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It’s All In The Syllabus!

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Next in our review of the 2012-2013 CETL grants, Sunita Kumari (Economics, Seminole & Online) explores the effectiveness of a tool we all use – the syllabus!


Describe your project.

The goals of this project was to understand whether students actually read the syllabus in the first week of the course and are prepared to proceed with the course. The idea was to maximize their learning & improve student retention by reviewing two types of syllabus documents, namely one that is a template from the College and one that is in the format of a contract with an online ‘signature’ of agreement and locking down of subsequent course content in Angel.


What was the chief accomplishment of your project? What problem did you solve? What program did you implement?

The main accomplishment was to understand that, besides the syllabus, students look out for and appreciate a Weekly Deadlines Summary table that outlines the due dates on a single page. There was no specific problem that was solved, more of an assurance that what is currently being done is working relatively well with the Syllabus Contract document.

What were the results? Did you see a numeric increase, a qualitative improvement? Can you describe it?


  • There were 40% less emails received in the course with the Syllabus Template; 16.67% with the Syllabus Contract.
  • The withdrawal rate for the course with Syllabus Template was 8.57%; Syllabus Contract 6.25%.
  • Overall, there is no definite winner in terms of the type of syllabus documentation used. Both types have their unique strengths.

Did YOU learn anything from the project? Did you make any changes to your teaching style or content?

Yes, I learned a few things:

  • Overall, there is no definite winner in terms of the type of syllabus documentation used. Both types have their unique strengths.
  • Student appreciate having the Weekly Deadlines Summary sheet to view and print besides the Calendar Tab in the Angel Learning Management System.

Can another teacher use your project? How can they implement your learning?

Yes, they can use the Syllabus Contract format together with the Weekly Deadlines Summary to see if it helps in students’ understanding of the Syllabus during the first week of the course and in improving the student retention in the course.

Do you have plans for a follow-up project/additional research? If you did a grant again, what would you change? What would you do differently?

Yes, to separate questions into two parts: Weekly Deadlines Summary from the Syllabus Contract in the Icebreaker Introduction Discussion to see the effectiveness of each.

Thank you, Professor Kumari, for the report on the steps we can take to ensure students read the syllabus!

What techniques have you found particularly helpful in ensuring students are aware of the expectations in your class? Share your experience in the comments section below!

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