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Departments may post online syllabi to aid registration

During the course registration period, some students may be confused about what classes to register for because they are unsure of what the class is about and what to expect.

But now that more students are requesting professors post syllabi online during the registration period, some University staff and faculty are taking the idea into consideration.

"I am very supportive of faculty developing effective syllabi for their courses and posting them online," Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Philip J. Furmanski said. "Online syllabi help in reducing costs by providing early information for students regarding books and other materials that might be required in any particular course and in making better decisions about their curricula."

But Director of Scheduling and Space Management Arun Mukherjee estimated only about 50 percent of professors post their syllabi online when students are scheduling classes.

According to the Computer Science Department Web site, the department posts course syllabi on the Web site. For each course, a general description is provided, as well as the number of credits, prerequisites, semesters offered, topics covered in class, expected work, exams and links to the professor's class URL.

Posting syllabi online is very easy, as long as you get your syllabus ready on time, said University associate professor Ethel Brooks.

Yet many students are using sources not affiliated with the University, such as www.ratemyprofessors.com, to determine which professor or course to take, especially when syllabi are not posted.

"Right now, I sometimes use the posted syllabi, but it's not my first choice," said Robert Gatdula, a School of Engineering sophomore. "I'd say about half my professors post syllabi and if they're not posted, then I just take the class and hope that it's a class I need to take."

The University Senate recommended that the information for each course should contain the course description, including information on expected work and grading structure such as assignments, papers, projects and exams, Mukherjee said. It is the responsibility of each department to have a course syllabus page.

Professors are supposed to work with departmental administrators to have their syllabus posted on the department's Web site.

Brooks said some professors might not know how to post a syllabus online.

"I honestly think that [not having more professors post their syllabus online] may have to do with them being a little technologically nervous about doing these things or about copyright issues, because the syllabus is always the product of [the professor's] thinking, and some people just don't want it replicated by some faculty or other universities or even at this University," Brooks said.

Gatdula said professors should take the time to become familiar with posting syllabi online.

"For those professors, I would say at this day and age they should learn how to post the syllabus — it's really not that complicated," he said. "I would go a step further and recommend they also post past syllabi, so students can see how the course has changed over time."

Furmanski said the Office of Academic Affairs strongly encourages online posting of syllabi through deans and department heads and also through the regular processes of academic review.

Some departments do not have an information technology staff due to budget cuts, making this difficult, Mukherjee said. Some solutions would be to have deans set aside money and centralize posting syllabi or hiring students to do so.

Having more professors post syllabi during the course registration period would really benefit students, Gatdula said.

"I really want to see that because when it comes to choosing classes, it's really hard looking at what a class is and not knowing what it's exactly supposed to be about," he said. "With the syllabus, you get a good description of the class, but without it you're just really confused."


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