Syllabus Language

So, you’re interested in talking to students about making connections explicit through digital annotation, but you’re not sure how to lay any of this out in the context of a syllabus.  Here are some paragraphs on connected courses, learning, activities, and assessment – as well as some other salient points.  Feel free to lift and adapt and/or use verbatim. For language around copyright, fair use, and similar, check out my colleague, Dan Silverman’s blog.

  1. What is connected learning?
  2. Why blogging?
  3. Why tweeting?
  4. Why creative makes?


The easiest way to answer this question is to embed VCU ALT Lab’s Video on Connected Learning:

However, if you are still looking for some copy: 

Connected learning means more than using the Internet for class assignments; it is a way of thinking about education. Connected learners make and communicate connections between what they are currently studying and:

  • Other classes or educational programs.
  • Life experiences beyond the classroom.
  • Perspectives and experiences of other people, including instructors, peers, and a broader public.

Connected courses are designed to help students learn how to filter, organize, and think critically about voice, audience, and information sources.  Activities tend to invite students to improve their digital workflows.  This means students practice and develop their own approaches to filtering, organizing, critiquing, remixing, and disseminating information so that they can become more comfortable with, productive, and creative in digital environments.

The point of Connected Learning is not to memorize stuff.  The point is to learn how to connect school work to other things that you are reading, learning, and doing so that you remember it and know how to use it in as many different situations as possible.


Increasingly, blogging assignments are replacing the traditional practice of having students write reflection or reaction papers in higher education.  Research suggests that the public nature of blogging – in which other students (and sometimes the world) can see and comment on the work – makes the assignment more meaningful. Moreover, fielding comments on your blog post (assuming that they are thoughtful, meaningful comments) deepens your understanding of what you wrote, even as sharing your work inspires others.

But there is also evidence to suggest that the digital nature of blogging enhances the learning potential of the activity beyond the scope of peer pressure and dialogue. Here are five ways you can take advantage of the digital nature of blogging to make their assignments more interesting and more educational – for everyone.

  • Use hyperlinks to communicate connections.  Hyperlinks are digital connections.  Use them to connect your ideas to sources, background information, or other types of supporting information.  By making these connections explicit through the act of hyperlinking, you are not only helping your reader connect the dots, but you are making those dots more memorable for yourself. For more ideas on how to use hyperlinks, click this link.
  • Pictures, videos, graphics, oh my! Blogging offers opportunities for expression that traditional formal writing does not.  Take advantage. Bring your ideas to life through images, video, audio, animated .gifs, and infographics.  For more ideas on how to use embedded materials, click this link.
  • Tag posts to help you reflect. Adding tags is like adding keywords to a journal abstract: they provide ways to organize and search. When you tag your posts consistently and then look back at what you’ve done, surprising themes and patterns can emerge about what, where, and how you’ve learned.
  • Connect with your classmates.  Your classmates are learning/reading the exact same information, and yet you will find it fascinating how many different opinions and interpretations can be represented in one class.  You have the opportunity to learn from and with each other – take it by reading and linking to their posts and explaining how your ideas connect with their’s.  Describe how you agree, (respectfully, thoughtfully) disagree, or were inspired by them.
  • Write comments on your classmates’ blogs that will help you and them think.  Make the comments you write on other posts worth reading.  There is nothing wrong with telling them you like their work, but then give them something to think about.  Ask a thoughtful question, offer your perspective, or contribute a resource (website, article, hyperlink) that you think they might find useful/interesting.  Remember to always be respectful.  These are real people with real feelings.  Also remember to return frequently to check for responses.  It takes two (or three or four) to have a conversation.  Dropping a comment and then not returning for the response is not cool.

Downloadable PDF:Making the most of a blogging assignment


We’ve all heard the myth that Twitter is for telling people what you had for lunch.  In reality, many people use Twitter to develop professional networks; they discuss, debate, share news and resources, and develop relationships with colleagues around topics and fields of shared interest. In connected courses, Twitter is used by students in the same way it is used by professionals: to create personal learning networks that improve the students’ understanding of things even as they make learning more fun and convenient.

Twitter is a public forum, so open participants and other interested community members can join in on the conversation. Second, it encourages you to form concisely worded questions and points – sometimes this seems hard, initially, but it gets easier with practice. Finally, discussions on Twitter will increase your Twitter literacy. Since “academic twitter” is increasingly a “thing” for professional development, networking and research dissemination, it would behoove you to at least know about it and how it works.

Course discussions will be aggregated around the course hashtag #CuriousCoLab. This means that your tweets must include the course hashtag if they are to be seen and counted as part of the discussion. If you have questions, please contact your instructor prior to the first scheduled Twitter discussion.

  • Tips for maximizing your learning on Twitter can be found under “For Students” resources.
  • Mashable has done an excellent job curating technical tips for beginning tweeters.
  • Some strategies for navigating a synchronous Twitter chats (including an introduction to Hootsuite) can be found here.

4.  Why Creative Makes?

Creative makes are meant to stir the creative juices, get you out of the traditional academic “box” and hopefully help you look at learning as fun. They help expand your digital skills so that you can expand beyond text and explore the power of images, audio, video, and graphics for spreading your message.

While these assignments are important for expanding your digital toolkit and your creative expressions, they are not supposed to take a long time. Plan on 15 minutes. Plan on letting loose. Plan on having fun.

That being said, they are still required assignments. You must complete them by the specified due date and time.

When you complete the make, make sure to add tags (or labels). Tags are like keywords on an article – choose as many as you desire, covering all angles from which the blog post might be described or categorized. Make sure that one of the tags is the designated tag for the assignment. You may even want to tweet your creative make so others can see how you are thinking and can add to the conversation.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.