Syllabus Tips: Use Google Docs!

The vast majority of higher ed professors and adjuncts come to me with a syllabus in the form of Microsoft Word documents (or even PDFs) that are locally stored on the hard drive of a single computer and not connected to any kind of cloud service. Using Google Drive and Docs to create dynamic syllabi is a much better solution for many reasons:

1. Google Docs syllabi will automatically update in the LMS whenever changes are made!

Static Word or PDF files need to be deleted and replaced over and over again whenever the instructor makes a change. I have seen many, many course shells with an outdated version of the syllabus hanging around on the start page or, worse, six or seven versions of the syllabus piled up on top of each other--a practice that completely confuses most students and unnecessarily clutters the page.

A Google Doc, however, is a website, and will behave like any other website you might link students to: it will update itself within the LMS automatically with the most current changes.  All you have to do is post the unique URL for the Doc (the highlighted portion of the image above) to your course shell as you would any other website. Or, if you'd prefer...

2. You can embed a Google Doc syllabus directly into your course shell.

Embedding a syllabus allows students will see it directly within the LMS window without having to click anything. They can scroll, search keywords or use a table of contents to find the information they need quickly and in one place.

When I am designing a course shell, I usually give students both options shown in the image above: 1) click a link to retrieve the syllabus in a separate tab (this makes printing or saving the syllabus easier); or 2) simply view it within the module window.

3. Google Docs completely eliminates compatibility issues.

Have you noticed that there is no downloading involved in this process? As long as students have an internet connection, the Google Docs version of the syllabus is accessible to them. They will never be able to tell you that their version of Word wasn't up to date or that their Mac was incompatible with your PC file, or that they couldn't find the file after they downloaded it.

The Google Doc syllabus is a weblink, and all they need to do to access it is click on it. If they really want to, they can either bookmark it or add the Google Doc to their own Google Drive folder (something I highly recommend!), but they can't lose the document or fail to open due to hardware problems it when it's a Google Doc.

But wait, there's more!

There are many more benefits to Google Docs syllabi than just these three reasons. I'll be sharing more tips as well as detailed tutorials in the coming weeks!  Stay tuned.


Post a Comment