If your online college endeavor is your first time in college, you be unfamiliar with an important document in college courses: the syllabus. In both traditional and online courses, the syllabus provides important information about the class. Paying close attention to the syllabus can help online college students succeed.

The Purpose of the Syllabus

A syllabus is a document that establishes what students should expect from the course and what is expected of them to earn a passing grade. Syllabi cover the goals students must meet to succeed and the policies they must follow throughout the class. While syllabi convey the details of policies and assignments, they may also provide context for the course, including how the material students will cover fits into a larger picture within their field of study, academia, or the real world.

Parts of a Syllabus

Instructors typically break syllabi down into sections. First, students will usually find the introductory information regarding the course, including the instructor’s contact information. Another section will describe the course and may include a summary or overview of the material students will cover, the goals students should aim to accomplish during the class and the material, supplies and prerequisites that students must possess to succeed in the course. Students should also find information on the school’s and professor’s policies, from the withdrawal policy to the consequences of academic dishonesty. This section should help students understand their responsibilities. Most syllabi include a breakdown of how instructors evaluate students’ work, including the required tests and papers, any penalty for lateness and how much each assignment is weighted in calculating the final grades for the course. Often, syllabi also include a tentative semester schedule, so that students can plan ahead to make sure they complete their work before the deadlines.

Why the Syllabus Is So Important in Online Courses

How important is a syllabus for an online college course? The document may be even more important for online learners than for students in traditional courses, according to Cengage Learning. After all, one of the biggest challenges students in online classes face is the feeling of isolation that results from the lack of face-to-face contact. The lack of personal, in-person engagement can contribute to students falling behind in their courses, according to The New York Times. To succeed in spite of this isolation, students need to know what work they must complete when, how to earn a good grade and what policies they will have to follow – and they can’t rely on in-person meetings with an instructor to remind them or get their questions answered.

A syllabus is a roadmap for success in an online college course. It tells students what books they will need and how they can reach their professor with questions. The document explains what assignments they will work on and how their work will be graded. Consulting the syllabus can often answer students’ questions or direct them regarding what to do next.