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Sample Video Syllabus


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Context and Beginnings
The Issue of Syllabus Length
Although the information posted under Introduction menu item, along with other sources not included in this article, provide convincing evidence for the beneficial effect of video files in distance education, more explanation is needed to understand the rationale behind the video syllabus. Traditionally, the syllabus is a text-based educational genre, so what necessitates the conversion from text to movie? The idea of the video syllabus occurred to me as a reaction to the feedback I received on my annual activity report a couple of years ago, which indicated that my syllabi were too long and I needed to make them shorter. Indeed, it was not uncommon that my online syllabi were approximately 20 pages long and my face-to-face syllabi were around 14. These documents did not include the Course Calendar, which was an individual document in my courses, providing a weekly schedule of assignments and activities. Since my syllabi contained detailed and thorough information about various aspects of the course, I did not like to call them syllabi. I proudly referred to them as “course manuals.”

Students Don't Read
When reflecting on the reasons why my syllabi were considered problematic, I realized that it was not the actual length of the syllabus that caused the problem, but students’ reaction, which may have been based on imagined or anticipated hardships about the course. In their eyes, a long syllabus equaled a hard course combined with unrealistic expectations. They felt overwhelmed and intimidated by the sheer volume of text they were supposed to read, so they chose not to read it or read it selectively. Needless to say, this lack of information is bound to lead to confusion about how to function in an online course. My suspicion that some online students did not read certain posted information at all was evident from the questions they asked me about course policies and assignments. Unfortunately, students who do not read often fall behind on assignments, earn lower grades, or ultimately drop out. This can result in student complaints about the course in the end-of-term evaluations. However, our goal as educators is to help students succeed; therefore, I was trying to find a medium for information delivery that was easier to access and process than reading. This is how I came up with the idea of what I call the “video syllabus.”