Google Docs Syllabi
This post is part of a series that are components of my “Expert Plan” at my school, looking to create a shared resource for my colleagues as the school moves towards greater adoption of laptops and technology in our pedagogy.
This started out as simply a way of addressing my own personal predilections: I’m tired of trying to build a syllabus on a calendar (the calendar doesn’t present the syllabus in a useful view), or in a spreadsheet (changing dates becomes a chore), so I decided to separate the various issues out and automate as much as I could. The result is a Google Docs spreadsheet that I embed on my course web site, which allows me to think in terms of units and lessons, and which automatically sequences lessons on to class meetings and updates me with notes about those specific days (Moadim L’Simcha, vacation days, etc.).
This is an example of one of my syllabi as the students see it:
This turned out to be some pro-level spreadsheet work. I like working in spreadsheets. Not everyone likes working in spreadsheets. This link takes you to a “scratch” version of one of my syllabi (you’re welcome to edit it to see changes — this isn’t live. The organization is thus:
- There is a worksheet for each unit of the syllabus, named sequentially Unit 1, Unit 2, Unit 3, etc. (The best way to create a new unit is to duplicate an old one and replace the information).
- On a unit worksheet, a few of the columns are automatically filled in. You just have to worry about editing the title of the lesson, the lesson description, and the assignment summary. Everything else is filled in automatically.
- The integrated view of all the units, sequenced together and lined up to days with notes is the Syllabus worksheet.
- The Meetings worksheet is just a list of days when the class meets (which I entered manually) and any notes about that day specifically that might be helpful for lesson planning.
- There are a bunch of “working” sheets that you can look at, but don’t edit — they’re collating and organizing all of the units automatically.
This was way more work than it was worth for a single syllabus. But as a tool that I intend to reuse again and again, I’m pretty happy with it and feel good about the investment. It is mildly idiosyncratic, in the sense that it meets my specific needs. But it could be used as a model for other people’s style of syllabus design, separating the schedule from the concepts in a way that makes visualizing the lesson flow much, much easier.
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