Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Scavenger hunts for encouraging students to read and process the syllabus

In my post on Jazzing up the syllabus, I describe a few ways to make going through the syllabus during the first class meeting a relevant learning opportunity. What I neglected to share is a strategy I've been using in my online courses for several years -- the scavenger hunt. In my online courses I ask students to complete a scavenger hunt about the course, with most of the content for the hunt coming from the syllabus. Here is a list of scavenger hunt questions I used in a recent course:

  1. In your own words, state the learning objectives for this course.
  2. In your own words, describe the purpose and requirements of the team project.
  3. On what days of the week are assignments and projects due?
  4. What learning objectives are addressed by the individual project due on March 9th?
  5. For what reason(s) would a student be granted an incomplete in the course?
  6. What is the purpose of the Weekly Survey?
  7. Who are the authors of the required texts?
  8. What is meant by academic freedom?
  9. What will you be able to add to your portfolio and/or resume in terms of knowledge, skills, and products as a result of successfully completing this course?
  10. What is the best way to reach Joni outside of the course? How quickly will Joni respond to email? And, when is it best to contact Joni with questions, concerns, challenges, etc.?

Everyone in the course is required to complete the scavenger hunt, so it is an easy way for me to verify that everyone has at least looked at the syllabus.

Syllabus scavenger hunts also work well in on-campus courses. On the first night of class, you can have dyads or triads working on a hunt, and make it a contest for teams -- which teams get it done the quickest, which teams' responses are the most accurate, and which team accomplishes both. You can make the questions more complex, so that students have to dig deeply into the syllabus to answer the questions.

A syllabus scavenger hunt is an easy way to ensure that students read the syllabus during the first week (if online) or first night (if on-campus), and it allows me an opportunity to immediately clarify things based on the students' responses. And, it's fun!

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