Syllabi costs mount on college campuses

No colleges surveyed used commercial syllabus systems.

The unnoticed costs of syllabi management might make campus budget hawks break a sweat.

Colleges and universities spend an average of $272,674 every year on creating, printing, and distributing syllabi, a new report suggests, and while higher education shifts to online platforms for many aspects of administration and learning, syllabus management still involves plenty of paper.

The report, published last week by The Syllabus Institute, a website run by syllabus technology maker Intellimedia, analyzes the myriad financial and employee costs of making and updating syllabi and handing them out to thousands of students.

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Four-year universities included in Intellimedia’s research spent more than $102,000 every year managing syllabi for about 1,800 faculty members.

The largest campuses spend upwards of $1.5 million annually on creating, printing, and evaluating syllabi, according to the study.

“The process of managing syllabi is shared by many and affects every department’s workflow and budget,” said Jennifer Connally, principal researcher for The Syllabus Institute’s report, “Where Does the Budget Go?”

The average syllabus is seven pages, and more than half of professors interviewed by The Syllabus Institute said they printed an average of 673 pages of syllabi every semester.

Even midsized schools with 300 faculty members spend $8,100 on printing syllabi per semester, according to the research.

Updated syllabi that faculty members print and distribute at the start of every semester are a major contributor to the high costs of syllabi in higher education: Three in 10 faculty members said they change their course syllabus more than three times during a semester.

Nearly half of faculty surveyed said their syllabi were created within the past year. Only 7 percent of respondents said they had used the same syllabus for 15 semesters.

None of the 200 colleges and universities surveyed by The Syllabus Institute use commercial syllabus management systems, while 30 percent use filing cabinets as the main storage area for syllabi.

Two in 10 schools use an in-house online syllabus solution, according to the report.

Syllabi require considerable school employee work time to maintain and manage. Technical administrators said up to 10 people in their department spent time every semester managing syllabi.

Common tasks among campus employees charged with syllabus-related duties were uploading and updating syllabi and training staff and faculty on how to create, edit, and store the documents in the campus’s IT infrastructure.

Higher education has seen a host of online syllabus systems that sync with web-based calendar applications such as Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar hit the market in recent years.

Internet syllabus system Concourse, for example, allows for customization, meaning faculty can make certain parts of the document visible to different sections of the same course.

“What we’re finding is there’s far more value for a syllabus than was originally thought,” said Judd Rattner, CEO of Intellidemia.

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