Develop your Syllabus

Check back often for updates. This page will evolve as we continue to address/reflect on best/recommended practices and campus policy.

Syllabus Purpose

As noted on the MERLOT website:

"In order for students to achieve the course objectives, they have to understand the goals and objectives of the course as well as the instructor's expectations. A syllabus is a contract with the student on what knowledge will be gained, what content will be covered, the manner in which content will be covered and measured and an outline for accomplishing all of that."

For more on syllabi and learning contracts see: http://pedagogy.merlot.org/SyllabiandLearningContracts.htm

Required Course Information

Syllabi inform students about what is expected of them to meet course requirements. Senate resolution 12/AS/82/EX includes basic information that faculty must provide to students. Though not mandated, the syllabus is a preferable means for communicating this information to students. Required information includes:

  1. Course goals, objectives and requirements.
  2. The instructor's grading policy, including whether +/- grades will be assigned.
  3. Attendance requirements.
  4. Policy on due dates and make-up work.
  5. Required texts and other materials.
  6. Policy on assignments.
  7. The availability of the instructor outside of class, including office hours, office telephone number and/or email address.
  8. That in courses for which some or all of the above information is not appropriate, students be advised of the expectations for such courses, that any such information be made available to students no later than the end of the first week of classes; and that any changes in course requirements be communicated to students in an expedient and timely manner.

In addition to the required components, additional information that should be included on the course syllabus include statements on:

Avoiding Grade Appeals

The majority of grade appeals result from problems with a course syllabus and most grade appeals involve new instructors.

  • To avoid a grade appeal (see the faculty handbook,) be clear and consistent with regard to how grades will be assigned.
  • Make sure that your outcomes and assessment activities are all clearly articulated.
  • If changes to the course are required, make an effort to explain to students why the changes were made. Connect the change to how their learning will be improved. Let students know how changes will be publicized.
  • It is not a good idea to make "out of class" activities mandatory. If you can not deliver the course without student participation in activities that are outside of class time, make sure students are well aware of this requirement on the first day of class.

Frequently Asked Questions - "It's on the Syllabus"

The most common student questions can be addressed by a syllabus that includes the eight components listed below.

Syllabus Components
FAQs Addressed
Course Goals, Objectives (Outcomes), and Requirements
  • Why should I take this course?
  • What will I learn?
  • How will this help me get a good job?
  • What are the pre-requisites?
  • Do I really need them?
  • Is this class required for my major?
Grading Policy
  • What do I need to earn an A?
  • How are grades assigned?
  • What do I have to do to pass this course?
  • How much time outside of class is required by the average student?
  • Are +/- grades assigned in this course?
Attendance Policy
  • Is attendance mandatory?
  • Do you take attendance?
  • Do I have to be on time? If I am late, should I enter the room or miss class?
  • If I cannot come to class, should I tell you?
  • What is the best way to notify you?
  • I had to miss class yesterday, did you cover anything important?
  • Can I being my children/grandchildren/niece/nephew/brother/   sister/neighbor's kid to class? Why or Why not?
Policy on Due Dates and Make-Up Work
  • Can I take a make-up lab exercise/quiz/exam/group discussion?
  • Can papers/assignments be turned in late?
  • Are there penalties?
  • When are papers due?
Required Texts and Other Materials
  • Do I have to buy the textbook?
  • Is the textbook available in the Library?
  • What other readings will be assigned? Where can we get these materials?
  • Do I really need to read the textbook/readings, etc?
Policy on Assignments
  • How many exams/quizzes/assignments?
  • What type of exams/quizzes will be given?
  • How many papers?
  • Do they have to be typed?
  • When are papers due?
  • Can papers/assignments be turned in early for you to give feedback before the paper is turned in for a grade?
  • How will papers be graded?
  • Are there field trips?
  • Do I have to do the service learning activity?
  • I don't need another laboratory class, can I just take the lecture and skip the lab?
Instructor Availability and Contact Information
  • What is your phone/email/office number?
  • When can I come to your office?
  • Can I make an appointment? How do I do that?
Additional Information
  • Can I text in class?
  • What happens if my cell phone goes off?
  • Are we allowed to eat good in class?
  • How will changes to the course be communicated to students

Information for Specific Types of Courses

General Education Courses

General Education Course syllabi will include the General Education Learning Goals/Outcomes. It is important to explain to students the value of taking GE courses. These courses expand their knowledge base to make them informed citizens and increase their understanding of the world and their role in it.

Writing Proficiency Courses

A WP course is an upper division course in any department designated as a Writing Proficiency course by the University Writing Committee. In a WP course, students are expected to write as an integral part of learning course content and preparing for their career. A grade of C- or higher in the WP course indicates that the department endorses the student's writing competency.

Syllabus Template

The syllabus template includes components discussed on this page as well as a variety of supplemental statements. Please feel free to use or adapt both the formatting and the content. The template includes information relevant to both traditional and online courses.

Resources:

Syllabus template adapted from:

Additional Resources