Ideas about the structure, necessary components, and purpose of a syllabus can vary across institutions and even from faculty member to faculty member. This page was created in collaboration between the University of Vermont Faculty Senate Curricular Affairs Committee (CAC) and the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). It summarizes the main components of a UVM syllabus and emphasizes the role of the syllabus in fostering clear communication between faculty and students regarding course goals, structure, expectations and/or requirements, schedule, and policies. These basic elements should not be altered significantly once the syllabus has been made available to students.
These guidelines are not intended to limit the inclusion of additional elements on a syllabus. Some faculty may wish to include information about their teaching philosophy, the role of a particular course in a program or course sequence, or other information specific to their college, teaching style, or course design.
The University of Illinois has a helpful page that offers a deeper discussion of the functions of the syllabus:
- Course title, course number, section, credit hours
- Semester/year, meeting place, and time
- Instructor name, contact info, office hours, and location
- Teaching Assistant name(s) and/or Lab coordinator name(s), contact info, office hours
- Tutors and other support name(s), contact info, location
- Pre-requisites, if necessary
- General education (e.g. D1) or other requirements satisfied, if applicable
- Notes on courses that may duplicate credit, if necessary (Note: It is important to ensure that this information is updated yearly and is as complete as possible.)
The course description should give students an overview of this course. This usually includes:
- the purpose of the course
- main concepts, knowledge areas, topics covered and/or questions explored in the class
- how the course topics relate to each other
- how the course will be structured (e.g. lectures, labs, group work, etc.)
You may choose to describe the types of teaching/learning experiences in the course. This information may also be incorporated in your Course Description.
Learning objectives clearly state what skills or knowledge students should have mastered upon completion of the course. Generally speaking, they should focus on the main concepts covered in the class and how those concepts can be applied. Learning objectives can be framed by the clause “After completing this course the student will be able to:” (followed by the list of learning objectives). If applicable, faculty may indicate in this section professional standards for their field that align with course objectives. For more information on drafting course-level learning objectives, see Writing Learning Objectives.
Required Course Materials
- Books and availability (e.g. library reserve, bookstore etc.)
- Articles (on reserve, linked, coursepack, etc.)
- Media (location of required films, audio, etc.)
- Required software (provide links for download) and internet access requirements
- Other required equipment or materials and where to purchase them (e.g. iClicker)
Attendance & Classroom Expectations
- Attendance and participation expectations, percentage of course grade (if applicable), and how these will be tracked or assessed
- Emphasize what work is expected to be completed before class (e.g. readings, homework, etc.) and where to find the schedule of readings and assignments
- In certain circumstances, faculty may want to outline specific policies regarding confidentiality of classroom discussions, ground rules for face to face or online interactions, or other policies related to classroom conduct.
Blackboard or other course site (e.g. textbook-linked homework or testing site)
- Clearly indicate how Blackboard will be used
- Give instructions on how to access any other websites that will be used in the course
- If any sites require setting up an additional account, include instructions for registration or, if providing a separate instructions document, indicate where and how students can find it
- Grade components (percentages or point values for different types of graded work)
- Late policy and any other grading policies (e.g. letter grade ranges; exam curving)
Assessments (Graded Work)
- Brief descriptions of homework/assignments, projects, papers, and any other graded work. You may choose to include a description of the instructional goal or purpose for each assessment category, as well any specific policies (e.g. papers must be typed, double-spaced).
- An explanation of the exam structure and policies
- A summary of due dates for assignments and exam dates
Include a statement that all students are expected to complete an evaluation of the course at its conclusion. Indicate that the evaluations will be anonymous and confidential, and that the information gained, including constructive criticisms, will be used to improve the course.
A course schedule should include all class meeting dates and topics, readings, due dates, and exam dates. If there are additional out-of-class activities or events that students are expected to attend, these should be included on the course schedule as well. There are many different ways to organize your course schedule (e.g. weekly list, chart/grid, color-coded table). We recommend that you present it in the format that you think will be most clear for your students.
NOTE: Faculty may choose to separate the course information and policies section from the Course Schedule. These may be posted or distributed as one document or as separate documents, however it is important that both general course information and specific information about course meeting dates, due dates, and materials to prepare are provided to students at the beginning of the semester. Additional sections listed below could be included in your syllabus or be posted separately.
Statement about Alcohol and Cannabis Use
The Division of Student Affairs has offered the following statement on alcohol and cannabis use that faculty may choose to include, or modify for inclusion, in their syllabus or Blackboard site.
Statement on Alcohol and Cannabis in the Academic Environment
As a faculty member, I want you to get the most you can out of this course. You play a crucial role in your education and in your readiness to learn and fully engage with the course material. It is important to note that alcohol and cannabis have no place in an academic environment. They can seriously impair your ability to learn and retain information not only in the moment you may be using, but up to 48 hours or more afterwards. In addition, alcohol and cannabis can:
- Cause issues with attention, memory and concentration
- Negatively impact the quality of how information is processed and ultimately stored
- Affect sleep patterns, which interferes with long-term memory formation
It is my expectation that you will do everything you can to optimize your learning and to fully participate in this course.
Tips for Success (optional)
These might include:
- Course-specific study/preparation tips
- Helpful resources other than the professor (e.g. Supplemental Instruction, Learning Co-op tutors, supplemental course materials)
Visual or Other Representation of the Course (optional)
Some faculty provide a diagram or sketch representing the course structure; this can help students better understand how parts of a course relate to each other.