I highly recommend that you include a start page in each of your courses to orient new learners to each course.
The start page is a special content page you create yourself, designed to be the first page new students visit after the home page. The start page makes clear what students are to accomplish over the duration of the course and how they will get there. It’s also the first opportunity for you to personally engage with your learners, to create a connection with them.
The start page fulfills the role of the syllabus in that it provides the important details about the course including contact information, prerequisites, goals and objectives, required materials, schedule, activities, assessment, as well as course and institution policies. The start page goes much farther, however, in that it allows you to provide an informal tone, rich media content, and interactivity that facilitates a conversation with your learners in a way that a syllabus cannot.
If your institution has a standard format for the course syllabus, you may not have the freedom to develop a syllabus that fully engages your students. If this is your case, I recommend that you substitute the official syllabus as required course reading with the start page. Just be sure that all of the syllabus content is in the start page. If you have the freedom to create a syllabus of your own design, however, then the start page can be the course syllabus itself!
I don’t recommend that you split the introductory course information between the syllabus and the start page, thus forcing your students to read both. It’s easier for your learners to have everything in one place, the start page, and include a link to the official syllabus on the start page just in case a student wants to refer to it.
Be sure to include enough information in the start page to make clear what they can expect from the course as well as what you expect from them. There may be a lot of content on the start page, so be sure to keep the information brief and to the point so students aren’t tempted to skim through it.
Look for my posts in the Course Expectations category for tips on elements to include in the start page.