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Office of Teaching Evaluation and Assessment Research

Office of Teaching Evaluation and Assessment Research

116 College Avenue
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Phone: (848) 932-7466
Fax: (732) 932-1845

What is the difference between

a Syllabus and an Expanded Course Description?

An Expanded Course Description includes the information that must be available to students as they register; it is designed to give students basic information relevant to choosing courses. A syllabus most likely includes all the information in the Expanded Course Description, but goes beyond it to include more detailed information and lengthier descriptions. A syllabus can be considered - in different ways - both a narrowing and an expansion of the Expanded Course Description (ECD).

The syllabus is a narrowing of the ECD in the sense that the ECD may describe the full realm of possibilities for a course, while the syllabus may focus those possibilities into the narrower topics that can actually be addressed during a semester. For example, an ECD for the 3-credit Introduction to Sociology (01:920:101) will include the catalog course description ("Introduction to the systematic study of society and social behavior.") This course description gives very little information about what will actually be covered in the class; the instructor must specify in the syllabus that, for example, the course will accomplish the introduction to the systematic study of society and social behavior via study of institutions such as the family, the university, or the corporation; or via the analytical perspectives of race, class, or gender.

The syllabus is an expansion of the ECD in the sense that it is much more detailed and likely much longer than the ECD. A syllabus will typically include a daily or weekly schedule; extended descriptions of assignments, grading policies, and due dates; a course description or synopsis; etc.

In some departments or areas, individual instructors may be responsible for preparing both the Expanded Course Description and their syllabus. In others, administrators or committees may prepare the Expanded Course Description as a document generic enough to cover all sections of a given course, and instructors will prepare the syllabus as a more individualized document specific to the section.




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