CTL Blog

A New Syllabus Editing Workflow for Academic Courses

May 27, 2015 | 5 Minute Read

As you probably know, JHSPH is winding up its current accreditation cycle. As part of this process, faculty and academic coordinators in departments across the School went through every course syllabus to reconcile the differences between what was in CoursePlus versus the JHSPH course system — the official system of record for academic courses at the School. Also as part of that process, editing information linked to the JHSPH course system was temporarily suspended.

This reconciliation process in preparation for accreditation review led to a new mandate from School academic leadership: provide consistency between the course system and CoursePlus in what students and accreditors see while maintaining flexibility for faculty to edit this content in CoursePlus. To achieve that goal, we have implemented a new workflow for making changes to academic course information in CoursePlus. This workflow ties directly into the existing processes for changes in the JHSPH course system, the official system of record about academic courses at the School.

This workflow only affects the following syllabus sections which are linked directly to the School's course system of record and course catalog search tool:

  • Course Description
  • Why Take This Course
  • Course Learning Objectives
  • Methods of Assessment
  • Intended Audience
  • Prerequisites

All other editing of a syllabus remains as flexible as it has been in the past. This new workflow also does not apply to CoursePlus sites for courses not listed in in the JHSPH course catalog.

Below is the new editing workflow for the above listed sections:

1. Faculty, TAs, content editors, or academic coordinators sign into CoursePlus and begin work on their course syllabus.

2. When faculty opt to edit one of the above listed sections of content in their syllabus, they are first shown the current version of that content in the course system. Faculty make and save their edits to one of these sections in CoursePlus.

3. Once one of the above listed sections has been edited, the official content from the course system is displayed under the subhead “Public View,” followed immediately by the version that the faculty just changed under the subhead “Your Draft.” A note indicating that this content will not be shown to students until the change goes through the JHSPH course system approvals process will also be shown.

4. Once one of the core six sections has been edited, a large button appears in the upper-right corner of the syllabus tool that says: “Send your changes to the course system for approval.”

5. Faculty can continue to make edits to any section in the syllabus as often as they want.

6. When faculty click the “Send your changes to the course system for approval” button, they are shown a confirmation screen that warns them that if they proceed, editing of any of the six core sections will be turned off until the JHSPH course system approvals process is complete.

7. When faculty click the “Proceed” button, the changes to these sections are sent to the course system web service to be put into the review workflow.

8. Once the changes are sent to the course system, the edit buttons for the above listed sections are removed from the Syllabus Builder tool for this course. A notice is also placed at the top of the Syllabus Builder page indicating that the changes for this course are currently under review as part of the JHSPH course system approvals process and that faculty can contact their academic coordinator to facilitate that process. The current official version of each of the above listed sections is displayed along with any changes immediately below each section.

9. Each time the Syllabus Builder page is loaded, the current status of the course in the course system is displayed. This way, faculty can see what the current status of the changes are (in addition to receiving standard emails about the change process through the course system).

10. Once the changes are approved in the course system, the draft changes and the status notifications disappear from the Syllabus Builder tool because the changes have been approved and are now in CoursePlus. Faculty can once again edit any of the above listed sections for their course in CoursePlus.

Three important additional notes on this new workflow:

  • Editing of the above listed sections will be deactivated at the end of the add/drop period in the term in which the course is offered. Faculty who still need to make changes to the above listed sections will have to work within the course system or with their academic coordinator to make changes after this time.
  • The "Required Text(s)" field will no longer be editable from within the Syllabus Builder tool. Due to the way in which required text(s) are added to the course system and then linked to a given course, this information can only be edited within the course system at this time. JHSPH IT is reviewing the way in which required text(s) are added to the course system to hopefully enable editing from CoursePlus at some point.
  • Titles of the above listed sections will no longer be editable. They must always match what is in the JHSPH course system of record.

We realize that this workflow is not as flexible as the previous way of editing the above listed sections of a CoursePlus syllabus. However, the School has an obligation to provide consistent information about a course across all of its systems, and the JHSPH course system is the system of record. This new workflow still allows faculty and their instructional team to make changes to these sections from within CoursePlus without having to sign into the JHSPH course system, where the ability to make changes is limited to the primary faculty on a course.

Once the new workflow for editing these sections of an academic course syllabus goes live, we'll be posting a video demonstration of all the steps in the process.