[Athen] Question about Read-Only Word docs vs. PDFs

Rovner, Amy arovner at shoreline.edu
Mon Aug 12 09:25:43 PDT 2019


I heard this argument re; the student potentially changing a syllabus to suit their needs but, honestly, they can do that with a PDF of a syllabus too. They just need Adobe Pro. For that matter, they could simply create their own syllabus document and submit it. There's no certification or seal that shows a syllabus is genuine. Also, our departments retain copies of their official syllabi so, should another college ever check, the student would be caught.

I teach my faculty to make them accessible in Word and strongly suggest that's how they share them with their students. Some fret about the formatting being altered in Word depending on what/how it's opened so prefer PDF. In that case, I ask that they post both versions in their class.

Students will always be one step ahead of us in the cheating arena...


Amy Rovner, MPH RD
Instructional Designer/Accessible IT Coordinator
eLearning Services
Shoreline Community College
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From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu> On Behalf Of Susan Kelmer
Sent: Monday, August 12, 2019 8:49 AM
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Athen] Question about Read-Only Word docs vs. PDFs

We are not the copyright police. Also, we are not the ethics police.

If a college takes the word of a student without verifying that the information is correct, that is not on us.

Will some students try to cheat the system? Sure. Will some students follow the rules? Absolutely.

Not our problem, one way or the other, really. Also, writing a syllabus in Word, then saving as PDF with the right options selected makes a pretty good and accessible PDF for any student to use. I wouldn't fight this battle too hard.

Susan Kelmer
Alternate Format Production Program Manager
Disability Services
University of Colorado Boulder

From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu>> On Behalf Of Christine Robinson
Sent: Monday, August 12, 2019 9:39 AM
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network <athen-list at u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list at u.washington.edu>>
Subject: [Athen] Question about Read-Only Word docs vs. PDFs

Hi all -

For a couple of years now, we've been training our faculty members to make their syllabi accessible, and that has included the recommendation to distribute the documents as Read-Only Word files instead of converting them into PDF. (Granted, it would be better if they would put the content on a course web page, but that isn't something we can do at this point. We've also been focusing on Word documents as a first step, since PDFs take a little more work to make accessible.)

There is usually some pushback to the idea of not converting syllabi to PDF, because faculty are concerned about students trying to change content. Up until now, they've been satisfied when they consider that it would be silly for a student to change something in a syllabus - late work policy, attendance, etc. - and try to convince the prof it's what he or she wrote.

This morning someone pointed out that when students transfer schools and want credit for upper division courses (those which don't automatically transfer), they need a syllabus to show the class is similar enough to the new institution's. If they can get access to the new institution's syllabus, they could alter syllabi to match. Obviously they could do this with most PDFs as well, but it would take more work.

Any advice about this?


Christine Robinson | Technical Trainer/Writer | Center for Teaching Excellence
Georgia Gwinnett College | 1000 University Center Lane| Lawrenceville, GA 30043

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