By Geoff Horsfall, Senior Product Manager

Ask anyone who has presented a webinar and they’ll tell you there’s nothing as unnerving as silence. Speaking into the digital void for 45 minutes without any response from attendees can leave the host wondering what’s gone wrong. Was there a technical issue? Are these poor people just bored out of their minds? Silence also leaves the host without those mile markers that help to ensure their ideas are resonating. All webinar hosts have a script, but they are happy to throw it out the window if it means meaningful engagement with attendees.

In the case of our recent webinar promoting the upcoming release of the Syllabus Builder, which is a customizable template builder that streamlines the process of creating, revising, and re-purposing a course syllabus, host Rich Lewis had no problem generating discussion.

In March, our training & support team hosted a webinar that gave people a sneak peek at the plugin in advance of its anticipated end of May release to Remote-Learner clients. We were grateful to all who attended and we’re thrilled with the discussion this tool generated. At one point, it took two Remote-Learner team members just to answer all the questions, comments, and ideas generated by the attendees so Rich could complete his presentation on schedule.

We’re certainly excited by the enthusiasm the Syllabus Builder generated, but we’re not surprised. In fact, the enthusiasm captured the story of the Syllabus Builder, which was born and developed out of dialogue with learning professionals from across the country. What started out as a problem relayed by a client to an R-L team member evolved into an inspiring hypotheses: that a dynamic, interactive syllabus builder could save administrators and instructors time and effort while improving the course experience for students.

Sharpening The Axe

There’s a quote from Abraham Lincoln that I really like: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  The development process for the Syllabus Builder, from initial idea to final code, is a great example of that concept. Rather than taking our original hypothesis and developing a solution on instinct, we invited people to the table from both inside and outside of the organization. We hosted multiple focus groups – virtually and with our partners at Online Learning Consortium (OLC) – of learning professionals from across the country. We wanted to ensure the Syllabus Builder contains the features and functionalities needed to be useful. And once we had a working prototype in hand, we piloted the tool with four institutions to validate the feedback we had collected and to ensure it had been executed with integrity.

This process of establishing a dialogue with our clients – rather than operating in silence – not only confirmed our hypotheses. It improved upon it with functionalities that could only come from educators. The result is an innovative, highly-functional tool that we are very excited to share at the end of May.

A New Approach To An Age-Old Tool

The Syllabus Builder, a plugin designed for Remote-Learner clients, streamlines the process of creating, reusing, and repurposing a course syllabus by bringing its creation and distribution into the LMS. The Syllabus Builder’s customizable template format decreases the opportunity for error and inconsistency across courses while increasing the usefulness and timeliness of the content. Administrators, instructors, and students alike will all benefit from this new approach to an age-old tool.

An image demonstrating the features of the admin view of Syllabus BuilderThe Syllabus Builder gives administrators the ability to establish a consistent syllabus presentation for their institution by allowing them to identify critical fields for inclusion and to distribute institution-level content such as policy language site-wide. By standardizing the presentation of a course syllabus, administrators can expect fewer errors and inaccuracies while establishing a consistent experience for instructors and students alike.

Instructors will appreciate the time savings the Syllabus Builder offers. A template provided by their administrators eliminates the ambiguity of what is expected of their course syllabus. Since the Syllabus Builder is integrated into the LMS and becomes part of the course itself, dynamic fields can be automatically populated with content such as activities and calendar events already in the course, which saves the instructor valuable time.

In addition, the inevitable changes to a course syllabus over a term can be distributed to students with the push of a button. And a syllabus template will be automatically carried over to a new course or new term.

Students will appreciate that the Syllabus Builder offers them a single, up-to-date destination for all course information. Students will also enjoy having live calendar and activity links in their syllabus that take them directly to the source material. Finally, an accessibility-compliant PDF of the course syllabus can be generated and printed at any time.

The Syllabus Builder is an innovative, highly-functional tool that addresses a common but often overlooked pain point for educators. But the energy of the webinar is not a validation of a solution we’ve built, it’s a validation of a process that, from the beginning, prioritized input from educators who understand the real world requirements needed for it to be a success.

To learn more about adding the Syllabus Builder to your site, please contact your Account Manager or send the Remote-Learner Products team an email at product@remote-learner.com. Or, join us at OLC Innovate 2018 in Nashville this week for a live demonstration!

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