Make Your Syllabus an FAQ

Decorative: FAQ spelled out in coloured wooden letter blocks


"How to Turn Your Syllabus into an FAQ, and Why You Should" (post) addresses the problem of the syllabus as "an overlong document" that "students may not bother to read" by proposing " a simple solution to replace the multipage, narrative document I used to hand out in class":

  • "Create a syllabus that looks and functions much like the FAQ (frequently asked questions) page of a website."

The post explains the advantages of such an approach, how to set one up in a LMS, come concerns, and the suggestion to also "offer students a downloadable version of the basic syllabus with all university-required course information."

  • The post ends with some suggestions for other syllabus innovations.

1. Advantages (each expanded in the post)

  • "It allows quick and simple navigation."
  • "Instructors can embed links to web pages or documents in the FAQ answers."
  • It "allows instructors to prepare answers to follow-up questions about things that aren’t on the syllabus but may pop up as the semester progresses."
  • It "can help students develop more familiarity and comfort with that system generally."
  • "Once digitally constructed, it is no more difficult to update and maintain than any other syllabus, yet is far more versatile."
  • "[S]tudents are a good source of ideas for what needs to be updated on your FAQ syllabus ... Ask students to identify a question about the course that you haven’t answered on the syllabus."  

2. Design/Set Up

  • Use D2L to "displa[y] a series of themes, such as 'attendance,' 'grade policies,' and 'course schedule.'"
  • "When students expand any particular section, a series of questions related to the theme appears." 
  • "Students can click on any question on [the] FAQ syllabus to get a brief answer."
Decorative: A sample of what a syllabus as FAQ could look like in a LMS with clickable/expandable topics such as "In the Classroom," "Attendance." "Participation," Goals"

3. Potential Drawbacks

  • It requires an "investment of time and effort ... [to] conver[t] a paper document to a digital FAQ syllabus."
  • "[S]ome learning-management systems are more conducive to this method than others."
  • "[s]ome universities, departments, or individual students may simply prefer — or, in some cases, require — a traditional print syllabus be made available."

4. Other Possible Syllabus Innovations

"[C]reative — and demonstrably effective — ways to present course information" can be used for "all sorts of syllabus strategies":

  • "[D]rafting short and simple syllabi that leave most course information to an online repository"
  • "[B]urying 'Easter eggs' on their syllabi that reward diligent readers"
  • See also "The Creative Syllabus" for more on a "graphic novel syllabus," "an infographic syllabus," and "an animated syllabus." 

5. See Also

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