Syllabi now in course listings with more features to come

| Associate Editor

Course listings just got a little more interesting. This semester, certain course descriptions in the WUCrsL course listings contain links to the syllabi for those classes. This is the first of three phases of eSyllabi, which aims to create a central repository of all syllabi for students to reference before registering for classes.

Phase two of the project will make non-public syllabus information available and will continue to refine the guidelines for the information that students look for when selecting classes, according to Sue Hosack, director of the Office of Student Records, who serves on the working group along with members of the Information Services and Technology department and four students.

The next step is “to define what [students] are looking for at the point of registration…which may be a very different thing from what a faculty member would perceive as being syllabus information,” Hosack said.

Within the next three to four weeks, students will receive a survey asking what kind of information they want course syllabi to contain, for registration purposes.

“[With online syllabi] you know what to expect and can pick classes off of how you’re being evaluated,” said junior Michelle Brown, who noted that some students prefer papers or exams to presentations. “A lot of times the class description on WebSTAC aren’t enough to know what the class is really about.”

eSyllabi follows Syllabi Central, an effort by Student Union Senator Joseph Marcus and former Senator Jake Novick, which was shut down last semester. Syllabi Central was run entirely by Marcus and Novick, which, according to Marcus, made the site unsustainable.

“We wanted the University to take it over and make it something that’s part of the campus,” Marcus said.

There were also questions regarding protection of University information and intellectual property on Syllabi Central, according to Hosack.

Marcus noted that the original site was not the subject of any legal action, nor did the intellectual property concerns escalate to the level of talking to lawyers.

The prior site, however, according to Hosack, represented a positive step forward

“[The original site] underscored the importance that students saw in being able to see detailed syllabus information at the point of registration,” Hosack said.

Students responded favorably to the idea of implementing this program.

“Accessing syllabi prior to registration is a really good idea,” freshman Carol Stoll said. “Current course listings are OK, but you really don’t get a good feel for the class until you’re in it for while.”

Phase three of the project will provide a central repository for all syllabi or portions of syllabi, in which professors would be able to upload PDFs or Word documents to a database. The project would also establish levels of access for the syllabi, such as public, available upon login with a WUSTLKey, or available to students registered for the course.

“In an ideal world [eSyllabi] would be up by spring 2011, but nothing is set in stone,” Marcus said of phase three.

Hosack said the working group is making good progress, but could not predict when the project would be completed.

The idea for the project originated with Marcus and Novick, and initially started in SU Senate. Hosack described eSyllabi as “primarily a student-driven initiative,” and Marcus noted that there are “lot of resources in the administration that make this possible.”

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