Introducing Simple Syllabus
The University of San Francisco is excited to be pilot testing Simple Syllabus, a cloud-based, template-driven syllabus platform designed to improve for students, instructors, and administrators the creation, use and storage of our syllabi. If the results of the 2019-20 academic year pilot are robust, we will begin the adoption of Simple Syllabus in the 2020-21 academic year.
Students, faculty, and administrators regularly report that our current syllabus system is not as effective as it could be. Syllabi are often long and difficult for students to sort through, especially if accessed electronically; changes to syllabi are easy to miss; faculty often have to spend considerable time formatting and reworking syllabi, searching out required boilerplate information, and express concerns that what they most want to communicate to students becomes buried amidst other required syllabus elements; the Canvas syllabus function, for those that use it, is limited and non-interactive; syllabi vary widely within and across the schools; our system for archiving and making available syllabi is cumbersome and time-consuming; sustainability goals are hampered by the persistence of paper syllabi in many courses; and few USF syllabi are accessible to those with disabilities.
We think Simple Syllabus will offer big improvements for students, faculty, and administrators alike.
For students: The cloud-based platform means that students can easily access, view, and interact with syllabi; they can move selectively through content (using side tabs, for instance) and receive automatic updates when they “subscribe” to a syllabus; and view all their syllabi in one spot.
For faculty: Simple Syllabus makes the creation of syllabi more efficient for faculty by eliminating certain tasks and many redundant tasks; accessing and updating of previous syllabi is easy, as are tools for layering information and for generating visually interesting syllabi that include images, audio, and video; much of the established institutional data (policies, program learning outcomes, course number, title, location, catalog description, and schedule) will be centralized and automatically populated into syllabi templates; with the template system, instructors do not need to consult syllabus guidelines to know what elements are required and what elements are optional. Simple Syllabus also integrates with Canvas.
For administrators: Simple Syllabus creates an easily searchable database of syllabi and operates as an automatic repository of syllabi; all Simple Syllabus templates are also accessible to people with disabilities.
We don’t think so, but this is one of the things the pilot will help determine. Learning to use Simple Syllabus appears to be relatively quick and easy, since it involves a template.
We don’t think so, but this is one of the things the pilot will help determine. Some degree of uniformity is already built into our current system, given that certain elements are required on all syllabi. Simple Syllabus allows considerable creativity in terms of appearance (you can play with fonts and colors, and select among various logos), content types (you can easily import photos, videos, audio, and graphics such as book covers into the syllabus), and content order (you can move most of the elements around within the syllabus). Faculty remain in control of all of the course content.
While the goal will be to get as close to 100% adoption by faculty, use of Simple Syllabus will not be mandatory.
Yes. Simple Syllabus integrates into Canvas. Faculty and students can access Simple Syllabus through Canvas or through the Simple Syllabus site.
No. In fact, once you’ve created a syllabus using the Simple Syllabus template, you can create a printable PDF version with one click.
No. Our syllabi will not be available for viewing by the general public. Members of the USF community with access to Simple Syllabus will be able to view the syllabus library.
The pilot will begin in the College of Arts & Sciences in the Fall 2019 semester and expand in the Spring 2020 to include faculty from the School of Education, School of Law, School of Management, and School of Nursing and Health Professions. Faculty will be trained on the Simple Syllabus tool and will use it in their courses, and will offer feedback during and after the pilot phase through surveys and face-to-face conversations. Students will also be surveyed for their responses to the Simple Syllabus experience. At the end of the pilot period, we will assess the desirability and viability of adopting Simple Syllabus at USF.