The course syllabus documents the weekly learning topics and provides students with a “map” or path identifying when and how course content is covered. The syllabus also sets students expectations for workload by outlining assessment items and due dates.  A syllabus can provide incentive for involvement for both teachers and students since it makes clear where the participants will “wind up” at the end of the semester (Duffy & Jones, 1995). A syllabus should reflect thoughtful course and instructional planning, which facilitates achievement of course learning outcomes and should be revisited with each course delivery.

A syllabus is an instructional tool with the following goals:

  • Provide basic information (i.e. teacher’s name, office location, e-mail address, voice mail).syllabus
  • Provide students with a course “map” or path, identifying what they will be doing, when and how they will be doing it, and when and how their performance will be evaluated.
  • Communicate a teacher’s educational philosophy and instructional approach.
  • Serve as a course contract between the teacher and the students.
  • Address general questions students might have about the course (i.e. What can I expect to learn? How will I learn it? What will it take to be successful? How will I be evaluated? What are the important dates? Whom do I contact with questions or difficulties?)

When creating a course syllabus it is important to consider the following questions:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What are the learning goals?
  • What are your learning objectives and outcomes?
  • What types of content comprise your course?
  • What are your learning objects and activities?
  • What types of face-to-face interactions do you want to have with learners?
  • What types of online interactions?
  • What types of interactions do you want learners to have with each other?
  • How will your assessments demonstrate that learners have achieved the learning objectives?
  • What campus resources and technology support are available to students?

Reflection on practice

  1. What are faculty, who are teaching the same course or teaching similar courses in your program area, including in their syllabus?
  2. How can you communicate all the information clearly and concisely in a way that engages students with different learning styles?
  3. How will you distribute the syllabus (i.e. on Blackboard and/or in class), and how will you make students aware of the information in it?

Ideas for implementation

Things to consider Including in your syllabus:

Required content (requirements may vary depending on program area)Georgian College Chevron
  • Course description that addresses what students can expect to learn in the course, how they will learn it, and why the course might be of value to them
  • Faculty information (i.e. name, office location and hours, phone number, e-mail address and how you manage e-mail communication)
  • Clear, concise listings of learning goals and objectives
  • List of major assignments and due dates
  • Class and/or activity schedule
  • Sequence of topics to be covered
  • Evaluation procedures (i.e. type and number of assignments, % value for each, grading criteria)
  • Pre-requisite knowledge and/or skills needed to be successful in the course
  • Required instructional resources (i.e. texts, tools, software, etc.)
  • Recommended instructional resources (i.e. books, articles, web sites, videos)
  • Course policies and procedures (i.e. missed test policy; assignment deadline policies; academic policies for plagiarism, cheating, etc.; code of conduct and human rights policies, acceptable use policy) Review Georgian College Academic Regulations.
  • Expectations for successful participation in the class
Additional items consider includingGeorgian College Chevron
  • Descriptions of each topic, including the learning outcomes that will be addressed and how assignments and learning activities will help students achieve the learning outcomes
  • The teacher’s educational philosophy and instructional methods used in the course (i.e. How much of the course will consist of lectures? cooperative learning? problem-solving activities? individual or group assignments? online tasks? labs? tutorials? etc.)
  • Support services that are available and how to access them (i.e. OLC Blackboard assistance, LRC, Write-On, Click-On, Math-Lab, Peer Tutoring, Student Services, etc.)
  • Tips and strategies for successful learning (i.e. learning strategies, study/reading, notetaking)
  • Additional learning activities available such as field trips, guest speakers
  • Comments about the classroom atmosphere and how it will be sustained
  • Participation expectations (including what the students’ responsibilities are when they miss a class – i.e. buddy system, notes on BB)
  • Grade information (i.e. recording sheet, how and when they will be posted, how to calculate)
  • Calendar that includes important course, program, department, and college dates
Incorporating the syllabus as instructional contentGeorgian College Chevron

According to Patricia Cross (2003), a syllabus creates an opportunity for a lively and involved discussion about a course. She suggests passing out the syllabus and asking students to work in groups to generate questions about it. Use a class discussion of goals to identify, clarify, and perhaps modify course road map. If student goals differ from course goals consider how students can realize personal goals (i.e. through term papers or special projects).

Other ideas for getting students to interact with the syllabusGeorgian College Chevron
  • Mini-quiz about the content of the syllabus (in class or on Blackboard)
  • A scavenger hunt type activity that gets students working in teams to find certain information presented in or relevant to the syllabus
  • Present the syllabus as a first draft, and then involve students in writing or determining certain aspects of the syllabus (i.e. writing a particular policy, designing a grading scheme for one aspect of the course)
  • Present the syllabus as a working document, and ask students to e-mail you within a certain time frame with any questions or concerns that they would like considered before the final draft (i.e. conflicting dates, problematic areas, weighting, additional options for assignments)
  • Attach a sign-off sheet to the syllabus that students sign and hand in saying they have read it

Syllabus examples

Writing a syllabus


Duffy, D. K., & Jones, J. W. (1995). Teaching within the Rhythms of the Semester. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. Jossey-Bass Inc., 350 Sansome St., San Francisco, CA 94104.

Grunet_O’Brien, J., Millis, B.J., & Cohen, M.W. (2008). The course syllabus: A learning-centered approach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

University of Minnesota. (2006) Syllabus tutorial. Retrieved from