University Senate Instruction, Curricula and Advising Committee

Report and Recommendations on Availability of Syllabi
October 2006

Charge S-0313 -  Availability of Syllabi during Add/Drop: Review and comment on the suggestion that Rutgers should require all instructors to make available final, or at least draft, syllabi prior to the end of the add/drop period, in order to give students a clear indication of what topics the class will cover and emphasize (which sometimes differs from what is indicated in the catalog), as well as the workload and grading structure.

Recommendation:  It is reasonable to expect that every instructor would have at least a draft syllabus available, either as a handout or online, by the first class meeting.

While there obviously may be adjustments required due to the composition of the class or other circumstances as the class progresses, students should at least be given a clear indication of what the class will cover and what sort of workload they should expect.

Recommendation: Departments should maintain current course descriptions, including information on expected work and grading structure (assignments, papers, projects, exams and other methods of evaluation) on their departmental web sites and then make those descriptions available via the Course Synopsis System.

Recommendation: The Office of Scheduling and Space Management should be charged with developing a process by which departments would provide the URL with their linked course descriptions that could then automatically be attached to that department’s course listings in the Course Synopsis System. This should then be submitted to the IT Project Governance Committee for prioritization and implementation.

Many departments and some individual instructors maintain course descriptions on their departmental web sites. While most of these tend to be somewhere between a description and a syllabus, they certainly provide valuable information to students during the registration process. Currently the online Schedule of Classes ( has a column which indicates the availability of a course synopsis (N or Y). The Course Synopsis System is one of the systems maintained by Rutgers Administrative Computing Services. Authorized users are able to enter a URL that will link students from the Schedule of Classes to the course page or to the departmental synopsis page.

With a few notable exceptions (for example, New Brunswick Life Sciences []) few departments are actually offering links to departmental pages from the Schedule of Classes. Some that appear to be doing so are linking to pages that no longer exist. For example, even though current information is available on their departmental web site the New Brunswick German Department’s link from the Schedule of Classes is to a dead Fall 2002 page. And no department in Newark or Camden seems to be utilizing the option at all.

Access to the Course Synopsis System is via a NetID that has been authorized for access to Application systems. Applicants must fill out an “Enterprise Systems and Services Access Request Form” ( and have their Dean, Director, or Department Chair sign off on their request to be added to the Access Control Group.

In most departments that currently participate access, and the responsibility for maintaining links to course descriptions/syllabi, is given to departmental secretaries or administrative assistants. In the Schedule of Classes, links for each course section must be entered manually even when each link merely goes back to the same departmental course descriptions page. Links remain in the Schedule of Classes until individually changed or removed.

Clearly automating this process so that each course in a departmental page of the Schedule of Classes would connect to that department’s course descriptions page would significantly expedite the process and make it much easier for departments to participate. Once the link to the departmental page was created, as long as the URL remained valid the course descriptions and syllabi listed there could continue to be changed without any need to go into and make changes in the Schedule of Classes. The Scheduling Office sends a memo to each department chair listing the courses that that department will be offering in the coming semester prior to the Schedule being released; the memo could also list the URL to which departmental courses are currently linked and information on how to change/add that link if necessary.

It is our understanding that automating this process should be fairly simple. However it would require authorization and prioritization from the IT Project Governance Committee. Since it is the Schedule of Classes that will be affected, it is our recommendation that the Director of the Office of Scheduling and Space Management be charged with submitting the request to the IT Project Governance Committee.