SFU should release full course outlines sooner

Getting access to syllabi sooner can help with school, work, and financial planning

SFU letterhead paper with “The Department of Sociology & Anthropology, faculty of Arts and Social Sciences” written on top. The heading is “Course outline, Spring 2022,” but the rest of the syllabus is blank with a couple question marks on it.
Students are tired of seeing incomplete course outlines. PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

by Tamanna T., Staff Writer

As winter descends upon SFU, so too does the chaos of course enrollment. Enrollment appointments for Spring 2022 start on November 8, 2021. Students can access MySchedule to plan classes from November 1, just a week before enrollment. Full course outlines need to be published before November 1 at the very least, and students should be notified promptly, so they have enough time to plan their courses and schedules. The anxiety around course-planning is real and it’s an important issue SFU needs to pay more attention to.

At the time of writing, there are few courses that have full syllabi with grading criteria and course breakdown uploaded. Without a syllabus, students don’t know what they are signing up for. They’re unable to play to their strengths while choosing courses, since they don’t know if a course is going to rely more on exams or essays. This can haunt them later when the course outline is finally introduced, and the workload is different than expected. This may even result in students trying to transfer to another course at the last minute, which is difficult since most courses fill up quickly. 

The middle of the semester is already a busy time for students and not having access to full course outlines in advance makes course-planning — which often involves discussions with academic advisors — very hard. Proper course-planning is extremely important for students, since it ensures they are on track to complete their degree. Students doing multiple programs, facing academic difficulties, or who have transferred from other institutions, may need multiple advising sessions, which take time. Since advisors are extremely busy around this time of the year, having course outlines posted in a timely manner and notifying students when they’re all published would make things easier for advisors and students alike.  

Limited time for course-planning harms students who have jobs and extra-curricular activities. It is especially troublesome for low-income students who work full-time. Speaking from personal experience with my part-time job, my manager has always asked for a two week notice for schedule changes, especially at the beginning of every semester. Assuming this is standard practice, the small time-frame given to students for course-planning leaves little time to figure out students’ work schedules. This could potentially result in a poor work-life balance, which also contributes to anxiety and burnout.

For international students, the exorbitant cost of tuition and the financial planning required to pay for it makes it even harder to plan courses in such a short amount of time. In 2020, there were 25,700 international students at SFU, which means a huge part of the student body is likely to face this issue. Since SFU increased the international student tuition by 4% in 2020, and plans to continue to increase tuition at a similar rate, it is only fair to give them enough time to manage their finances. 

Students need sufficient time to both plan out their courses and change them if needed. It provides them with a better opportunity to ensure that their lives are planned out for the next semester. Courses are hard enough on their own, at least planning them should be easier.