Desperately Seeking Syllabus: More than 60 percent of Fall 2009 classes have no syllabi online

A common gripe around pre-registration time and add/drop period is the scarcity of syllabi for Georgetown classes. Anecdotally, we all know the syllabus situation is pretty dire, but just how bad is it?

Well, Vox took a look at the Fall 2009 class schedule to see how the numbers break down, and it’s not good. Granted, classes don’t start for a few months, and the number of syllabi posted will probably (hopefully) increase a bit over the summer. But with pre-registration come and gone, it’s fair to say that this is (more or less) the level information students were presented with when we had to formulate our academic plans for the upcoming semester.

Here’s what we found:

Syllabi Stats

  • The vast majority of classes—917 of 1508 courses, or 60.8 percent—do not have any syllabus whatsoever. For 150 classes (9.9 percent of the classes offered for Fall 2009), the reason that there is no syllabus is that there is no professor assigned to the class yet.
  • 433 classes (28.7 percent) have syllabi for past versions of the course online. While these old syllabi aren’t perfect since it’s hard to know how much the professor plans on updating the course, they at least give students some sense of what to expect from the class.
  • For a 158 classes (10.5 percent), the professors have posted syllabi for Fall 2009.

The 2006-07 Intellectual Life Report noted that many students were dissatisfied with the availability and usefulness of syllabi, and called for “the dissemination of information about effective syllabus design and and assessment.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there’s been much progress in terms of giving students adequate information to make informed decisions about their academic futures.

A few notes about the numbers: I compiled the data by looking at all the undergraduate classes (anything with a course number under 500) that MyAccess shows for Fall 2009 except Senior Thesis seminars, labs, athletics classes and anything offered abroad (like at SFS-Q or the Villa). The numbers were found by going to the professor of each class’s faculty profile and seeing whether or not they had a syllabus for the course posted. The data was collected over the past three weeks or so.

6 Comments on “Desperately Seeking Syllabus: More than 60 percent of Fall 2009 classes have no syllabi online

  1. Wow, I can’t believe you counted all of this stuff!

  2. wow, great work. our faculty our a hot mess….

  3. Kudos for taking the time and effort to compile this data, which will be very beneficial in trying to resolve this problem.

  4. I can speak as an alum that this is a perpetual problem. Various boards and faculty groups get together and assail students for their lack of commitment to their studies and such. But students who every semester desperately seek out information to enable them to make informed choices about courses are regularly uninformed due to the lack of syllabi and/or course descriptions.

    I fought for improved access to syllabi as an undergrad, working through the SFS Academic Council, GUSA, and the Registrar’s Office. A lot of great lip service resulted, but the numbers you present are no better than they were back when I started in 2003, when maybe… just maybe… you could argue that this was due to a somewhat obtuse system and a few faculty who hadn’t quite caught up with the internet age.

    But the simple fact is that professors are required to upload and submit syllabi in timely manner. I’ve heard so as much from administrators. But as usual, no dice. There’s no penalty for not doing so. This is similar to course evaluations, which seem not to be taken quite so seriously. We had to fight just to get those evaluation numbers published, and they are supposed to be releasable to the GU community. They haven’t been released or updated in years.

    Thank you Julia and your colleagues who have run the Voice Blog. As an alum who likes to keep up with things on campus (and as a current grad student), this far surpasses the normal print reporting from any of the campus papers. I don’t mean that as a critique–just that you address a lot of issues on this blog in a timely manner and often ones that go unnoticed! Your attendance at local meetings to report on community happenings, as well as the level of detail you present, is incredibly valuable!

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