The syllabus provides basic information about course content, activities and assignments planned for the term, and information about how to contact the instructor. The syllabus establishes the instructor’s expectations, policies, and procedures for the course. It identifies what content will be taught and when it will be taught, what assignments and exams students must complete, how assignments and exams will be used to compute grades, the instructor’s specific rules regarding management of the class, including expectations about attendance and participation in class, and the consequences for students who turn in late assignments, miss exams, or show evidence of cheating and other forms of academic misconduct.
A well-crafted syllabus sends students the message that the instructor is organized, cares about student learning, and will create effective learning experiences. A syllabus should provide clear and explicit expectations for student learning and establish procedures and guidelines for typical problems and requests posed by students. In the absence of a clear syllabus, instructors must continuously negotiate decisions about deadlines, make-up work, extra credit, and other special requests from students. When an instructor simply applies rules described in the syllabus to a current request or problem, the actions taken are clearly justified and students are unlikely to believe that decisions were driven by personal characteristics of the student. In contrast, an instructor who makes these decisions on an as-needed basis risks treating students inconsistently or appearing to act in an arbitrary or capricious manner. Faculty can avoid many conflicts by communicating policies in their syllabus and following these policies consistently. A well-documented syllabus does not preclude exceptions for unusual circumstances that justify adjustments to policies. But a well-documented syllabus helps faculty respond to student requests in a consistent and fair manner that minimizes complaints and grievances.
The Faculty Senate and University policies establish expectations about the content of course syllabi at the University of West Florida. These guidelines describe these expected components and additional components associated with “best practices” in course design and syllabus construction. Although some best practice components will not be relevant to or appropriate for some courses, faculty should include all components identified as expected elements.
UWF course identification
Course prefix and number (e.g., CHM 2045) and course title
Semester and year the course was offered using this syllabus (e.g., Spring 2012)
Describe the days and times when you will be available to meet with students in your office to discuss the course or provide advising. Expectations about faculty availability during office hours vary across departments. Check with your department about the number of office hours you should schedule each week.
List of required and recommended readings
Provide complete bibliographic information for all required textbooks, including the title, author(s), publisher, edition number, publication date, and other information needed to identify the specific textbook or textbooks required for each course. Model the preferred citation style used by your discipline by formatting citations for course textbooks and readings in this publication style.
Catalog description for the course
Include the full description for the course included in the UWF academic catalog. Identify course numbers and titles of any pre-requisite or co-requisite courses.
List of student learning outcomes (SLOs) for the course
Student learning outcomes (SLOs) should be written in active language and describe student behaviors or quality of student work using language that suggests a direct measure of the learning. Direct measures based on what students say (make a classroom presentation, participate in discussions) or do (answer exam questions, write a paper, solve homework problems, design a research project, produce a creative work) can assess what students know, understand, think, or feel. The CUTLA resource page, Writing Student Learning Outcomes for Course Syllabi, describes how to write course- and program-level SLOs and includes a list of action words (PDF) that will assist you in writing measurable SLOs.
Instructors tend to focus on the content of a course and neglect important disciplinary skills and attitudes when writing student learning outcomes for a syllabus. Make these implicit goals explicit by writing SLOs related to disciplinary skills (use of a specific disciplinary style for writing or other professional communication, authorship practices, laboratory procedures, studio techniques) and attitudes (professional conduct in the discipline, disciplinary habits of thinking and using evidence, values associated with disciplinary work).
Every course that is required for completion of a specific degree program should include one or more course student learning outcomes that are meaningfully related to one or more of the program-level SLOs identified for the degree program. Program-level SLOs are described in the Academic Learning Compact (ALC) for undergraduate programs and Academic Learning Plan (ALP) for graduate programs. Instructors can also consult the curriculum map for a degree program to determine the contribution a specific course makes to the achievement of program-level SLOs for that degree program. Links to repositories for program curriculum maps are found on the ALC and ALP pages on the CUTLA web site.
Description of topics covered
Catalog descriptions for courses are frequently short and sometimes cryptic. Use this section of the syllabus to provide a more complete description of the course content.
Information about exams and grading procedures
Identify all exams, assignments, and other graded work. Describe how graded work will be weighted to determine the final grade in the course.
Course policy regarding proctored exams
For online courses and any course in which a major exam (e.g., midterm or final exams) is administered in eLearning, describe course policy regarding proctored exams. The Faculty Senate Proctoring Policy for Exams in Online Courses describes procedures that should be followed for the administration of significant exams in online courses. The policy requests that faculty include information on the course syllabus to identify specific exam dates, times, and procedures for taking the exams and the projected costs to the student associated with arranging for proctored exams (e.g., costs associated with using ProctorU for secure exam proctoring). Instructors must also post information about the use of proctored exams for students in Classmate, the online course registration system. To post information in Classmate, log into MyUWF, select the Classmate App and then click on the Syllabus/Tech Codes link under Action to open an interface for uploading your syllabus. This interface also includes drop-down menus that allow instructors to set technology codes for their course, including a code for exam proctoring.
Attendance policy for the course
Keep the University Attendance Policy in mind when establishing your course policy about absences (Faculty Handbook, p. 34). The University identifies absences due to participation in extracurricular activities in which students are official representatives of the University (such as athletic events), religious holy days, and legal responsibilities (jury duty, court appearances) are recognized as excused absences. In contrast, individual instructors determine whether serious emergencies such as a student’s serious illness, death or serious illness within the student’s immediate family, military obligations, and other reasons will be accepted as excused absences. Students must make arrangements with their instructors for any assignments or tests that may be missed because of an excused absence before any scheduled absence for a University-sponsored event (p. 26, UWF Student Planner and Handbook).
If you excuse absences for a serious emergency, describe the procedures a student with a serious emergency must follow. For example, describe when the student (or the student’s representative) must notify you and when the student must make arrangements to make up a missed exam or other assignment. Describe any documentation you require from students who request an excused absence.
Statement about academic conduct and plagiarism
The Student Code of Conduct sets forth the rules, regulations, and expected behavior of students enrolled at the University of West Florida. Violations of any rules, regulations, or behavioral expectations may result in a charge of violating the Student Code of Conduct. It is the student’s responsibility to read the Student Code of Conduct and comply with these expectations. The Academic Misconduct Policy (2009) defines various forms of academic misconduct and describes the procedures an instructor should follow when he or she suspects that a student has violated the Academic Misconduct Policy.
The University of Delaware Office of Student Conduct has a useful resource page on academic honesty and disruptive classroom behavior. This page includes useful suggestions for language that might be used on a course syllabus to describe the University policy on academic misconduct.
Notify students of your intention to review student work for authenticity with Turnitin
A notice on the course syllabus about the possible use of Turnitin or other methods for checking authenticity of authorship can motivate students to take greater care in adhering to good authorship practices. A "best practice" in syllabus construction is to include a statement on the course syllabus if you intend to submit any written work by students to the Turnitin service to evaluate text for originality. Consider including a reference to the UWF Turnitin website to inform students about how the service works. Instructors have the right to investigate the authenticity of student work with a variety of research tools. Consider describing other tools you might use to validate authorship of written material.
The Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) requests that all instructors include the following statement on their syllabus to inform students with special needs about how to request appropriate accommodations.
Recommended Statement for Student Disability Resource Center
The University of West Florida supports an inclusive learning environment for all students. If there are aspects of the instruction or design of this course that hinder your full participation, such as time-limited exams, inaccessible web content, or the use of non-captioned videos and podcasts, reasonable accommodations can be arranged. Prior to receiving accommodations, you must register with the Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) at http://uwf.edu/offices/student-disability-resource-center/forms/sdrc-forms/. Appropriate academic accommodations will be determined based on the documented needs of the individual. For information regarding the registration process, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 850.474.2387.
Information for course continuity following a campus emergency
The following statement may be included on the syllabus to inform students about University closures and how course work will be handled during and following an emergency or natural disaster. Some instructors develop contingency plans for personal emergencies such as onset of a serious health problem during a term.
Because each course in General Studies has been approved to meet specific learning outcomes associated with the General Studies curriculum, the course student learning outcomes listed on the syllabus must include learning outcomes that align with the identified General Studies learning outcomes and include assignments that will serve as embedded assessments for these learning outcomes. Courses must also include learning outcomes that align with the contribution the course makes to other program learning outcomes (e.g., if the course is a required course in the major). Instructors may include additional course learning outcomes that align with individual instructor learning goals.
All courses in General Studies should include the following statement on the course syllabus:
[Course Name] is designated as a General Studies course. The General Studies curriculum at the University of West Florida is designed to provide a cohesive program of study that promotes the development of a broadly educated person and provides the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in university studies. This course has been approved as meeting your requirement in the [Name of Area] area. The major General Studies learning outcomes for this course are [Domain Name 1] and [Domain Name 2].
If you are interested in a major in [your academic program] you should contact the [your academic department] at [department main phone number]. If you are undecided about you major you should contact your academic advisor or the Career Center at 850-474-2254.
An instructor teaching a course in General Psychology, for example, would edit this paragraph as follows:
General Psychology is designated as a General Studies course. The General Studies curriculum at the University of West Florida is designed to provide a cohesive program of study that promotes the development of a broadly educated person and provides the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in university studies. This course has been approved as meeting your requirement in the Behavioral area. The major General Studies learning outcomes for this course are Analysis/Evaluation and Ethical Reasoning.
If you are interested in a major in psychology you should contact the School of Psychological and Behavioral Sciences at 850-474-2364. If you are undecided about you major you should contact your academic advisor or the Career Center at 850-474-2254.
In the case of severe weather or other emergency, the campus might be closed and classes cancelled. Official closures and delays are announced on the UWF website and broadcast on WUWF-FM.
Weather Emergency Information
Calendar of important events
Provide a calendar of dates for scheduled exams and due dates for other graded assignments. Instructors can give themselves flexibility by identifying a range of dates as the tentative scheduling window for a major exam or indicate that specific dates are subject to change.
Sample Syllabus (PDF)
Quick Guide to Syllabus Construction (PDF)
Link to a two page PDF document that describes the basics of syllabus content.
Class meeting time and location
Identify the room number and building where the class will meet. Identify the scheduled times and days of the week when the class will meet.
ISBN numbers for textbooks
The University complies with the Florida Textbook Affordability Act (2008) by posting ISBN numbers for all required textbooks on the University Bookstore web site. Include ISBN numbers for required texts on the syllabus to increase the accessibility of this information to students.
Identify specialized software, technology, technology skills, and study strategies students will need to succeed in the course
Identify special skills with technology or software required to complete assigned work in the class. Describe study strategies that promote successful learning in your course. Some instructors encourage students to form study groups or use publisher-sponsored web sites with free study resources.
The academic course search pages on the UWF web site include icons for each course that allow students to view the course syllabus, determine whether the course is an eLearning course or a distance learning course (and whether the instructor will be present in the location for that section), determine the extent of computer use expected in the course, and identify other technology needs associated with the course (special software available only in a lab, Elluminate, need to purchase a clicker, use of proctored exams, and other specialized software or technology needs).
If you expect students to use specific technology in your course, identify these needs on your syllabus and set the appropriate technology codes for the course. After logging into MyUWF, select the Classmate App and then click on the Syllabus/Tech Codes link under Action to open an interface for uploading your syllabus. This interface also includes drop-down menus that allow instructors to set technology codes for their course. When a technology code is selected, the appropriate icon will appear in the course search output for this course. A full list of the technology codes is available in Nautical.
Describe resources on campus where students can ask for assistance
Describe resources available to students at UWF for tutoring, assistance with technology, or other assistance (e.g., assistance with writing or conducting library research) that will help students succeed in your course.
Provide information about the Writing Lab for courses with large demands on written work. Describe your expectations about the required editorial style (e.g., APA style, MLA, Chicago Manual of Style, Turabian) if you expect students to use a specific editorial style on written assignments for your course.
Describe your goals for the course and its role in degree programs
Describe your major goals for the course. Course goals might be more global and less easily measured than the course SLOs. Describe how the course contributes to the goals of the degree program(s) in your department, the General Education curriculum, or other degree programs that require this course. For example, you might describe how course SLOs and assignments are related to the program-level SLOs of these programs. Describe any student work that will be used for program-level assessment.
Introduce yourself and describe your professional background
The syllabus is an instructor’s first opportunity to engage students, stimulate interest in course content, and motivate students. New, less experienced faculty can establish their professional credentials with students by briefly describing their academic background and professional skills that are directly related to the course. Briefly described why the course topics interest you or are important for work in the discipline. Discuss why students find this course interesting or useful (either personally or professionally). Give this argument more substance by including one or two comments about the value of the course from previous students.
Instructors have different rules about whether students can use laptops and electronic devices or make recordings during class. Instructors also differ in their preferences about personal behaviors that have an impact on the overall climate of a class. Set a positive tone for civil discourse by establishing ground rules for classroom conduct. A clear description of expectations about classroom behavior creates a firm foundation that helps instructors resolve conflicts should a student violate these expectations.
Do cell phones interrupt your train of thought? Inform your students of your classroom policy about the use of cell phones and other electronic devices. Describe any other student behaviors that you want to regulate during class meetings (eating, side conversations, and expectations about civil interaction when students address other students). Establish your ground rules for class in your syllabus. An example of a paragraph on classroom behavior follows, but individual instructors are free to establish the rules of conduct they need to create a functional atmosphere in their particular classes.
Some instructors hold a discussion during the first class meeting to establish mutual rules of conduct that will promote learning. In this activity, students identify student behaviors that disrupt their ability to concentrate and learn during class. They may also describe instructor behaviors that benefit (or disrupt) their ability to learn. Similarly, instructors contribute their expectations about student demeanor. This discussion helps socialize new students who might be uninformed about appropriate academic behavior and allows the class to reach consensus about how it will function as a community. (See the Get Engaged Teaching Tips Archive - First Day of Class for a discussion of this activity.) An instructor who plans to use this strategy to establish rules of conduct for his or her class might include a brief paragraph describing this activity on the syllabus and describe how you will inform students of the rules that emerge from class discussion. Some instructors will repost the syllabus with the mutually-agreed-upon rules of conduct added.
Sample of a Statement on Classroom Behavior
|Classroom courtesy is essential. Students who attend class are motivated to learn and are annoyed when other students engage in disruptive behavior. Cell phones, beepers, chatting with friends, making noise with food and food wrappings, and similar behaviors are annoying and distracting to other students. Please respect the right of each student to hear and participate in class discussion. Turn off all cell phones and beepers during class (or put them on buzz and sit near the door if a personal emergency requires that you be available to the outside world during class). If you must respond to a call or feel the need to converse with a classmate, please leave the room so that your activities will not disrupt class or interfere with the attention of other students. Student anxiety during an exam increases their sensitivity to noise and distractions. Please be particularly attentive to the effects of your actions and help maintain an appropriate environment during exams.|
Instructor-established policies for the course
Instructors have discretion to establish many course policies. Describe these specific policies on the syllabus. Clear descriptions of course policies on the syllabus will minimize the frequency of special requests from students and will help instructors minimize the time spent negotiating requests on a case-by-case basis.
Examples of common situation for which instructors establish course policies:
Descriptions of specific projects or assignments
Some handouts that describe the requirements for specific assignments and projects can be effectively embedded in the syllabus. These lengthen the syllabus, but including them helps instructors keep track of multiple assignment handouts associated with the course.
If you have a grading key or rubric that describes your expectations and criteria for superior, average, and acceptable work, provide this rubric when the assignment is made to improve the clarity of the assignment instructions and improve the quality of student work. When rubrics or grading keys are too long to include in the syllabus, tell students where these will be posted and encourage students to use the rubric or grading key to evaluate their work before submitting it for grading.
You can find information about Rubric Development on the CUTLA web site.
Contribution of the course to program-level assessment
Describe any course assignments or sections of exams that will be used as data for program-level assessments. This information helps students understand how the course contributes to the learning goals for the program and their development as professionals in the discipline.
Additional information to include on the course calendar
Identify beginning dates for discussions based on readings. Remind students of important University deadlines such as the last day to withdraw with an automatic grade of W. Plan to return at least one evaluation of student work (an exam or assignment) before the course withdrawal deadline passes so students have objective data on which to make their decision to continue with the course or drop.
Additional resources on designing a learning-centered syllabus
Iowa State University
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching
Learning-Centered Syllabi Workshop
In the spirit of providing rubrics for self-evaluation of work, a rubric for evaluating your syllabus is available. The rubric identifies elements of a syllabus described on this resource page that are expected on all UWF syllabi. It also identifies additional elements that characterize best practices for learning-centered syllabi.
Once you establish the structure and procedures for a course in your syllabus, you should avoid adding assignments or examinations or otherwise substantially changing the elements of the course that are critical for determining student grades. Minor adjustments such as when discussion of assigned readings begins and ends or minor alterations of exam dates or assignment due dates can be made as needed. Some instructors will note that dates described on the course calendar are approximate if they anticipate the need for flexible scheduling for the dates.
Substantial changes to the course structure such as revisions to the grading structure and major rescheduling of due dates for important exams and assignments should be made in writing and posted as an addendum to the syllabus. An example of a circumstance that required such substantive change in a syllabus occurred when the University was closed for 3 weeks in the middle of a fall term for recovery from damage associated with Hurricane Ivan. The academic calendar for this term was revised to devote finals week to class meeting time and extend the term one week. Faculty adjusted the remaining schedule of readings, assignments, and exam dates mid-term to accommodate the new academic calendar.
The Faculty Academic Credential System (FACS) database holds faculty qualification information and syllabi. This database contains documentation for compliance with Florida Board of Governors (BoG) and accreditation reporting requirements. The FACS database is accessed by loading the FACS channel in MyUWF or by going to the FACS Homepage.
As soon as the course syllabus is completed, the document should be uploaded to the FACS database. Early posting is encouraged, but syllabi should be uploaded to the FACS system no later than the end of the first week of classes (the end of drop/add week). Once a syllabus is uploaded to FACS, it will be available to students in ClassMate. At the end of each semester, all syllabi are archived in the FACS system as part of UWF’s documentation of assessment strategies and learning outcomes as required for BoG and continued accreditation.
Quick facts about FACS (PDF) and information on how to access the system and upload vitae and syllabi.
Note: These materials are available in the CUTLA library.
Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Davis, B. G. (1993). Tools for teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Diamond, R. M. (2008). Designing and assessing courses and curricula: A practical guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Fink, L. D. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Lang, J. M. (2008). On course: A week-by-week guide to your first semester of college teaching. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Nilson, L. B. (2003). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Anker.
O'Brien, J. G., Millis, B. J., & Cohen, M. W. (2008). The course syllabus: A learning-centered approach (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Svinicki, M., & McKeachie, W. J. (Eds.) (2011). McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (13th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cenage.
Wehlburg, C. M. (2006). Meaningful course revision: Enhancing academic engagement using student learning data. San Francisco: Anker.
Weimer, M. (2002). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Updated 11/26/13 tjf
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