More Than Just a Document: Redesigning the Syllabus for Digital Environments

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

If your course is delivered online, your face-to-face syllabus won't work! Learn to compose a structurally and discursively appropriate syllabus for teaching online.


Ary Aranguiz is an Instructional Designer at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. She designs and develops e-learning instructional materials and online learning experiences. For over six years, she has worked with both on campus and online learning faculty providing technical training and professional development to support innovative online teaching and learning. She works with NYU engineering faculty to provide support for the pedagogical use of NYU’s learning management system. Ary is also a former National Board Certified high school English teacher, and educational consultant with over 18 years of classroom teaching experience. She is currently pursuing a Master's in Science in Digital Education, fully online, at the University of Edinburgh. Her research interests include faculty development, online course design, MOOCs, and multi-modal assessments.
Laura Dicht is an Instructional Designer at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. She works with faculty to storyboard and develop online courses. She has worked to create classes for the Computer Science and Civil Engineering departments. Before Laura's current role, she spent several years as a teacher in South Korea and China. She has also worked as an online ESL instructor. While in graduate school, Laura gained experience in curriculum design, pedagogy, and multimodal learning. Laura holds a Master's in International Educational Development from Teachers College, Columbia University and a Bachelor's in Journalism from Boston University.

Extended Abstract

Adding the words "this course is delivered fully online" does not transform your paper-based syllabus for use in an online course. The online syllabus is a relatively new genre in higher education, and requires close attention to how the document changes and evolves when it lives online. The web-mediated syllabus serves many other functions beyond its inherent ones, and becomes more than just a printed text, but a powerful hyperlinked medium to enhance and improve its use as a communication and planning tool to support different methods of online content delivery and online student engagement.

In this presentation, NYU's Instructional Design team will discuss what we discovered as we researched what constitutes an effective online syllabus and how it differs in structure and language for communicating course descriptions, objectives, expectations, requirements, policies and even enthusiasm for learning the course content. Online syllabi should be not radically different from their paper-based predecessor; they need to retain many of the same components included in an on campus syllabus, but there are critical elements which syllabi designers may not be taking into account. We explore what these components are, and share our online syllabus template we redeveloped to fit the needs of our online class format.

We will detail the logistical and procedural components often missing from the syllabus when the face-to-face course goes online, the impact these components have on student engagement in the course, and how to design these components to fit any discipline. Through before and after examples of face to face syllabi from various disciplines redesigned for online courses, participants will be able to understand how to redesign their syllabus for a digital environment.

Audience members will walk away with:
ï Understanding how and why the genre of the online syllabus differs from the face-to-face syllabus
ï Understanding the specific components that should be included in a syllabus for an online course

This presentation will provide the following:
ï An overview of NYU's Instructional Design team's efforts to create a syllabus template and checklist specifically for online courses
ï Suggested guidelines for key components to include in an online syllabus

Engagement with the audience:

Interactive Handouts: online syllabus checklist and template, before and after samples of paper based syllabus converted for online courses; small group moments and partner exercises; interactive live survey tool, and Q & A session