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The Study Hall

Canvas + Simple Syllabus: Save Time and Improve Academic Resources

Is it really on the syllabus? Our team at Simple Syllabus has had the opportunity to work with over a hundred colleges and universities, and my colleagues and I have been surprised at just how often essential information is missing. The challenge is understandable. A growing need for post-secondary education has created complexity and increased the number of people involved to deliver a high-quality academic environment.

As institutions have adapted to technological, economic, and social changes the syllabus has grown in scope and length. Many schools are finding syllabi now require an even greater time commitment to ensure students are given the information they need. The average syllabus is now 6 pages long, and despite this length, many syllabi remain static PDF documents which are cumbersome to manage all while missing essential elements.

In an independent study of institutional syllabi, Gin et al. (2020) found that 87.7% of syllabi were missing a diversity and inclusion statement, 85.3% did not include details on available health resources, and 64.0% failed to provide an overview of campus resources. To compound the challenge, instructors are already strapped for time. Flaherty (2014) reported on a Boise State University study which determined that faculty work 61 hours a week on average and only spend 40 percent of their time on teaching-related tasks and 3 percent on primary research.

This begs the question; how can we ensure students are receiving the information they need to succeed without further increasing the faculty or administrative workload?

The Solution: Comprehensive Syllabus Management Integrated into Canvas

We at Simple Syllabus are honored to be part of CanvasCon 2021 in our mission to help colleges and universities understand their options to build and deliver cohesive academic resources while reducing their workload. The syllabus is still an essential part of the student experience with 44% of students voting it as the most important academic resource; that’s twice the number compared to the second-highest of a school’s website. Let’s explore how Simple Syllabus can help you take a big step forward with syllabus management at your institution.

Simple Syllabus is a centralized and template-driven platform automatically populating syllabi with foundational accreditation and regulatory information while still giving faculty the autonomy to personalize curriculum content. The technology was designed specifically with the learning management environment in mind making syllabus viewing and editing feel like a native Canvas experience.

We love working with our 100+ partner institutions to make the academic experience better for students, instructors, and administrators one syllabus at a time.

Seamless Syllabus Integration into Canvas

Interoperability is a keystone for any next-generation learning environment. Students and instructors should not be expected to use dozens of disparate platforms as hunting down the details for technology access and information detracts from where they want to focus. 

Simple Syllabus takes this best practice to the next level by incorporating both Canvas LTI and API integration tools into our technology. The entire Simple Syllabus toolset is easily accessible for faculty and students within Canvas. Additionally, catalog descriptions, instructor details, policies, and much more can be pulled out of Canvas to automatically populate syllabus content. With this integration syllabus data is always up to date and more accurate. Instructors love the time-saving element as they no longer need to hunt down missing information while a school’s administrative team can ensure that a syllabus always contains required components. 

New for this year is the tool’s ability to sync directly with Canvas assignments to automatically populate the class schedule on a syllabus. Redundant and double entry is a huge time drain for instructors. We are always looking for ways we can streamline the syllabus process while still ensuring faculty have the academic freedom they need to design their courses creatively.

Faculty Focused Features and Designed

Crafting an engaging and informative syllabus can be time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. Simple Syllabus was designed to save instructors time while still enhancing the learning environment. We pride ourselves in the fact that 96% of instructors find the tool so intuitive they need no formalized training before jumping into the syllabus editor.

 

The technology’s web-based architecture and Canvas integration gives instructors the freedom to view and edit their syllabus from anywhere. Seeing as the tool was built on modern web standards all changes are automatically saved without the need to push any buttons or navigate through an endless flood of popups. Additionally, data block values can be injected by instructors into key components which allows syllabus details to update dynamically as information changes in Canvas or an SIS system.

The ability to include photos, videos, links, and other interactive information within the syllabus gives a whole slew of tools for instructors to design their syllabus. We have been excited to see many of the schools we work with leveraging these digital mediums to make academic material more interactive and engaging for students.

Speaking of student engagement, instructors can view student syllabus engagement data from within the tool as well. Convinced a student hasn’t read the syllabus? Now you can find out. Syllabus acknowledgment can even be activated requiring students to read and acknowledge reviewing the syllabus.

Deliver an Exceptional Syllabus Experience for Students

Students can do more than simply access their syllabus from within Canvas. Simple Syllabus includes an industry-leading student portal allowing students to view and research multiple facets of their academic journey. From within this portal students can see all syllabi for classes they are currently enrolled in and have taken in the past.

 

In the material list, students are given an aggregated view of all the required materials or supplemental material listed in their syllabus. A customizable link can even be added to drop the student into an institution’s online bookstore.

The syllabus library is a student favorite. While in the syllabus library students can browse all of the courses a school has on offer providing a far more comprehensive overview compared to other tools such as the course catalog. We have found that students love having this level of self-service as they plan out their academic strategy. The syllabus library has multiple access levels that can be defined by a school’s administrative team.

All of these features are mobile-friendly and each published syllabus is formatted with ADA in mind for students using accessibility tools.

Tools for Accreditation, Reporting, and Governance

Syllabi are considered an important piece of accreditation as they form a core part of the contract an institution carries with students. Despite this fact, syllabi are notoriously difficult to maintain and track. Simple Syllabus offers a syllabus management and reporting toolset which helps ensure compliance while reducing administrative workload. The automatic population of data and configurable templates make it easy to deliver consistency where needed for syllabus policies and statements that should not be altered.

 

Simple Syllabus is a solution for everyone on campus. The platform gives our partners the tools to deliver consistent high-quality academic content, reduce faculty workload, and improve the student experience, all while ensuring compliance with regulatory and accreditation standards. With Simple Syllabus you can rest assured that it really is on the syllabus. Reach out to see how you can save time and improve the student experience by integrating robust syllabus management into Canvas.