Tired of Syllabi Questions? Get Interactive

Decorative image of a teacher on a screen and a student interacting with a video.
Published: Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Stop syllabus questions before they start by making your syllabus interactive in four easy steps!

If you are reading this, then you too have likely realized syllabi need to be adapted for the newest generation of college students. Or, perhaps you’ve noticed your latest cohort of students has struggled to understand your syllabus and you want to make some changes. Maybe like us, you too have received email after email asking questions you know you already answered in your syllabus and you want to help your students to better know where they can go to find the answers.

We know instructors spend hours curating a comprehensive, well-organized, accessible, but not overwhelming syllabus. Despite calling attention to its importance, students continue to ignore the need to read and understand the syllabus. To be honest, this isn’t all that surprising to us when a majority of our students are avid TikTok, Marco Polo and Instagram users who typically read, at the most, a few sentences with a quick video or image. To match this new generation of college students, you will need to find a new way to reach your students.

Enter the Interactive Syllabus. We can’t claim this approach will solve all of your problems or stop all of the emails clarifying syllabus questions. However, we believe providing a more engaging and interactive format for your syllabus will help:

  • Focus student attention on the most important aspects of a course.
  • Draw attention to where students can find relevant information in your course.
  • Allow students to get to know your personality as their instructor.
  • Provide you with feedback you can use to gain a clearer understanding of what your students know about your syllabus.

Take a look at our example Interactive Syllabus below to see if this is something you’re interested in making:

Note: Please open this page in a Private Browser/Incognito Window if you receive an "Unauthorized Preview" of our example below.

Let’s walk through our approach to creating an interactive syllabus.

  1. Create a Script. Take a look at your syllabus and decide what are the most crucial points of information you need your students to know. Outline those and draft a script explaining just the most important aspects of the course, being sure to touch on the points you have often received questions about in the past.

  2. Keep it Short and Simple. Not everything needs to be covered in your interactive syllabus. You want to aim for a 7-10 minute presentation. That means you may have to trim some of your script to ensure that you focus on the most important details, pointing out those aspects that students need to know.

  3. Choose your tools. The best thing you can do is select tools you are already familiar with, or have a low learning curve and good on-campus support. If you are designing your course with support from Digital Learning, you have access to our great Multimedia Team, which can record a quality, professional video, such as the example you saw above. But even if you don’t have access to a studio, our team has provided tips to recording quality videos at home. Then, we found PlayPosit worked best for us to add the interactivity needed for the video we recorded, but it's not the only tool. Here are some options to get you started on your own Interactive Syllabus:

  4. Practice! Don’t be afraid to record several times over until you get a good video you are happy with. Students enjoy authenticity and love to see your personality, so don’t let a misspoken word or repeated phrase hold you back.

Keep in mind you will still need to post your full syllabus to your course site for your students to reference. Your new interactive syllabus, while wonderful and engaging, will be a supplement, not a full replacement for your course syllabus. 

Finally, please remember the staff at Digital Learning are here to help! The Instructional Technology (InTech) Team is available to provide support for PlayPosit or VoiceThread, and we would love to hear about your experience with interactive syllabi at InTech@arizona.edu

Authored By:

Adam Davi

Adam Davi
Senior Instructional Designer
Guest Author(s):
Adam Baldry
Former Instructional Technologist, Digital Learning