Tired of Syllabi Questions? Get Interactive!

Feb. 20, 2023

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

Illustration of a UArizona instructor presenting an interactive syllabus from inside a computer screen.

If you are reading this, you have also 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 an email after email asking questions you know you already answered in your syllabus and want to help your students better know where they can find the answers.

Instructors spend hours curating a comprehensive, well-organized, accessible, but not overwhelming syllabus. Despite paying attention to its importance, students continue ignoring 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 the feedback you can use to better understand what your students know about your syllabus.

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

  1. Create a Script. Look at your syllabus and decide the most crucial information points 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 scripts 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 already know or have a low learning curve and good on-campus support. If you are designing your course with support from UCATT, 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 for recording quality videos at home. Then, we found PlayPosit worked best 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 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.

Remember that you will still need to post your full syllabus to your course site for your students to reference. While wonderful and engaging, your new interactive syllabus will be a supplement, not a full replacement for your course syllabus. 

Finally, please remember the staff at UCATT are here to help! The D2L & InTech Team is available to support PlayPosit or VoiceThread, and we would love to hear about your experience with interactive syllabi at d2l@arizona.edu