Creating a syllabus is an important part of teaching. The syllabus serves as a sort of contract between students and the instructor. It should clearly outline course requirements, expectations, and goals as well as include pertinent information regarding assignments, class and institutional policies, and grading. Crafting a useful and clear syllabus is an important skill. Luckily there are several well-accepted components of a syllabus that are common throughout most disciplines and universities.
General Tips for Creating a Syllabus
- Be sure to make the material accessible to all students. Need more help with making your course content accessible for all students?
- Provide an electronic copy of the syllabus for students. Blackboard is a great place to provide an electronic version of your syllabus. Did you know that you can create a syllabus directly in Blackboard or upload your syllabus to Blackboard?
- In some cases students may need to change the formatting of documents, so providing a version of the document other than PDF or saving your word document as an accessible PDF may be useful.
- Use fonts that are easily readable (sans serif fonts such as Arial, Verdana, Georgia, Geneva, etc. are good options). This is useful for students who may use screen reading software.
- Make the syllabus student centered. Include all of the information that the student would need to know and attempt to write it to them. Try to address potential questions that they may have in the syllabus. This relates to learning objectives and course outcomes (see below).
- If you use Blackboard make sure you make your course available for students to view. Is the rest of your course ready?
- Did you know that the University recommends that you upload your syllabus to syllabus.uark.edu to make it available for prospective students?
Elements of a Syllabus
- Be sure to include your name, office location, office hours, office phone number, and email address.
- This may also be a good place to include your preferred method of contact. Some instructors prefer email and some prefer phone calls, etc.
- Be sure to include any unique expectations on your part. For example, if you only reply to emails between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., if you do not want phone calls before 10 a.m. or after 8 p.m., or if you have a place and time for informal study meetings with students needing help in the course at certain times, for instance meeting for study sessions on Fridays at 3 p.m.
- Include the course name and number, meeting time, location, and other information relating to the course.
- Include any pre-requisites or co-requisites.
- Include the course format. For instance, does your course include lecture, flipped, blended, online, lab and/or seminar teaching methods?
- Most departments have a course description listed in the University catalog. In some instances it is good to use this departmental description. In other cases the description may be overly general and may not be particularly useful in describing your course and the topics and information covered. In which case, it may be a good idea to tailor the description to your particular course by providing a general overview of the topics you will discuss in your course as well as by including materials you focus on in the course.
- It’s also useful to include a basic list of the topics that you will cover in your class. This may also be included in the course schedule.
Textbook and Materials
- Provide students with the title and ISBN of the texts that are required as well as any optional, suggested, or supplemental texts. Are you interesting in Open Educational Resources? Check out our posts for more information on OER!
- Provide a detailed list of other required materials such as scantrons, blue books, clickers, calculators, software or programs, Respondus, Proctor U, reliable internet connection, or required media (DVD, CD, etc). It is also useful to include the number of each item required.
- If you have any other unique requirements, such as attending events which may require the use of an automobile or that may require transportation, it should also be included here.
- Are you using clickers? Here is a recommended syllabus statement.
Learning Objectives and Course Outcomes
- Learning objectives describe what the student is expected to achieve by the end of the course (course level objectives) or end of the lesson (lesson level objectives). To begin, a good question to ask is, “what do I want my students to be able to do at the end of this course?” Or even, “what do I want for these students to be able to do three years after they have taken this course?”
- Need help with creating learning objectives? Or understanding how to use Bloom’s Taxonomy to write effective learning objectives?
- List major course assignments and assessments such as essays, exams, online homework, in class assignments, quizzes, etc.
- Include due dates and instructions (such as citation requirements, resources, formatting guidelines, etc) or rubrics, and supplemental material.
- Include policies on late assignments, missed exams/make-up exams, etc. It may also be a good idea to have these policies listed prominently in a “course policies” section (see below).
- Need some tips on increasing engagement through innovative course activities?
- Did you know you can create quizzes, tests, and assignments on Blackboard?
Assessment and Grading Criteria
- Be sure to list the point values and grading criteria for each assignment or exam.
- Include your point scale, i.e. what constitutes an A, B, etc.
- Did you know that you can create interactive rubrics in Blackboard?
- Did you know that you can now give in-class Blackboard exams instead of relying on scantrons? Ask us how!
- Provide a schedule of topics you will cover in each course. This is essentially a road map of the course. You should include topics, assignments, and required reading for each class.
- Things may change throughout the semester and you can update the schedule as needed but it is useful for students to know what is expected of them before class and in each class.
Personal Course Policies
List personal course policies such as:
- Late policies: including missing or late homework, quizzes, or tests.
- Electronic device policies: This may include use of cell phones, laptops, recording devices, etc. Using Clickers? You may include a Clicker Policy on your syllabus to prevent instances of academic dishonesty.
- Lecture recording policies: Do you allow students to record your lectures? If so, do you have certain restrictions or policies regarding posting or disseminating the recordings. It may be a good idea to have students sign an agreement in advance with any requirements you may have.
- Discussion/participation policies: It is generally a good idea to set out guidelines for class and online discussions. What sorts of expectations do you have regarding civility, etiquette, disagreements, language, etc?
- Classroom policies: What sort or behavior do you expect from students? This can range from participation to discussion to engagement to preparation. Here is a faculty suggestion on outlining expectations for students and you!
- Inclement weather/class cancellation policies: Do you have a policy regarding inclement weather? For instance, if Fayetteville public schools are closed, do you cancel class? If University buses are not running do you cancel class? How will you notify students in case of class cancellations (i.e. through email, Blackboard, etc.)?
- Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Classroom Conduct: This would be a good place to include information about etiquette and acceptable/unacceptable course behaviors.
- Diversity and Inclusion Statement: Having a statement on your syllabus about diversity and inclusion and what that means for you is often meaningful for students. Brown has a good example of such an statement.
College Accreditation Information
Sometimes your college may require certain accreditation information to be included in your syllabus. This information can be obtained by contacting your Dean’s office, program officer, or department chair.
You may wish to include additional resources for students on your syllabus. Below are a few examples of useful campus resources.
- Center for Learning and Student Success Class+: The Center for Learning and Student Success (CLASS+) works with students to refine and strengthen the academic skills necessary for success at the University of Arkansas. Call 479.575.2885 or visit the office in Gregson Hall, or visit their website.
- Writing Center: CLASS+ Writing Support provides one-on-one tutoring assistance. You can work with writing tutors in person or upload your paper for online feedback. Writing tutors help you learn revision strategies for developing your academic and professional writing skills. Schedule a free online or in-person appointment. Call 479-575-6747 or email email@example.com. 315 Kimpel Hall, or visit their website.
- Center for Education Access: The Center for Educational Access (CEA) serves as the central campus resource for the University community in regards to students with disabilities and accommodations to remove barriers to access. Call 479-575-3104 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. 209 Arkansas Union, or visit their website.
- Counseling and Psychological Services: The staff of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) works with members of the University to help solve problems, understand themselves, grow personally, develop more satisfying relationships with friends and family and help with other mental health issues. Services are provided by licensed psychologists, counselors, and social workers.Call 479-575-5276 to make an appointment, or visit their website. 24 hour emergency service available, Call (479) 575-5276.
- Research Librarians: Ask a Librarian! Text: 479-385-0803, Call: 479-575-6645, email: email@example.com, or live chat! Visit their website.
- Full Circle Pantry: The Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry is available as a free grocery assistance center for all U of A students, staff, and faculty. Full Circle is located on the backside of Walton Residence Hall and is open Mondays from 11a-3p, Wednesdays from 3p-5p, and Thursdays from 10a-2p. If you need assistance outside of these hours, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an alternate time. For more information visit fullcircle.uark.edu or email email@example.com.
University Recommended Policies for Syllabus
The University of Arkansas has several policies that are recommended for inclusion in syllabi. Below are some examples of policies that should be included.
Violence/Active Shooter (CADD)
- CALL: 9-1-1
- AVOID: If possible, self-evacuate to a safe area outside the building. Follow directions of police officers.
- DENY: Barricade the door with desk, chairs, bookcases, or any other items available in the space. Move to a place inside the room where you are not visible. Turn off the lights and remain quiet. Remain there until told by police it’s safe.
- DEFEND: Use chairs, desks, cell phones or whatever is immediately available to distract and/or defend yourself and others from attack.
Inclement Weather (Tornado Warning)
Each faculty member should include an inclement weather policy and plan on the course syllabus. The campus has an inclement weather policy (link below), though faculty are encouraged to augment the policy to meet any unique needs of courses or students. In general, students need to know how and when they will be notified in the event that class is cancelled for weather-related reasons. http://safety.uark.edu/inclement-weather/
- Follow the directions of the instructor or emergency personnel.
- Seek shelter in the basement or interior room or hallway on the lowest floor, putting as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
- If you are in a multi-story building and you cannot get to the lowest floor, pick a hallway in the center of the building.
- Stay in the center of the room, away from exterior walls, windows, and doors.
- For more on emergency information, visit emergency.uark.edu
The University of Arkansas has a campus-wide alert system for any hazardous conditions that may arise on campus. To learn more and to sign up, visit their website.
A complete list and brief description of academic support programs can be found on the University’s Academic Support site, along with links to the specific services, hours, and locations. Faculty are encouraged to be familiar with these programs and to assist students with finding and using the support services that will help them be successful.http://www.uark.edu/academics/academic-support.php
“Education at the university level requires active involvement in the learning process. Therefore students have the responsibility to attend classes and to actively engage in all learning assignments or opportunities provided in their classes. Instructors have the responsibility to provide a written policy on student attendance that is tied to course objectives and included in a course syllabus. There may be times, however, when illness, family crisis, or university-sponsored activities make full attendance or participation impossible. In these situations students are responsible for making timely arrangements with the instructor to make up work missed. Such arrangements should be made in writing and prior to the absence when possible.”
“Examples of absences that should be considered excusable include those resulting from the following: 1) illness of the student, 2) serious illness or death of a member of the student’s immediate family or other family crisis, 3) University-sponsored activities for which the student’s attendance is required by virtue of scholarship or leadership/participation responsibilities, 4) religious observances (see Students’ Religious Observances policy below), 5) jury duty or subpoena for court appearance, and 6) military duty. The instructor has the right to require that the student provide appropriate documentation for any absence for which the student wishes to be excused.” from Attendance Policy in the Faculty Handbook
All faculty are encouraged by the Provost to include the recommended Academic Honesty Syllabus Statement on every course syllabus. The statement can be found on the Provost’s website, along with the full Academic Integrity Policy. It is important for faculty to be able to provide students with answers about their questions related to academic honesty, as well as providing very specific application of the policy for assignments in their courses. For guidance, faculty are encouraged to study the sanction rubric, as well as answers to “what if?” questions.
“As a core part of its mission, the University of Arkansas provides students with the opportunity to further their educational goals through programs of study and research in an environment that promotes freedom of inquiry and academic responsibility. Accomplishing this mission is only possible when intellectual honesty and individual integrity prevail.”
“Each University of Arkansas student is required to be familiar with and abide by the University’s ‘Academic Integrity Policy’ which may be found at provost.uark.edu Students with questions about how these policies apply to a particular course or assignment should immediately contact their instructor.” From honesty.uark.edu/faculty/
Want more suggestions on promoting academic integrity in your class? Check out our posts on academic integrity.
Statement Regarding Note Selling
“There are companies that will try to lure you into selling the notes you take in this class. Don’t let these companies take advantage of you. Selling my notes to any commercial service I will consider a violation of my intellectual property rights and/or copyright law as well as a violation of the U of A’s academic integrity policy. Continued enrollment in this class signifies intent to abide by the policy. Any violation will be reported to the Office of Academic Initiatives and Integrity.” From Honesty.uark.edu/faculty/
Disability Related Accommodation Statement
“University of Arkansas Academic Policy Series 1520.10 requires that students with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodations to ensure their equal access to course content. If you have a documented disability and require accommodations, please contact me privately at the beginning of the semester to make arrangements for necessary classroom adjustments. Please note, you must first verify your eligibility for these through the Center for Educational Access (contact 479–575–3104 or visit cea.uark.edu for more information on registration procedures).” From CEA Syllabus Statement
Reminder About Concealed Carry on Campus
Faculty who would like to include information about concealed carry on campus as a part of their syllabi are encouraged to use the Campus Carry Statement below.
Reminder About Concealed Carry on Campus
Handguns are only allowed on campus (including all classrooms) to the extent specifically authorized by state law. Each individual who lawfully possesses a handgun and an enhanced carry permit is required to keep the handgun concealed from public view at all times and is responsible for carrying the handgun in a safe manner.
If an individual carries a concealed handgun in a personal carrier such as a backpack, purse, or handbag, the carrier must remain within the individual’s immediate vicinity (within arm’s reach). During this course, you may be required to engage in activities that may require you to separate from your belongings such as taking a quiz or examination, and thus you should plan accordingly. Any student who violates the concealed carry laws while on campus may be subject to criminal prosecution and/or discipline by the University, up to and including dismissal. If you observe someone displaying a handgun or other weapon on campus, it should be reported to the University of Arkansas Police Department.
For more information, please go to safety.uark.edu.
Online Course Syllabi
Online Courses and Quality Matters (QM)
- If you teach an online course, there are additional requirements for your syllabus. The University of Arkansas has adopted the Quality Matters (QM) rubric as a resource to help our online courses meet national standards and best practices. The rubric focuses on the form and function of the course while allowing a lot of flexibility and leaves the content up to the instructor. You can also send your course for QM review.
- The Global Campus has resources specifically designed to assist with creating syllabi for online courses.
- While QM standards are requirements for all online courses at the University of Arkansas, the syllabus information is useful for all university courses whether you are lecture based, blended, or fully online.
Reminders for Online Courses Using QM Standards
There are eight general standards required for Quality Matters.
- Course Overview and Introduction
- Instructors should include general course information and layout of the online course. Things such as class etiquette, technology requirements, and pre-requisite knowledge should be included.
- Learning Objectives (Competencies)
- All learning objectives should be clearly stated from the learner perspective and indicate how it relates to the course. Learning objectives should be measurable and easily understandable.
- Assessment and Measurement
- Assessments actually measure learner competencies and are clearly and consistently stated. The course grading policy should also be clearly stated.
- Instructional Materials
- All instructional materials must be listed, explained, and contribute to course goals.
- Course Activities and Learner Interaction
- Course activities should contribute to active learning, align with stated standards, and all learner requirements should be clearly stated.
- Course Technology
- All information should be useful, current, and contribute to the course. All technology should be readily available to students and all links to privacy policies of technology used in the course should be provided.
- Learner Support
- Course instructions provide information on how to obtain support for the course. This includes technology and learning support.
- Accessibility and Usability
- The course provides alternate formats of material, is easily readable, and information on accessibility is provided.
More on Writing a Syllabus
- Lynda.com Learn to Write a Syllabus provides training on writing an effective syllabus.
More on Learning Objectives
More on Accessibility
More on Teaching Tools
More on Diversity and Inclusion
Online Resources For Diversity and Inclusion in Teaching
- Controversial Topics in the Classroom
- Diversity and Inclusion in College Classroom
- Center for advancing-faculty-excellence UAA
- Practical Strategies for Teaching to a diverse student body
- Classroom Atmosphere Diversity and Inclusion
- Inclusive Classroom
- Building Inclusive Classroom: Strategies
- An approach for teaching Diversity
- Creating an Inclusive Climate
- Resources Inclusive Teaching
- Inclusive Teaching Resources
- Difficult Dialogues
- Teaching International Students
- Equity Literacy – More than Celebrating Diversity
- Multicultural Pavillion Awareness Activities
- Teaching beyond the Gender Binary
- Start Talking
- High Impact Practices
- Creating Inclusive Classroom
- Harvard Implicit Bias Test
- Perception.org Science of Equality
- Scientific American How Diversity Makes us Smarter
- Preventive Strategies for Effective Classrooms
- Increasing Inclusivity in Classroom
- Inclusivity and Teaching
- Critical Multicultural Pavillion Resources
- Gender and Race of Faculty in Student Evaluation
- ‘Ask Me’: What LGBTQ Students Want Their Professors to Know