New Courses, New Syllabi

One of my favorite parts of teaching is designing syllabi.  I am the kind of person who loves making lists, so being able to write out my general plan for the semester helps me think about what I want students to learn and gets me excited about all the things I get to cover in the upcoming semester.

I'm also the kind of person who likes having visual clues along with blocks of text, as I find that I can remember bits of information much more easily when they are presented alongside charts, diagrams, or pictures.  It seems that textbook designers also think this way, as today's intro texts have loads of pictures, pages with vocabulary in sidebars, and other nifty aesthetic treatments. In the past, I've "coolified" my syllabi using skeleton fonts and little images for bullet points.  Now that I have a new position at a new university, I figured I ought to step it up a notch.

Here are the front pages of my syllabi for Intro to Forensic Anthropology and Intro to Biological Anthropology.  (Click to embiggen. You can also get the whole syllabus for each course in PDF by clicking the links and/or searching for them via the AAA's Teaching Materials Exchange.)

Keeping in mind I have no background whatsoever in creative design (which means these are fairly over-designed), what do you think?  More or less likely to get a student's attention and deliver the appropriate information than a traditional syllabus is?


megkhowell said…
As a current college student, I like it. I go to UW-Madison and took Dr. John Hawks' Bio Anthro last semester, and his syllabus was also "spruced up" some. I liked it that way, it gave me something to look at, and at least for me, made highlighting unnecessary. I am SO jealous of the students that get to take your Forensic Anthro class though...
Adam said…
I can't access the Forensic Anthro one - it keeps saying page not found:(
Thanks for the comment, Meg. I was hoping that a more visually pleasing presentation of the syllabus would mean students would refer to it when needed.

In a future semester, I want to make some sort of index to it - so a student can click on "missed class" or "extra credit" and jump right to that point in the document. There are so many ways to make information more easily accessible today and more intuitive than linear-text-style, and I think instructors need to start including them in their classes.

Adam - The link is still working ok for me. (I do have to download it, though, since I can't get it to launch in my browser.)
Adam said…
It says problem loading page for me, but the bioanthro one is fine which is weird because they both link to the same site presumably? Oh well thanks for checking it anyway, must be more to do with my connection or something. Also I've not been very vocal on this blog before (clearly wanting forensic anthro syllabi does this to a person) but I've been reading your blog every week for the best part of two years. Just wanted to say how awesome it is!
Rachel said…
I think it's a good idea but I always find them to be a bit confusing and distracting.

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