Give Your Traditional Syllabus a Needed Makeover!

“In an effective classroom students should not only know what they are doing, they should also know why and how.” – Harry Wong

Many of us will be starting our classes soon! Give your learners the gift of the unexpected by revamping the syllabus. Chances are their other teachers will have the same old syllabus. As we know many learners won’t read it, because it is too long and the design is boring. Plus, the best kind of learning is when we meet the unexpected. Time to do away with the traditional syllabus and make it more engaging for your digital learners. The syllabus is the guide to the curriculum, materials, and procedures. Below, find ways to ensure learners do much more than give it a brief glance.

Get your copy of The 30 Goals Challenge, Learning to Go, or Hacking Digital Learning. Ask me about training your teachers,!

Ideas & Resources

  • Transform the syllabus into an infographic.
  • Place students in pairs or small groups to visualize a section of the syllabus with memes, comics, or illustrations.
  • You could even try transforming your syllabus into a comic. See this example here.
  • Try sketchnoting your syllabus. See this example here. Add links with Thinglink.
  • Gamify your syllabus! I actually did this for one of my Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).  Transform activities into missions. Find out more about mission minded learning in my new book, Hacking Digital Learning Strategies: 10 Ways to Launch EdTech Missions in Your Classroom. Give digital badges or set it up to where students can level up on a leaderboard!
  • Make it more engaging with links or  transform it into a hyperdoc. Start with this free Google Syllabus Template, then include links to resources, tools, and assessments related to the assignment. Think of it as a map of the learning adventure in your classroom and each assignment is a link to a new path of exploration.
  • Create a syllabus skeleton! Peeragogy is a flexible approach to digital learning in which the teacher and students use technology to apply knowledge together.  One way to encourage co-learning is to create a basic outline of what you need to cover within a proposed timeline instead of the typical syllabus. See this free template. As a class fill in the details of activities to learn the concepts.
  • Want to get your learners to read the syllabus? Then try a digital scavenger hunt or Bingo.

Challenge: Try any of these tips to revamp your syllabus.

Subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell),, and on her blog,, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at


  1. I have a course scavenger hunt in the first week of my online undergrad course. Forces (although it’s a voluntary extra credit activity) students to review the syllabus and cuts down on my having to say: “Check the syllabus.” The problem is that the students who don’t need to be “forced” to review the syllabus are the ones who do the scavenger hunt. The students who really need the extra motivation decline to participate. I’m about at the point of mandating doing the scavenger hunt. Ideas?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *