Humanizing Your Syllabus

To humanize means to "civilize, cultivate, refine, tame, teach, illustrate, exemplify, externalize, and express." Humanized learning increases the relevance of content and improves students' motivation to log-in week-after-week. When students relate to an online instructor as something more than a subject matter expert and begin to conceive of themselves as part of a larger community, they are more likely to be motivated, be satisfied with their learning, and succeed in achieving the course objectives (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001; Picciano, 2002; Rovai & Barnum, 2003; Richardson & Swan, 2003).

The concept of 'humanizing the syllabus' comes from Michelle Pacansky-Brock.


Clearly state your course outcomes

When developing learning outcomes, ask yourself what are the most important things a student should know (cognitive), be able to do (skills), or value (affective) after completing the course/program?

We want to move our students beyond being merely consumers of information.

Learning outcomes often take this form:

As a result of participating in (program/course name), you (students) will be able to (Action verb) (Learning statement).

Setting learning outcomes is the first step in a five-part process (Walvoord, 2010):

  1. Outcomes: What do we want students to be able to do after the course?
  2. Identify: Where in the curriculum are the outcomes addressed?
  3. Measures: How well are students achieving the outcomes?
  4. Revision: What changes can be made to the course to improve student achievement?
  5. Re-measure: Did the revision to the curriculum work?

To make your learning outcomes more fun, you can do things like add voice to your outcomes using Voki.


Including the following could also be helpful:

  • Class Philosophy
  • Communication Policy
  • Relevant Reading Materials
  • Participation and Drop Policy
  • Grading and Extra Credit


Humanize Your Syllabus

Your syllabus is so much more than a course contract, it is often the very first content item a student experiences in your online class. For this reason, your syllabus holds tremendous opportunity for humanizing! Consider creating a syllabus with a micro-publishing tool like and incorporate images and a high-energy welcome video to motivate your students.

  • Click on the image to the right to view this example of a humanized syllabus in a new window.
  • Click the button below to get your free PRO Populr Educator account.

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The Humanize Your Syllabus concept is from Michelle Pacansky-Brock, Instructional Technologist for Channel Islands University.

Anderson, T., Rourke, L., Garrison, D. R. , & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing teaching presence in a computer conference environment. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 5(2), 1-17.

Pacansky-Brock, M. (2012). Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies. Routledge.

Picciano, A. (2002). Beyond student perceptions: Issues of interaction, presence, and performance in an online course. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 6(1), July 2002, 21-40.

Richardson, J. C., & Swan, K. (2003). Examining social presence in online courses in relation to students' perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1), February 2003, 68-88

Rovai, A. P., & Barnum, K. T. (2003). On-Line course effectiveness: An analysis of student interactions and perceptions of learning. Journal of Distance Learning, 18(1), 57-73.



Article ID: 16208
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