Course Syllabus Design
This resource outlines the various components and details you may wish to include in your syllabus. Do check with your department, faculty or school to see if there is a standard format or template you ought to use.
Review Memorial University’s Guidelines for Course Syllabi.
Course Information Section
Provide students with information about contact information for the instructor, teaching assistants, lab instructors and departmental or school office so students know how to contact you and who else may be able to assist with various concerns relating to the course. Sections to consider include:
- Class Information — day, time, and location of classes and any required labs, studios, tutorials, or other types of learning sessions; and for online courses, any recommended synchronous sessions
- Instructor — your name, academic degrees, and academic rank
- Office — building and room number
- Telephone — including the area code for distance students
- Email — for online courses, specify use of your @mun email or Brightspace course email for course-related communication
- URL — your personal website
- Departmental Office — departmental office location, telephone number, and URL
- *Office Hours — note specific days and times or by appointment. Online course students may require virtual office hours via online rooms, telephone, or other electronic means.
- Teaching Assistant(s) — names and contact information
- Laboratory Instructor — names and contact information
- Student–Instructor Communication
- Outline expectations relating to communication:
- how long they can expect to wait for a response from you;
- when they should use email versus the course discussion forum;
- how they will receive messages from you — in class, email, news widget, or discussion forum;
- how you will treat messages sent to the wrong place and messages you feel would be of benefit to the entire class;
- if there will be any periods during the semester when there may be a delayed response time; and
- your expectations regarding appropriate discourse in higher education.
- See this example of a Course Syllabus.
- Outline expectations relating to communication:
Note: items marked with an asterisk (*) indicate sections that the University calendar has indicated as required. See the section on Evaluation of Student Work, Course Syllabus section of the University Calendar.
Course Details Section
The Course Details outline the description and information provided in the university calendar. Include details about resources needed and explain how the course will be taught, your instructional approach. Sections to consider include:
- Calendar Description — university calendar description
- Pre-requisites/Co-requisites — from university calendar
- *Credit Restrictions — from university calendar
- *Credit Hours — from university calendar
- Course Objectives — They should clearly state what students should accomplish as a result of taking the course. Resources on writing objectives can be found on this Instructional Resources site.
- *Textbook and Resources — provide the full reference, including ISBN of the textbook. Let students know where to obtain the textbook. List other print resources and special equipment that are required for students to complete course work and assignments. List recommended resources related to course topics that students may wish to explore in more detail on their own.
- Note: Model the reference style you wish students to use in submitting their assignments when listing the course resources.
- Course Description — supplement the calendar description with your own. A creative description may piques students’ interest in the course.
- Instructional Approach — Describe how the course will run and how students will spend their time learning in the course. Let students know if there is group work, a service learning component, or a requirement to create and maintain a portfolio. Outline what students are expected to do to complete the required work and the types of activities and assignments involved in the course. Explain how the course schedule is set up. You can also use this section to incorporate your teaching philosophy with what you and students will do to ensure success in the course.
- See this example of a Course Details page.
- How to Succeed in this Course — Describe what students should do to succeed in the course, such as read the textbook, attend class, come to class prepared, participate in class or in online discussions, prepare a study schedule to help manage time, and contact the professor if you are having difficulties with any aspects of the course. Remind students that all courses, whether on campus or online require the same amount of time and commitment. The average undergraduate course involves three hours of classes and at least another three hours of reading or other work per week. Some courses require much more time, if there is group work or assignments.
Outline for students the evaluation scheme including type, percentage and due dates. Provide other details students need, such as resources allowed and deferrals. Sections to consider include:
- *Evaluation Scheme Overview — Outline, in a list or tabular format, the assessment items, including the due date and time (or day, week, and time) and the marks allocated. Indicate which, if any, is a group assignment.
- Descriptions of Evaluation Components — In describing the individual evaluation components, be sure to include all the pertinent details such as the following:
- topics and content covered;
- time allotted;
- resources needed or allowed;
- how students must submit the assessment;
- requirements regarding format of written work (font, margins, spacing, reference style, etc.);
- who schedules the evaluations and where to find this information;
a statement about deadlines, extensions, and deferred exams that also explains under what circumstances they will be considered and late assignments will be accepted;
- policies related to assessment that the department, school, or faculties has developed;
- when and how students will be notified of their progress and grades (must be in keeping with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Government of Newfoundland)).
- Tests and Examinations — include the type and number of test items that will appear on the test or exam. Refer students to Memorial Self-Serve for information about examination schedules.
- Assignments — refer students to the calendar description of Good Writing and advise students of the assistance available at Memorial‘s Writing Centre and Library.
- Labs — indicate whether any pre-lab work or credentials, such as the WHIMIS course, are required to begin lab work.
- Participation — make clear the criteria for participation.
- *Alternative Evaluation — Include a statement on alternative evaluation for students who are unable to complete a part of the evaluation due to acceptable causes, as described in the University Calendar under Evaluation of Student Work, Exemptions from Parts of the Evaluation.
Regulations and Policies Section
There are a number of University regulations and policies of which students should be familiar. In addition, there may be regulations and policies outlined by your academic unit and course policies of which students should be aware (attendance and late assignments, for example). In this section of the syllabus, describe important regulations and policies, explain why they are important, and provide links to the appropriate sections of the University Calendar and other documents. Among the important University regulations are the following:
- Student Code of Conduct
- Evaluation of Student Work
- Final Examinations
- Correction and Return of Student
- Good Writing
- Academic Misconduct
Sections to consider include:
- *Accommodations for Students with Disabilities — the notice should invite students who need accommodations to meet with you to discuss the matter in confidence. Review the University’s policies regarding accommodations.
University Services and Resources for Students Section
Identify the service and support units you wish to bring to students’ attention. Consider also Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and remind students of the value of the Course Evaluation Questionnaire (CEQ) at the end of the semester.
Services and Resources Available at Memorial
Demonstrate concern about students’ wellbeing and success by outlining the services and resources available to them at Memorial, for example:
- Academic Advising
- Writing Centre
- Student Life
- Counselling Centre
- DistancePlus service for distance students on the university library website
- Memorial University’s bookstore
- CITL’s Online Services
- CITL’s Support Centre for help with Brightspace and other course technologies
- Glenn Roy Blundon Centre which provides services for students with disabilities
- Frequently Asked Questions — compose of list of the questions that students may have or have had in previous course offerings and your responses.
- Course Evaluation Questionnaire — Provide students with information about completing the CEQ. You may wish to schedule time during the administration period to offer students the opportunity to complete the CEQ in class and add this as an item in the course schedule. The CEQ website recommends this syllabus insert. See the University Services and Resources for Students page for more information.
Sections to consider include:
- Instructor Biographical Information — Share some information about yourself with the students to enhance instructor and teaching presence. Be as professional or personal as you wish and consider including a picture.
- Teaching Philosophy — include an abridged version of your teaching philosophy which provides students with information about your values, goals, and approach to teaching. It will help set expectations for instructor and student responsibilities and help students understand why you do what you do. You can outline how you plan to meet the course objectives and the type of learning environment you strive to create.
- Introductory Video or Audio — If using Brightspace, consider uploading an introductory video or audio. These benefit students taking online courses as they only allow them to establish a connection with you by seeing and/or hearing you, they learn more about you through your tone and body language. These media pieces can be used to establish a rapport with the students and cover some of the material presented in the syllabus. Oh, and remind them to enjoy the course!
Course Schedule Section
Outline the topics or modules covered each week. Consider providing the course schedule on a separate page or on the last page of the syllabus so it can be separated from the syllabus for printing purposes. When preparing your schedule, consider the academic regulations pertaining to Correction and Return of Student Work.
The schedule can be presented in paragraph or tabular format. Sections to consider include:
- Week — week 1, week 2, etc; or date – Sept 14, Sept 17
- Topic — the module, unit or topic title as presented in Brightspace
- Activity — tasks students will be doing such as: reading article, chapter, or course notes, watching mini-lecture or video, listening to mini-lecture or pod cast, poll question
- Assessment — discussion, blog entry, Twitter, assignment, quiz, test, exam, lab, etc.
This suggested Course-Syllabus-Template (.docx, size: 44k) may be used to design your own syllabus reflecting the needs of your course.
- Nilson, L. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd ed.). Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc., pp. 33-41.
- O’Brien, J. G., Mills, B. J., & Cohen, M. W. (2008). The Course Syllabus: A Learning-Centered Approach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.