To understand the format of our classes during distance learning, we often look to our syllabi to tell us what is expected of us — in-person tests? Once-a-week classes? Are snacks allowed? The class syllabus has therefore become a constant in the lives of many students during a period of global uncertainty, but what happens when there is no syllabus to go off of?
With the fall 2021 semester starting soon, Blackboard shows which classes will be in-person, online or hybrid, while several just say “TBA,” or to be announced. While each format comes with its own set of challenges, the students who have a “TBA” on their schedule or are taking hybrid classes are getting the shortest end of the stick due to the lack of clarity on class format. In an email to all students and faculty on May 5, President Jennifer Raab said that “Courses that are listed as hybrid will be a combination of in person and online, depending on the course and the instructor.” It’s vital that instructors get the details of hybrid arrangements out to their students as soon as possible so that students can plan ahead, especially considering that the pandemic has changed the living and learning circumstances of many students.
Students need the syllabus ahead of time to make important decisions about their arrangements for the fall semester. Do they need to budget for a monthly $127 MetroCard? Are they dorming? How early will they have to wake up? Will they be able to make other plans for before and after class, when they might have otherwise been commuting? Junior Sara Macwan, for example, needs to plan ahead to commute from Staten Island every day. “I need to have a syllabus that is clear about class expectations, as taking a boat to Manhattan takes both physical and mental planning,” she said.
Professors should release their syllabi as soon as possible so that students can make changes to their calendars if necessary. Rising junior Ishrat Zahan says a clear syllabus can change her outlook for a class. “As a person with anxiety, it’s important for me to know what kind of participation is expected from me, especially in a hybrid class, and a syllabus helps me understand what material I need to focus on for each class,” she said.
The syllabus clarifies the support a professor can provide and expectations that the students will need to fulfill, so it is absolutely necessary for a student to know if they can handle the class they are signing up for. If syllabi are made available earlier, with enough time before the class starts, they save both the student and the professor from a semester of trouble.
Hunter students must be accommodated for their needs, since they are punished for them as well. The last day to drop a class for a full refund is the day before the class begins, and as the semester goes on, the percentage of the tuition refund a student can receive if they drop decreases. A CUNY student can also incur an $18 fee if they choose to switch a class after the first day of the semester.
The world will never go back to the “normal” we used to know, but students are still going to be expected to show up, excel and go beyond their comfort zones if they want to keep up with their academic competition. They also have the added pressure of worrying about their health, the uncertainty of what a hybrid class will expect from them, and trying to acclimate into their old routines while the pandemic still goes on. Receiving class syllabi early helps students decide if they can fully commit to a class’s expectations, which will be immensely helpful for fall 2021 and beyond. So, it is time that professors get into the habit of telling us what they need from us before we commit to taking their classes, as that is the empathetic thing to do.