Will implementing a new resource help lower the number of students adding and dropping classes at the beginning of every semester? That is what Grant Hill, student body vice president and senior in accounting, and much of the Student Governing Association had in mind when they discussed the topic of having syllabi readily available to students prior to enrollment.
“We were looking out for freshmen and transfer students that don’t really know anyone on campus,” Hill said. “A syllabus provided before the class can give a student an insight and a snapshot of what a course entails for next semester.”
SGA hopes, by implementing this measure, to help students determine which classes they will have the most success in. Hill said students learn and excel in many different ways and styles; with this measure students would be able to evaluate classes based on differences in teaching style or philosophy, for example, or whether grades are based more on papers or exams.
Having more information available prior to enrolling could save students the hassle of realizing they may not do well with the class format after the semester has begun, dropping the class and scurrying to find another to fit their schedule.
“We’re still brainstorming on what avenue we would want to go through,” Hill said. “We’ve pitched our ideas to the professors and the Faculty Senate, so it’s still in the works.”
Implementing this measure could potentially give students a bit of an edge when considering classes for their next term.
“It would definitely help manage the course load just because you don’t really know what you’re getting into,” said Jayne Westhead, junior in kinesiology. “It also helps with planning out what your semester will look like.”
Eli Schooley, senior in political science and candidate for student body president, believes this approach would help professors early in the semester, but could give them a challenge as well.
“There’s a whole bunch of flux in and out of classes, and there’s a lot of shifting going on which is crazy for the professors that have to deal with it,” Schooley said. “The downside is that professors would have to prepare for their classes a couple months in advance, and it would be hard to know what their classes would look like in a couple months.”
Professors such as Mike Finnegan, instructor in the School of Leadership Studies, support the idea, but realize the challenges that may come with this notion.
“The syllabus is pre-determined for the 16-week semester, and it doesn’t factor in space for student learning,” Finnegan said. “If the students aren’t ready to move from module to module, then the syllabus pressures the professor to keep going in the class, even though the students might need more time with the content.”
One of the worries professors may have with this approach is that if students are able to access the syllabus while enrolling, they end up taking the class because of what they see in the syllabus. That would leave no room for the professor to improvise lessons, and could end up causing them to feel pressured to follow the schedule of the syllabus as much as possible.
“Absolutely I’d support it,” Finnegan said. “Yet if we move in this direction, there can’t be any student backlash about the content of the syllabus.”
If this motion passes and syllabi were available for student access at the time of enrollment, Hill envisions that the documents would either be available through iSIS or on the specific department’s website. Either way, Hill and Schooley both believe this approach would benefit future students.
“The positives would definitely outweigh the negatives,” Schooley said. “I would absolutely support it for sure.”