Mass confusion can leave students unprepared for a test if classes are canceled because of inclement weather or the instructor changes a due date, but doesn’t publicize the modification.
“What we’re finding is there’s far more value for a syllabus than was originally thought,” said Rattner, who added that Concourse’s syllabus layout—which resembles a piece of paper—has proven attractive to students and faculty, because it’s a “very familiar kind of environment for them.”
Some faculty members keep parts of their syllabus private, blocking contact information or class assignments to anyone outside the class. Kuruzovich said he keeps his syllabus information open to faculty at RPI so they can draw ideas for their own Concourse syllabi.
“To me, it’s part of the sharing; it’s almost the intellectual commons of the school,” he said. “If I’m having influence, and if someone’s adopting my syllabus, it’s a compliment to me.”
Concourse also features a search engine that lets students and faculty search for syllabi with general and specific keywords.
Rattner said students can scroll through course syllabi before the start of a semester, using the public information to determine whether they’ll register for the class or choose another course.
Fink, the RPI student, said before she signs up for classes, she reviews professors’ web-based syllabi to see whether final grades are based on term papers or projects that don’t require long-term writing assignments.
“It really helps with the decision-making process,” she said. “It makes it a great tool.”
“Having a syllabus online brings the document to life,” Rattner said. “It’s absolutely where higher education is headed.”
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute