A Little Heads Up: Why professors should provide their syllabi before class registration.

Imagine it is the middle of the semester.  You are approaching midterms and you can barely keep your head above water.  Now add course registration into the mix.  Now you are trying to study for midterms and figure out your schedule for the following semester.  This is extremely overwhelming. You start thinking of the future and you wonder if the next semester is going to be as stressful as the current one.   You think to yourself, “there has to be a way to make this registration process less stressful.” 

One thing that could make the class selection process less stressful would be if professors released their syllabi before class sign ups. This would give students an opportunity to look through professors’ syllabi and understand the expectations that come with the class. 

When you register for a class you openly agree to the terms, conditions, expectations and duties that the class requires. Your regisistation is, therefore, a binding contract between you, your professor and the university describing each member’s commitment over the course of a college semester. As with any contract, there are consequences, typically severe consequences, for failing to adhere to the agreed upon requirements; course registration is no different. Failure to meet a grade requirement, show up to class, or act inappropriately and you could fail the class, face university disciplinary measures or both.  

However, despite class registrations having contract-like traits, class registration is not typically viewed or treated as a binding contract. To illustrate this point, let’s contrast class registration with opening a credit line at a bank. When registering for a credit card, you provide the bank with all the necessary documents and then you have to sign the bank’s terms of use. The terms of use outline the expectations of both parties. The bank, for example, will ensure the safety of your information, handle fraudulent purchases, and provide you with available funds for use at merchants stores. Whereas, you agree to make payments on time and to only borrow so much from the bank. These expectations are presented to you before you choose to sign and nothing moves forward until you agree. 

On the other hand, when registering for classes you make an attempt to register for classes which will give credits towards your major requirements. Most college registrations portals, including Eastern’s, provide short vague descriptions of a class’s general overview. You are then expected to blindly sign up and adopt the classes terms and conditions only after you are enrolled. The class contract, or syllabus, is distributed during the beginning of the class and only then can you choose to adopt the responsibility the class demands or opt out and drop the class. You then get to start the process all over again as you blindly join another class in hopes to fill out a full semester’s worth of classes. 

Imagine if your bank treated you like universities do. Would you feel comfortable signing yourself up for something which will only later be determined without your input or consent? Obviously not! Therefore, since course registration is a form of binding contract, colleges should be required to present what will be expected of you throughout the term upfront before you choose to register for the class. 

Understanding workload expectations is vital to living a healthy lifestyle at any stage in life. Balancing time between work, hobbies, relationships and personal development is hard enough when clear expectations are set and is nearly impossible when constantly subject to change. Stepping out and going to university to push oneself academically, socially and physically comes with ample stress on its own. Course registration and planning should not be adding to the stress. It is, afterall, the point of going to college. Syllabi do not typically undergo large transformations from semester to semester. Therefore, even if colleges exposed previous syllabi with the understanding that they are subject to change would still be helpful to student planning as individuals could design their schedules around their more intensive classes.  

Thus, individuals have the right to how much responsibility they take on. Clear, upfront communication regarding what is expected of students is not merely a luxury, it is an imperative. You would not agree to a bank loan, job offer, project, club or group without clear understanding of what will be expected of you. The same should apply to college class selection. Release your class syllabi and set students up for a healthy, work-life schedule.

Photo: Eastern University

A student filling out a registration form to sign up for classes.

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