University News

Provost asks profs to put syllabi online

By
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Shopping period might be a little bit easier for students in 2010.

Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98 has asked faculty to upload their course syllabi to the University’s old and infrequently used course-preview site by the spring semester. The preview page directory, courses.brown.edu, combines descriptions from Banner with additional information from professors.

The decision to ask professors to submit their syllabi came as a result of longstanding efforts by the Undergraduate Council of Students to improve shopping period, according to Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron.

To facilitate uploading course information, Computing and Information Services developed the Academic Services Gateway, which offers “centralized access” to online teaching tools.

In an e-mail sent to faculty Nov. 11, Kertzer announced the creation of the Gateway and its related tools.

“Among these tools is an easy way for you to upload your course syllabus so that students can access it at the beginning of the semester when choosing their courses,” he wrote.
Bergeron said the technology has created an easy way to make syllabi available to the student body. 

Teachers “don’t need to have a MyCourses site,” she said. Instead, they can enter their syllabi into a database that includes all of the courses offered during a given semester.

Though some professors may not have the final versions of their syllabi ready for shopping period, Bergeron said provisional versions will suffice. 

“All we’re asking is for people to put a draft of the syllabus up there,” she added.
The availability of syllabi will allow students to move “past Banner,” said Robert Taj Moore ’11, chair of academic and administrative affairs for UCS. Students will also be able to “see what professors are teaching, if the course will be a better fit” than other courses, he said.

Moore said the University had to wait for the technology to catch up with the demand for more course information. “For a long time, a system didn’t actually exist for professors to upload their syllabi easily,” he said. “Now, that system does exist.”

Online syllabi will prove helpful when students consider classes meeting at the same time, Bergeron said.

Since this decision comes long before the start of the second semester, both Bergeron and Moore said they plan to remind faculty to upload their syllabi as the spring semester approaches.

Moore said UCS is in the process of contacting department chairs and “re-emphasizing” the positive effect this could have on shopping period.

Bergeron credited UCS members with spearheading the project. “These conversations started with members of UCS, who were trying to get more info out there for students in advance of shopping period,” she said. 

Bergeron said she will remind faculty members to upload the syllabi, but once they do, the onus is on the students to properly use the information. “It’s just as important for students now to build that piece into their searches,” she said.