32 Syllabus Reboots

Syllabus reboots are strategies for improving student engagement with information traditionally housed in the course syllabus. An engaging syllabus provides a more effective overview of course content, activities, and expectations; introduces your teaching presence and, in some cases, social presence; and better reflects the tone and aesthetics of your course.

Some of the ideas listed here require a complete syllabus overhaul; others involve minor tweaks or describe fun ways for students to engage with the content as it currently exists. All reboots can be used to supplement “official” syllabi when the use of an institutional template and language is required.

Syllabus as learning activity

For a meaningful icebreaker, design your opening activity around a group reading and discussion of the syllabus. Use a format or digital platform that you will be using later in the course so that the activity also serves as an introduction to course tools. Include focus questions or discussion prompts to structure the conversation (specific examples are covered on the “Opening activities” page of this section).

Syllabus as participation

The following syllabus reboots invite students to participate in cocreating the syllabus and course experience with a range of options:

Syllabus as a graphic

Information design research informs us that how information is presented affects how it is perceived, processed, and remembered. While some of these reboots may seem superficial, they all challenge you to consider the structure and purpose of every part of your course while also conveying that information to your students in aesthetically appealing ways.

Below are some ideas for enhancing the presentation of your materials to improve clarity and appeal. If you are required to use a syllabus template by your program or institution, consider applying them to related or supplemental materials:

Additional resources


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