Have you thanked your technical writer today?

The Mojo of technical communication and writing as mused by Dr. Lu Kondor

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thoughts of school dreams and syllabus nightmares

This was going around CSUDH email yesterday - I thought it was interesting. It stimulated debate and commentary, which I love. Now let me start with this - truly my syllabi are long too, otherwise I am flooded with confused student questions. I started teaching before the electronic age and students have so many more questions now than 25 years ago regarding everything from file formats they can hand their work in to electronic libraries all Universities now have. 

Many are returning students who remember older ways of learning and are confused by the integration of new technologies. I also like to mention that an aging school population knows what it wants from a class. I understand that sentiment, I received my doctorate a few years ago, having returned a number of years after my last masters degree.

Don't get me wrong, I like to answer questions and do as quickly as possible. But students may not be able to wait for an answer especially if they are working at the last minute late at night. Many could say students shouldn't wait that long, but the reality is today quite a few students can't help it. I also worked full time while I went back to school and from personal experience, so many students I have do just that with a need to balance their lives. Students need to work on classwork when it fits them and providing a tool that helps them work is just that, a tool. I do think that most syllabi are long today but it is a sign of the times that we are trying to define information (including required information by the University) by providing as much info. as possible, as quickly as possible.

I recommend with a syllabus including keywords in the document so when a student searches, they find what they want. If possible keep everything in sections together regarding similar information. I am contemplating on my next updated syllabus to include a click-able table of contents at the top. Worth it if you syllabus is over 5 pages.

The good? They are PDF files you can search instead of reading word for word. Like everything else today, most readers skim & scan. When you have questions as a student, why not have the info at your finger tips?