Coppola said that, in the midst of nearly across-the-board higher education budget cuts, professors have taken on new responsibilities that fill their daily schedules and leave little time for creating and posting every syllabus to the campus website weeks before a semester starts.
“Rules are only as good as they can be enforced,” she said.
Providing open syllabi for college students signing up for next semester’s classes has helped students find courses they would not have otherwise found, said Jennifer Connally, a spokeswoman for Intellidemia, maker of Concourse, a syllabus management system used at 10 colleges and universities.
“Students can make better, more informed decisions about the courses they choose,” Connally said, adding that Concourse allows educators to make some syllabus information public, and some private, such as contact information and office hours. “We know they’ve worked hard to create specific content within a course.”
Connally said extensive online syllabi could hedge the common student practice of signing up for more classes than they plan to take, reviewing the professor’s syllabus on the first day of class, and dropping one or more courses from their schedules.
Some college students do this, she said, because brief course descriptions only give students a vague idea of what will be taught throughout a semester.
Stockpiling spots in myriad classes also fills lecture halls and classrooms and prevents other students from signing up for the class.
Duke University’s optional online syllabus system, known as the Online Course Synopsis Handbook, “approaches an ideal system for posting syllabi on the web,” according to a 2008 report published by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a conservative think tank based in North Carolina.
About 80 percent of Duke professors comply with the handbook.