As the summer comes to a close, students are anticipating their fall classes. They signed up for many of these classes back in April — but they likely knew very little about the classes themselves before signing up. Though information from friends, professor ratings at Rate My Professor and the paltry class description listed in course guides gives students a very rough idea of what their classes will be like, this isn’t enough. Students should know more about their classes before they have to sign up for them. University administration should require course instructors to make past syllabi available to students well before we have to sign up for classes as well as to make abundantly clear what materials are required for a class prior to its start.
Currently, schools at the University release information pertaining to courses in a variety of ways. For example, the course guide for the Ross School of Business incorporates its own syllabi database that is reserved for Ross students and some LSA departments have made old syllabi for their classes available on its website. A similar database should be made available across all colleges, as the brief blurbs that many schools and colleges currently have up on their websites don’t even come close to giving students enough information about their classes. It should include old syllabi, textbook lists and a rough outline of how the class is taught and graded, but more importantly, it should all be available when each school releases its course guide — long before students’ enrollment dates come around.
Moreover, class descriptions should clearly state which textbooks are required for each class. Many students have learned to simply hold off on buying their textbooks until classes start, anticipating that they won’t need some of the listed books. The current policy requires professors to list books along with the course descriptions, but it doesn’t seem like they currently take the policy seriously. Having course instructors list only the books they know they will use in the course and indicate others as “possible” — perhaps by putting an asterisk next to them on Wolverine Access —is a relatively simple fix to a problem that causes many headaches.
These changes would put an increased burden on instructors, and it’s understandable that their courses may not be fully planned out before course guides are available. But these changes would make it far easier for students to try to plan their careers at the stressful end-of-semester periods. As it accumulates syllabi and records of class material, the database would also provide information that could be useful to both students and professors. Central Student Government has already lobbied University administration to require professors to provide more class information to students before classes start, and it should continue to do so.
Students deserve to have as much information at our fingertips as possible when picking classes. A database of past syllabi and requiring instructors to provide more course information during the class selection process would be invaluable for all students.