Constructing a Syllabus
The course syllabus plays an important role in establishing course policies, requirements, tests and assignments. With so many elements to a syllabus, it can be easy to leave something out. Use this list to create a complete syllabus or assess a syllabus you already created.
Things to include in your syllabus:
Instructor Information: This information helps provide the basic contact information for you as an instructor. Your students can refer back to the syllabus throughout the semester as a place to find all of your contact information.
Things to include:
- Instructor name
- Instructor title and department
- Office address
- Telephone and voice mail number
- E-mail address
- Office hours
- Social media contact information (if relevant to your course)
- Contact preferences – you may want to let your students know if you have a policy on how quickly you will respond to emails, or whether you are out of contact regularly on the weekends.
Basic Course Information: It is important to provide the basic course and logistical information for your students so that there is no confusion about when and where the course is meeting. For some classes there may be additional considerations to include in this section, such as lab meeting times, locations, ancillary instructors, etc.
- Course number
- Section number (if applicable)
- Course title
- Meeting days and times
- Room address for class meetings
- Location to write down room and instructor information for a lab or recitation section
- Space to write down names and contact information for at least two other students in the class to encourage meeting other students in the class for collaboration, study, group work, etc.
Course Content: This section of the syllabus provides students with the important information to help lay the groundwork for the course. This section lets them know what they should get out of the course and what materials they may need to be successful in the course.
- Pre-requisite(s) (if any) for the course
- Course description
- Course goals
- Desired learning outcomes and expectations
- Required and/or recommended materials
- Articles or other resources
Course Calendar: The course calendar provides the outline for how the term will progress. It will provide students with the information that they need to know about the content covered in the course, when assignments are due, what readings are assigned, and other important information.
- Topics to be covered in sequence with dates
- Reading assignments and the dates by which the readings should be completed
- Due dates for the major assignments and assessments of the course
- Information about the final exam including where it will be held, the time and date of the exam, etc.
- Statement about course calendar changes; that is, if it is determined that modifications for the originally posted calendar are necessary, how will you notify the students of these changes.
Course Components: In addition to outlining the progression of the course and the due dates for various assignments and assessment activities, it is also advisable to include more descriptive information about the types of assignments and activities that the students will complete during the course of the term.
- Description of major assignments and assessment activities
- Due dates for the major assignments and assessments of the course
- Information about the final exam including where it will be held, the time and date of the exam, etc. (if relevant)
Grading Information: In a syllabus, it can be very helpful for students if you include an explicit breakdown of your grading policies, grading criteria, and the types of grades that you will assign. More information for the specific rules governing assignable grades at OSU are included at the link below.
- Grading standards and criteria
- Policy regarding S/U, I, W, etc. marks (see RULE 3335-8-21;)
Course Policies: Finally, the syllabus is the perfect place to include firm policies that either you, or your university, have developed. By placing the course policies in the syllabus document, they are clearly stated and available for all of your students and can be easily references by the students or referred to by others interested in your course.
Policy regarding academic misconduct (see http://oaa.osu.edu/coam.html):
The Committee on Academic Misconduct (COAM) recommends that every faculty member, instructor, and graduate teaching associate who is teaching a course prepare and distribute (or make available) to all students a course syllabus. Furthermore, COAM recommends that the course syllabus contain a statement concerning “academic misconduct” or “academic integrity.” The Ohio State University does not have a required, standardized statement on academic misconduct that instructors can use in their syllabi. Thus, COAM has prepared the following statement, which course instructors are free to use (with or without modification) for their syllabi:
Academic integrity is essential to maintaining an environment that fosters excellence in teaching, research, and other educational and scholarly activities. Thus, The Ohio State University and the Committee on Academic Misconduct (COAM) expect that all students have read and understand the University’s Code of Student Conduct, and that all students will complete all academic and scholarly assignments with fairness and honesty. Students must recognize that failure to follow the rules and guidelines established in the University’s Code of Student Conduct and this syllabus may constitute “Academic Misconduct.”The Ohio State University’s Code of Student Conduct (Section 3335–23–04) defines academic misconduct as: “Any activity that tends to compromise the academic integrity of the University, or subvert the educational process.” Examples of academic misconduct include (but are not limited to) plagiarism, collusion (unauthorized collaboration), copying the work of another student, and possession of unauthorized materials during an examination. Ignorance of the University’s Code of Student Conduct is never considered an “excuse” for academic misconduct, so I recommend that you review the Code of Student Conduct and, specifically, the sections dealing with academic misconduct.If I suspect that a student has committed academic misconduct in this course, I am obligated by University Rules to report my suspicions to the Committee on Academic Misconduct. If COAM determines that you have violated the University’s Code of Student Conduct (i.e., committed academic misconduct), the sanctions for the misconduct could include a failing grade in this course and suspension or dismissal from the University.
If you have any questions about the above policy or what constitutes academic misconduct in this course, please contact me.
Please note that this is a generic statement, which may or may not fit the needs of your course(s). Please read the following carefully before use and edit as necessary to fit your specific needs. If there are additional policies or guidelines that apply specifically to the course(s) that you teach, please include these policies and/or guidelines in your syllabus.
- Policy regarding attendance
- Policy regarding late assignments
- Policy for distressed students
The following statement is recommended for all syllabi at The Ohio State University:
A recent American College Health Survey found stress, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, interpersonal concerns, death of a significant other, and alcohol use among the top ten health impediments to academic performance. Students experiencing personal problems or situational crises during the quarter are encouraged to contact the OSU Counseling and Consultation Service (614-292-5766; www.ccs.osu.edu) for assistance, support and advocacy.
This service is free and confidential.
- Statement regarding disabilities, including learning disabilities and accommodations (contact the Drake Institute or Student Life Disability Services slds.osu.edu for details)
- All instructors are encouraged to include in their syllabus a statement inviting students with disabilities to meet with them in a confidential environment to discuss making arrangements for accommodations. There are several reasons why this syllabus statement is critical. This statement both normalizes the accommodation process and helps to create a positive and welcoming environment for students with disabilities. Also, the statement creates a collaborative vehicle for providing accommodations and serves as a reminder to students who need the accommodations that these arrangements need to be made.
- The following is an example of a syllabus disability statement that can be used or adapted for your course syllabi:
The University strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers based on your disability (including mental health, chronic or temporary medical conditions), please let me know immediately so that we can privately discuss options. To establish reasonable accommodations, I may request that you register with Student Life Disability Services. After registration, make arrangements with me as soon as possible to discuss your accommodations so that they may be implemented in a timely fashion. SLDS contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org; 614-292-3307; slds.osu.edu; 098 Baker Hall, 113 W. 12th Avenue.
Not all of these elements will be found in every syllabus. What you decide to include in your syllabus will depend on the type of class you are teaching, how it is structured, and what you think is important for your students to know from the first day of class. Regardless of what you decide to include, be aware that your students will expect you to clearly state the course requirements and to inform them of your expectations and policies. A syllabus introduces the students to your course goals and your expectations for their achievement and behavior.
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2008). What did you put in your syllabus? http://citl.indiana.edu/files/pdf/syllabus_checklist.pdf
Altman, H. B., and Cashin, W.E. (1992).”Writing a Syllabus.” Idea Paper, no. 27 Manhattan: Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development, Kansas State University.
Birdsall, M. (1989). Writing, designing and using a course syllabus. Boston: Office of Instructional Development and Evaluation, Northeastern University.
Kalish, A., & Middendorf, J. (n.d.) Course planning guide. Columbus: The Ohio State University: Faculty and TA Development.
Millis, B.J. (n.d.). Syllabus construction handbook. College Park, MD: University of Maryland, University College.
Wiggins G. P. and McTighe J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.