Syllabus Quiz

It can be a struggle to get students to read the syllabus.  Perhaps faculty forget that students must read maybe five syllabi in a week, and much of what they read is boilerplate.  Not surprisingly students increasingly treat the syllabus as if it is an End User License Agreement, like the agreements we click through before we start using new software.  

But you can take steps to make your syllabi more engaging and worthwhile for students.  One is to simply comb out any redundancy, wordiness, or unnecessary commentary on policies and procedures.  Another is to use a syllabus quiz.  

This is simple: create a quiz, on paper or in D2L, where students answer questions based on the syllabus, and perhaps other course policies or instructions.  A simple series of eight, ten, or a dozen multiple choice, multi-select, and fill-in-the-blank questions can cover some highlights from the syllabus.  

You can spend classtime administering a quiz, but then you need to grade it, or see to it that it is scantron-graded.  With D2L, you have several advantages:

  • Make it a worksheet, where students can take it as many times as they like to get 100%.  That way, they are compelled to revisit questions they got wrong, and learn along the way.  Rather than a summative assessment, it's designed to help your students understand the content, rather than simply substract points if they don't.  
  • D2L will do the grading.  This is a set-and-forget assessment for you.  
  • If you find you have more questions than you plan to serve each student, have D2L serve different questions to different students, in random order.  That way no two students get the same quiz! 
  • Students can take the quiz at a time and place of their choosing. 

Also, bear in mind that syllabus quizzes can incorporate other content besides the syllabus.  For example, you can declare that the Canisius Diversity and Inclusion statement, which is available on every course home page, is part of the course policies and therefore may be the subject of a quiz question!

It may be tempting to think a syllabus quiz is a distraction from the substance of your course.  But teaching your students to properly identify important policy documents, and to read them carefully, is a valuable lesson in any scholarly or professional discipline.  And besides, your syllabus is the basis for all that comes after it, right?