The purposes of a syllabus are almost as varied as the possible contents but can be grouped into several categories. This project will include three major syllabi roles: the syllabus as a contract, the syllabus as a permanent record, and the syllabus as a learning tool. Each function has implications for what a syllabus should contain. The course syllabus serves as a contract between the instructor and students that clearly outlines course details. It is designed to communicate expectations for the course and is typically discussed during the first class session. It is therefore important for faculty members to be thorough so that any questions that arise later in a course can be answered by revisiting the syllabus.
A learning-centered syllabus is one that focuses on the students and what they need to be effective learners. Such a syllabus will provide several pieces of useful information for students, in addition to the contractual and documentary material previously mentioned. First of all, a learning-centered syllabus will provide information about how to plan for the tasks and experiences of the semester, how to evaluate and monitor one’s performance, and how to allocate time and resources to areas in which more learning is needed. This information will help students develop self-management skills that are valuable beyond the demands of a particular course. The clearer and more articulated the performance goals are, the more effective students will be at achieving those goals.
Second, a learning-centered syllabus will give guidance to students about the learning to be done in the course. Third, the syllabus will help students to identify whether or not they are prepared for the work the course involves, and if not, what they might do about it. This is where listing prerequisite courses or skills (taken from Project Result 1 and Project Result 2) will be very helpful. The syllabus will also point students to places where they can get assistance. Fourth, a syllabus will be used to provide pieces of context about the course content for students so that they are able to see where the course fits in with other courses they have taken or will take. Fifth, a syllabus will help to teach other, broader lessons.
Through additional discussions, the syllabus will also help students develop professional skills such as arriving on time to class or providing the instructor with notice if they will be absent. Finally, a syllabus will serve students as a model of professional thinking and writing. Our special attention and separate Project result for syllabi represent the importance of this task both in light of academic and guidance value. Experiencing AI to be a very unclear topic for most, syllabi will be their first touching point on the journey towards efficient AI education.