Syllabi: useful vs. useless

How to make the most out of the first week of class. Olivia Havre | Photographer

By Nick Cook | Web Editor

Every semester, the first day of classes is always predictable: go to class, find a seat, get the syllabus, leave 10 minutes early and throw the syllabus away on your way out because you will never use it again. When professors start to go over the syllabus, one thing that is almost always said is that the information on the syllabus “is just a guide and can be changed.”

The syllabus should be used as a guide, but more accurately. The schedule typically attached to the syllabus is significant for those who are organized and create plans for every class and assignment. When a class falls behind the schedule and assignments get moved or scrapped, students start to struggle and get lost in all their assignments.

Instead of relying on students to adjust their schedules and be prepared for the assignment dates to change, professors should be more prepared to keep the class on track. This will help professors who have multiple sections of the same course, as each section will be at the same point at the end of each class. Additionally, professors will be able to help students more effectively and won’t need to know each student’s section number in order to effectively help them.

Professors will know exactly where students are in class and what they are most likely to be struggling with, and it will be easier for them to grade assignments when each section is working on the same assignment. In addition, students will be more inclined to attend office hours for help.

Students can create better study groups as well. No section would be ahead of another, and each one would be taught the same information at the same time. Creating a study group of students who are learning the same content would allow students to help their peers by offering a different view of the same information.

The syllabus is a very useful piece of paper when it is used in the right way and not completely disregarded by professors as the semester progresses. When followed, students can better prepare for tests, quizzes and assignments, and professors can grade faster. The semester goes better overall.