(This is a part of a series on the differences and similarities between formal and informal adult learning.)

Traditional university courses have a syllabus. They are set at the beginning of the course (without any input from students, in my experience) and don’t change.

While all the courses in the P2PU School of Ed pilot have a syllabus, that is not the case with all P2PU courses. Some courses may start out with a syllabus. Other groups may choose to develop a syllabus together as a group. Others may feel that having a syllabus is antithetical to their learning process. This could pose challenges to certifying a syllabus for credit in advance.

Even in the School of Ed, we encourage participants to customize the syllabus for their own needs and classroom situations. If an activity isn’t valuable, don’t do it. Instead, suggest one that meets your objectives. That’s what self-directed learning is all about. Yet that does pose issues for a traditional credit issuing process.


A couple years back, I was involved in an open, online course in which midstream in the course, there was something of a revolt. The participants were highly engaged in the studies, so much so that they felt they needed more time to reflect, write, discuss, and play with the ideas being covered. However, the course load and pace didn’t allow that. So midway the course syllabus was significantly altered — by the students.

In my opinion, this is an exceptional example of how education should work. If there were more of this kind of learner self-direction in traditional PD and especially in K-12 classrooms, more and deeper learning would take place.

How do traditional institutions cope with this? At a university, it may be acceptable from a well-respected, tenured professor, but less so from a newer instructor. In district PD, it would not likely be accommodated. In K-12, it is the kind of thing largely frowned upon in this era of pacing and standardization. To me, this is a huge failing. It is definitely not a trap we are willing to fall into at the School of Ed.

So customize away! We’ll leave the lights on.

Formal ed vs DIY – Part 3, The Syllabus
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