soon as you access your class, keep it handy, and refer to it regularly. It will keep you on track with your assignments and on target with meeting your instructor’s expectations.
Some schools will allow you to access your syllabus before the class begins, so you can prepare yourself beforehand. Some have archived syllabi available you can check out to see how classes were taught in the past, so you can get an idea of the types of assignments you can expect.
Each school may have a different format that instructors follow for their syllabi. Let’s take a look at the style followed by instructors at American Public University.
Instructor Information: This lists your instructor’s name, email, phone number and office hours— invaluable information for contacting your instructor with questions about assignments or emergencies that may prevent you from completing assignments on time.
Course Description: The catalog description of the course is provided here.
Course Scope: This area is similar to the description, with a more detailed overview of the course.
Course Objectives: The knowledge and skills you will gain upon completing the course are listed here. The assignments have been developed to meet these objectives.
Course Delivery Method: Here, the instructor details the types of assignments the course will require, including criteria for discussion board postings, papers, quizzes and so on.
Course Resources: This area lists required readings, additional readings, recommended references, additional resources, websites and other materials you will be expected to use or refer to in the class.
Evaluation Procedures: The instructor lists the readings; the number of weekly discussion board postings, their due dates, and required word counts and criteria for acceptable postings; number of required essays; number of quizzes; the final paper with its requirements; and other types of assignments. This section also shows the number of points the instructor gives to each assignment type.
Course Outline: This section breaks out the course lessons on a weekly basis, with each week’s topic, learning objectives, readings and assignments.
Policies: University policies are reviewed here. The section can go over your instructor’s course-related policies as well, including writing expectations; the citation and reference style to follow (e.g., APA, MLA); document file formatting guidelines; ramifications of turning in late assignments; netiquette, such as the appropriate tone to use in discussion board postings; and a disclaimer statement about the syllabus content.
Academic Services: Learning resources are detailed, such as your school’s online library, if available, with interlibrary loans, e-books, e-journals, tutoring, program-specific library guides, and more.
Selected Bibliography: Your instructor may list required reading as well as supplemented reading suggestions here.