Learning Information Document Policy
|School for Graduate Studies|
|Office of Academic Affairs|
|Academic and Student Affairs|
|(Approved by SGS on 2/16/17) (Approved by GSPC on 3/22/17)|
|Course, cross registration, individualized, learning contract, group seminar, study, syllabus|
This policy establishes principles that guide the design of effective learning information documents and:
- Specifies the content of these documents;
- Defines the types of documents;
- Details the relationship of these documents to other documents/requirements; and
- Explains the process for review of these documents.
Course - refers to an organized series of instructional and learning activities dealing with a subject. A course is created by a faculty member and/or academic program. The syllabus defines the course requirements and expectations. The mode of course delivery may vary and is determined by the faculty member and/or academic program.
Individualized Study - refers to a study created for and with a student in response to a student’s particular interests, goals, and learning needs. Individualized studies are notable for allowing the student to develop the study’s learning objectives/outcomes, learning activities, and the academic criteria for evaluating the work of the study. The mode of individualized study delivery may vary and is determined by the faculty member and student.
Individualized group seminar - refers to a study designed for a group of students sharing similar interests, goals and learning needs. Individualized group seminars are notable for allowing students to help plan the seminar’s learning objectives/outcomes, learning activities, and the academic criteria for evaluating the work of the seminar. The mode of individualized group seminar delivery may vary and is determined by the faculty member and students.
Learning Contract - refers to the learning information document that provides the specifics about what will be studied, how it will be studied, and how the student will be evaluated for individualized studies and individualized group seminars. The learning contract includes a detailed breakdown of learning activities, readings, assignments, due dates, expectations, method and criteria for evaluation, and related information. The learning contract is provided to the student about four weeks after the start date of the term.
Syllabus - refers to the learning information document that provides the specifics about what will be studied, how it will be studied, and how the student will be evaluated for a course. The syllabus includes a detailed outline of learning activities, readings, assignments, due dates, expectations, methods and criteria for evaluation, and related information. In academic programs (i.e. degrees and certificates) with discipline?specific accreditation requirements, such as MAT, MBA or Nursing, the syllabus may also include expectations from the appropriate accrediting body. The syllabus is provided to the student before the end of the first week of the term.
SUNY Empire State College is committed to the following principles:
- Effective learning derives from expected outcomes and needs that are important to the student.
- Learning occurs in varied ways, places, and modes.
- Individual learning preferences may differ from person to person.
The learning information document communicates an individual faculty member’s academic judgment regarding the particular texts, assignments, methods of evaluation, and content that are appropriate in order to address the learning outcomes. A well?designed learning information document lays the foundation for student success by clearly outlining expectations and methods/criteria for evaluation.
Depending on a student’s academic program and/or approved degree program, a student may have the option of enrolling in an individualized study, an individualized group seminar, or a course. Regardless of the mode of delivery, if a student is enrolled in an individualized study or an individualized group seminar, the learning information document is a learning contract and if a student is enrolled in a course, the learning information document is a syllabus.
Learning information documents contain the following elements:
- Dates – the beginning and end dates of the term.
- Definition – study/seminar/course title, amount of credit to be earned if successfully completed, and the instructor information.
- Purpose – description of the scope and objectives of the study/seminar/course.
- Learning outcome – a collection of measurable goals that specify the knowledge, skills, and/or competencies that the student can expect to attain as a result of engaging in the learning activities of the study/seminar/course.
- Learning activities– a description of the activities and modes of learning to be pursued during the study/seminar/course. This description normally includes an outline of specific learning activities such as readings, writing assignments, paintings, research, laboratory study, etc. as well as a bibliography of texts or required readings.
- Methods and criteria for evaluation – an explicit statement of the methods and criteria for evaluation to be employed by the instructor that informs the student about how he/she will be evaluated in relation to the expected learning outcomes. The criteria for evaluation are the standards by which the student's performance will be judged. The criteria should establish the minimum standard for the award of credit.
- Plan for formative and/or summative assessment – a description of the expected period for completion of learning activities throughout the study/seminar/course and for developmental feedback on learning activities from the instructor. The plan outlines the mutual commitments of student and instructor with regard to communication and engagement.
While there are many similarities between learning contracts and syllabi, the following are important distinctions:
- Learning contract ? students are expected to participate in the design of a learning contract. The learning contract should be prepared as early as possible so that the student has a study guide and a clear record of the academic expectations. The learning contract is provided to the student no more than four weeks after the start date of the term. Learning contracts can be amended to reflect changing student goals and learning needs throughout the individualized study/seminar. Changes to the learning contract are documented and entered into the college records through the learning contract amendment process. For courses attempted through cross registration at another institution, a learning contract must be completed to document:
- The name of the other institution;
- The course title and number; and
- The minimum acceptable grade for credit to be award by SUNY Empire State College. (See the SUNY Empire State College policy on cross registration at other institutions for additional information.)
- Syllabus – the syllabus is developed by the course instructor and is provided to the student before the end of the first week of the term. If the course is part of a structured academic program, other faculty members in that program may have input on how that course meets program and/or accreditation requirements. The course description listed in the college catalog represents agreement among faculty members who have exercised their academic judgement regarding the high?level course description, expected learning outcomes, number of credits, grade distribution, and other related information.
While created by faculty, learning information documents are reviewed to ensure currency in the field, consistency with new policies and guidelines, promote collaboration, and continue to enrich the learning experience of students. During development and revision, learning information documents will commonly benefit from peer review for alignment as well as clarity. The course information document is reviewed and approved according to college procedures for academic soundness and conformity with college policies, and then submitted according to college procedures. The review takes a variety of forms:
- Administrative review ? Administrative review by an associate dean ensures that each of the required elements of the course information document is included and that information is clear. Associate deans should also review learning information documents for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. Additionally, associate deans are responsible for ensuring the timely submission of course information documents.
- Curriculum review – Policies for programmatic curriculum review are laid out in a curriculum review policy.
Applicable Legislation and Regulations
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education evaluates institutions in relation to 14 standards for accreditation. Standard 11 requires clear written statements of expected student learning outcomes in learning information documents. Standard 14 requires that an institution have an assessment process to evaluate and improve student learning in relation to expected learning outcomes.
Related References, Policies, Procedures, Forms and Appendices
Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Characteristics of Excellence: Eligibility Requirements and Standards for Accreditation. 2011 edition.