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Is asking for the syllabus before class frowned upon? I usually ask because I'm trying to figure out what we're going to do and whether I have interest in the subject.

  • 1
    Are you sure there is a syllabus? – user111388 Jun 24 '20 at 14:55
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    By "class", are you referring to a course or a particular lecture in the course? – GoodDeeds Jun 24 '20 at 14:58
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    @GoodDeeds, the terminology isn't standard worldwide. In the US a "course" is, say, 15 weeks study of a single subject, like Calculus II. In other places like UK, "course" means everything needed for a degree: "course of study", several years. In the US, class and course are usually synonyms, though "class" could also be one day's instruction. A "lecture" would be one day's instruction. I don't know if that was your intent. – Buffy Jun 24 '20 at 16:34
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    Note that if you do get an early copy, the instructor may make changes before the course actually starts. – Nate Eldredge Jun 24 '20 at 16:46
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    How far in advance are you talking about? Asking for a syllabus a week before class starts is different than asking six months in advance. – bta Jun 25 '20 at 0:00
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It should be perfectly acceptable (nearly) everywhere. You may not get it, for a variety of reasons, but it is fine to ask. Note that some places have it online, so you might look there also.

Even an older syllabus might serve your purposes.

  • Agreed. This is something that I would do as a student all the time to get some early preparation and excitement in. It’s perfectly natural to ask (reasonably) ahead of time – GrayLiterature Jun 24 '20 at 15:02
  • The CS department I was in had links to old syllabi on the website listing courses they were planning to offer. – trognanders Jun 24 '20 at 23:36
4

There is no problem asking, and in many cases it is already available on a website. Students that had taken the class earlier are another source.

0

It is perfectly acceptable and in fact you don't even need to justify your reasons when asking for it. I would also consider the following additional steps you can take in assessing a course:

  • Check if you have access to the course website and its resources, or any old material that may be on the professor's own page.
  • Check for which textbooks and/or books will be used for the course. If the course strictly adheres to a textbook you may want to read it to get an insight into how the subject will be taught, and whether you are comfortable using that resource.
  • If the module/course is part of a program (e.g. BSc, MSc), sometimes information about the course will be provided in webpages on the degree course it is part of, and those would be worth checking out.
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i) the syllabus should be available before a student selects a course - and indicate requirements and successful completion will satisfy requirement for a course at the next level ii) the syllabus should include a list of recommended text books iii) ideally, a lecture schedule will suggest pre-reading material. It is recommended that the student does pre-read they can then focus in the lecture on parts less well understood iv) past exam / course work should be available. Again read and map "tests" to the lecture schedule. Ideally "test" will describe how grades are awarded. A very generic approach is Pass : a text book answer, Merit : identifies weakness in the text book answer, Distinction : offers a "worthy" solution to those weaknesses.

  • 1
    This answer seems a bit too institution-specific -- as many universities, including my own, don't adhere to the standards you've listed. – Andrew Tawfeek Jun 26 '20 at 4:08
  • At the start of a new (2 or 3 year course) I took the students through the scientific approach as described in Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Ch 13 ?). "rationalise" your choice is a common "test". I strived to educate my students, to make them independent thinkers. The "generic" approach I described is part of that effort. Colleges are marketing a product. Students are rational consumers. Both student and college suffer if there is a mis-map – jfw Jun 27 '20 at 6:07

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