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How To Use an Online Class Syllabus


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Learning how to interpret a class syllabus is an essential skill for online learners. Almost all online professors provide students with a syllabus that includes course information such as a list of required textbooks, necessary prerequisite courses, assignment due dates, and other expectations.

Without in-person interaction with teachers and classmates, it’s especially easy for online learners to forget an assignment or a test. By taking an inventory of your syllabus at the beginning of the course and reviewing it regularly, you can stay on top of your work – even if your professor doesn’t provide regular reminders.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 10 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Review the course description. Reading the description carefully can help you make sure the online class will work for your situation. Take special note of required prerequisite courses; if you haven’t completed these courses you may find yourself struggling. Also check to make sure you can meet any technological requirements. Some courses require students to have special software or equipment.
  2. Note the required textbooks. If you haven’t already purchased the listed textbooks, you may be able to order them online at a discounted price. Be aware that some teachers list textbooks that they rarely / never refer to during the course. You may want to ask your professor which books are mandatory and which are supplemental.
  3. Bookmark course websites. If your syllabus lists websites, bookmark them on your web browser now. That way you’ll be able to quickly access the online material without having to search for the URL.
  4. Add major due dates / tests to your calendar. Determine when your big tests and assignments will be due. Highlight these dates on the syllabus and mark them on a calendar you use daily. Writing them on your calendar at the beginning of the course will help you plan ahead and avoid last minute cramming.
  5. Review your assignments weekly. On a set day each week, take a look at your syllabus and decide how to schedule your time. You may be tempted to plan all minor assignments in advance; however, it is not uncommon for teachers to change some due dates or assignments during the semester. Reviewing your assignments weekly will help you stay on track while still being flexible about any schedule changes.
  6. Store your syllabus in a safe place. If your syllabus is on a website, bookmark it now. If you have a paper version, create a designated place to store it. Be sure to put it somewhere accessible; you’ll be referring to it regularly.


  1. When adding due dates to your calendar, write in pencil. That way, you'll be able to make changes easily.
  2. Consider purchasing a 5-day or 7-day planner. This will make it simple for you to create a weekly to-do list.
  3. If a particular assignment makes up a large part of your grade, you may want to mark that on your calendar as well. Devote the lion's share of your attention to assignments that have a big affect on your grade.

What You Need:

  • your course syllabus
  • a highlighter
  • a calendar
  • a pen
  • a computer with internet access
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