Our revised student handbook is out (it was time)

Update 2017: visit www.saylor.org/blog for the latest on how we make learning free and degrees more affordable.

A lot has changed at the Saylor Academy over time, but some things do not — like our commitment to students and our drive to keep improving. To reflect this, we have a long-overdue update of our Student Handbook, which you can find here:

The Saylor Academy Student Handbook
Revised and Updated May 2014

If the words “student handbook” make you think “long irrelevant pages of jargon-filled dullness,” think again. Our new version is still probably not exactly gripping reading, but it is now shorter, breezier, and much less scary sounding…we hope!

Think of it as your welcome packet, and worth a look whether you have never completed a Saylor course or have completed dozens. Read it to find out about who we are and what we stand for; to get basic, need-to-know information on our courses; to learn about some of our policies and expectations; and to see lots of other useful links and resources.

Questions, comments, concerns, suggestions? Let us know!

2 thoughts on “Our revised student handbook is out (it was time)

  1. May 16, 2014

    Constantin Reply

    While there is some difference comparing to the old handbook, one still does not get the impression (s)he belongs to a true academic institution, but rather just browsing some educational materials on the web…

    I don’t want to seem rude, but wouldn’t we rather ACT like a real college, even if virtual only?

    Here’s my two cents on what I find missing from this new handbook (personal opinion, but I believe others may share in):

    1. A more fun-yet-academic look of the handbook (and of the website itself!). By ‘fun-yet-academic’ what I mean is a pretty design, something like maybe a MMORPG with an educational focus. Looking cool, yet acting seriously. I see no contradiction here.

    A nice graphical welcome (could be extended to the Final Exam as well, with some ‘Congrats!’…) to the students, and an invitation to enroll in a major (maybe a short video tutorial tour of the Academy?), how to earn badges that differentiate between years of study; for example: anyone may create an account and enroll as a learner, but to become a true student you’d have to pass your first exam (any exam from Gen Ed or selected major)… that would set a milestone and a nice sense of achievement!…

    2. Final diploma (Gen Ed + full major completed) information. Nothing about this yet?? I mean you keep repeating your are not official and cannot confer degrees etc., but is that the only option? What about offering non-accredited degrees? Alternative degrees bearing a direct comparison to their accredited counterparts? Any other type of ‘degree’ final diploma that actually tells the student: “Hey, we actually are what we try for– an Academy! We do offer you a special final certificate, that says you didn’t come here just for ‘personal enrichment’, and go empty-handed (oh sorry, carrying with you a big pile of individual course certificates…) like any other web ed guys may do. We are not just anyone! And this final certificate, although unaccredited, is still sound, is backed by our institution anytime someone may wanna verify you, so yeah, you could use this in your CV etc…”

    ……………

    Again, I believe the above is not just my personal opinion. I think there are tons of Saylor students who would like these implemented. Not having the time, or courage, to come upfront and request them doesn’t mean they don’t need them. And really, would these be that hard to provide?

    Thank you for reading and understanding. Your work is already great and useful. Still, maybe these apparently ‘trivial’ tweaks might take you to ‘legendary’ status… :)

    Have fun!

    • May 16, 2014

      Sean Connor Reply

      Hi Constantin — I/we appreciate your thoughts, as ever (really!) — some responses follow.

      1. A more fun-yet-academic look of the handbook (and of the website itself!). By ‘fun-yet-academic’ what I mean is a pretty design, something like maybe a MMORPG with an educational focus. Looking cool, yet acting seriously. I see no contradiction here.

      You mention MMORPGs, but I kind of like the version of fun that the crowd behind Hogwart’s is Here put on display. It is a creative re-purposing of the fairly conservative/traditional school website for learning-as-a-game. We have some provisional visuals that I can’t publicly leak yet, but perhaps we can connect directly to give you a glimpse. After many months, we really are just weeks away from a partial refresh, and a few more from a full visual re-fresh. You are correct that implicit and explicit “welcome” elements are in order.

      2. Final diploma (Gen Ed + full major completed) information.

      I think the way this is likely to happen is through a proper badging system, and it should be arbitrary to make the badges or meta/uber/macro-badges appear as certificates as well or instead — of course, we could choose to differentiate between the fun and the serious badges…like if you post in the forums for the first time, you get a fun badge-shaped badge, but when you complete a series of courses you get a diploma/certificate-style “serious” badge. Our transcripts are a bit staid and could use a refresh, as well. With a new tech platform and all-new CSS (and page architecture) in the works, badging is more likely to pick up in the second half of the year, but I will keep the pressure up, for what it is worth, with my colleagues.

      You have provoked some new thoughts, actually, about how to treat our existing courses visually and stylistically that I will eagerly share back with the teams — thank you!

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