Avolio: Syllabus stress shouldn’t sink the first week of classes

As the days of summer ticked away, I anxiously awaited the posting of syllabi. As a person taking 22 credits, I knew I needed to organize my schedule as quickly as possible before things got really hectic.

In the final five days, the syllabi for three of my seven courses had been posted. Now, I was waiting on four more courses to post their syllabi. As the clock went tick-tock, my stress levels rose higher and higher.

On Sunday, the night before classes were set to start, I received a Canvas notification at 11:15 p.m. stating that another one of my professors had finally released their syllabus. Seeing as the course started at 9 a.m. the next day, I quickly purchased the online material, updated my readings schedule and went off to sleep.

During the day on Monday I received an email from one of the professors who still had yet to post his syllabus, requesting that we purchase another book for the course. I think to myself, “No big deal. We probably won’t need it right away anyway.”

I logged on to Canvas to check and see if this professor had posted his syllabus. He had. I was right in assuming we would not need the book for a little while. However, what I did notice was that he wanted us to read eight pages for the next day. Again, no big deal. It would have been nice if there had been prior warning, but an extra eight pages isn’t that bad.

That night, I sat up in bed refreshing my Canvas Dashboard hoping that the last course had finally posted their syllabus. At midnight, after no such luck, I headed off to bed.

Tuesday morning, I did not bother checking Canvas. I was assuming my last course would have a professor who liked the first day to just be syllabus day, and the first assignment probably would not be that heavy considering most first-week assignments aren’t.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My professor passed out the syllabus at the start of the course. I immediately flipped to the course outline portion and saw what I least expected: around 120 pages of reading due to be discussed on Thursday, the next class. Let me just reiterate, all of this reading was supposed to be completed in two days.

Many students would receive this assignment and be able to get it done without any stress, but the rest of my classes already had assigned reading. On Tuesday night I was supposed to read 40 pages to stay caught up in four other classes. Tacking an extra 60 on makes it so I have to read and take notes on 100 pages of material for five different classes. Wednesday night’s assignment seemed easier with only 91 pages to cover, but I also had to work.

While I do have a busy schedule by my own accord, this situation is still ridiculous. Yes, I am a college student. Yes, I do stay up at night. However, no one should receive this much reading in the first week of classes.

There is this wonderful thing called the Internet that professors can use now to release their syllabus and required textbooks ahead of time. For some reason, many professors don’t do this. To complicate things even further, many professors list their required textbooks on their syllabus, without listing it elsewhere. If students don’t have the syllabus, then it is hard to know if we are purchasing the correct material, which just adds even more unnecessary stress.

I was lucky that I had used Barnes & Noble’s website to look up the books required for my courses before they started. Had I not, I would have been dead in the water for a couple of my classes. Don’t even get me started on how angry I would have been had one of the books I rented either not been needed or been the wrong version.

The bottom line here is that professors, especially those who are expecting students to complete an assignment on the first day of classes, need to publish their syllabus online well before classes start. The first week is hectic enough between hoping you bought the right material, trying to find familiar faces in classes and running around trying to find exactly where your classes are (especially as a business student).

This year, I will give my professors the benefit of the doubt. The school required that we make the switch to Canvas, so maybe they didn’t have it totally figured out yet.

However, students need to be able to plan out their work and get organized for the year, not start out by drowning in reading and assignments. Save that for later in the semester.