CAS - Langugage lab

Designing Your Course Syllabus

Many of the decisions affecting the success of a course take place well before the first day of class. Careful planning at the syllabus design stage not only makes teaching easier and more enjoyable, it also facilitates student learning. Once your syllabus is complete, teaching involves implementing your course design on a day-to-day level.

Getting Started

  • Consider basic logistical issues, such as how your course fits into the major or department’s curricular goals, how many class meetings times and hours there will be, and what type of classroom space is available. How large is your class? How many credit hours? What time of day will you be teaching? Which delivery mode will you be using (face-to-face, online, hybrid)? What technology is available to you? Is there certain content or other material you must address?
  • Understand your students. What prior knowledge or preparation might they have for your course? What is their personal and intellectual level of development or maturity? How might the cultural differences among your students impact your teaching? What generational experiences and expectations might your students have?
  • Identify your learning objectives or outcomes. Which knowledge and skills do you want your students to acquire by the end of the course? Phrase your objectives using action verbs, such as “Apply theorems to solve problems.&#8221 Make sure the objectives are measurable so that you will know whether students accomplished what you hoped.
  • Align your assessments with your objectives. Examinations, papers, projects, homework assignments, and classroom activities should be crafted to advance and measure the objectives.
  • Identify appropriate teaching approaches, such as lectures, discussions, case studies, service-learning, writing, group or individual projects which will promote the course learning objectives.
  • Consider your course content and schedule. Will holidays or breaks affect your meeting times?

Design Your Syllabus to be Accessible

Follow a few basic steps to help ensure your syllabus is more accessible by individuals with disabilities:

  • Use a sanserif font (e.g. Arial).
  • Create headings and subheading using the built-in heading features of the authoring tool. This enables screen reader users to understand how the page is organized and to navigate effectively.
  • Try to present data in bulleted or numbered lists, rather than tables. Content organized as a list should be created using the list controls that are provided in document authoring tool.
  • Try not to convey information solely through color. Colors that are used should have sufficient contrast.
  • If you add an image to your document, provide alternative text for the image that describes it. Users unable to see images depend on authors to supplement images with alternative text.
  • If you provide a hyperlink in your document to website, use test that describes what the user will see when they click on the link.

Writing the Syllabus

Syllabi communicate the design of the course—its goals, organization, expectations, and requirements—to students. Key components of the syllabus are listed and explained below.

Course Information

Course number, title, term, year, meeting times, and location. You may want to include a course description, whether from the catalog or your own. Give a brief explanation of how the course fits into the larger curriculum: Is this course for majors? Does it meet Global Miami Plan requirements (and which one[s])? Is it part of a Thematic Sequence?

Specify any prerequisites or corequisites.

Clarify the relevance, purpose and scope of the course.

Contact Information

Your name, email address, voicemail number, office location, and office hours.

Materials Needed

Books, course packet, calculator, art supplies, etc. Let students know what materials are required and where they can purchase or access them. Please note: Books purchased via iTunes are not refundable!

Student Learning Outcomes for the Course

These should be tied to the SLOs of the major or degree program and, if applicable, those of Liberal Education. If you know that assignments for your course may be used for program assessment, please notify students that their work may be used for this purpose. The following language (which is taken from the Center for Teaching Excellence website) is suggested:

In addition to being evaluated by your course instructor, this academic work may be:

    • viewed by designated Miami University personnel to gauge broader program achievement within Miami University;
    • short quotations from your work that do not identify you may be included in assessment reports.

Any work that can be connected with you will not be shared with a public audience nor will it be used for other purposes, such as published research, without your explicit written consent.

Assessment data is used by the university to determine how effective we are at cultivating successful students and achieving learning goals, not to evaluate your work as an individual student.

Course Policies

If you have expectations for how the students will conduct themselves in class, articulate them in the syllabus. This is the place to include information about your expectations for attendance, tardiness, personal use of technology, safety procedures in laboratories, class participation as well as return of student work, make-up examinations, and late work.

You may also wish to explain your expectations relating to an inclusive classroom by referring to the Code of Love and Honor.

Instructors are obliged to follow the class attendance policy in the Student Handbook (MUPIM 5.2). 

When possible, provide a reason related to the learning environment. Examples:

Be respectful of your classmates during discussion, as we will be discussing sensitive topics.

No food or drink is permitted during a chemistry lab, as it would be unsafe.

Attendance is vital, as this is a once-a-week seminar discussion class.

Academic Integrity Policy

The following language is taken from the website of the Office of Academic Integrity, miami.muohio.edu/integrity/faculty-resources.html:

As a scholarly community, we must be clear about expectations for academic integrity in the classes we teach. Based on research of best practices for syllabi language, Miami recommends inclusion of the following in a syllabus:

  • A personal statement on the meaning and significance of honesty in the classroom. Such a statement might refer to students' future work in a job in the respective discipline, personal observations on the importance of integrity, etc.
  • Depending on the discipline, a general statement of academic guidelines (e.g., APA, Chicago Manual of Style) that students must use in their academic work.
  • A statement on if, when, and how students may collaborate with one another on assignments, projects, examination preparation, or examinations.
  • A referral to this website as well as other resources students may use in a particular class.
  • A reference to the definitions and penalties for academic dishonesty, located in Chapter 5 of the Student Handbook and on the undergraduate and graduate student pages of this website [MiamiOH.edu/integrity].

Disability Services Information

The Office of Disability Resources suggests that faculty include a statement like this on their syllabus:

If you are a student with a physical, medical and/or psychiatric disability and feel that you may need a reasonable accommodation to fulfill the essential functions of the course that are listed in this syllabus, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Resources at 529-1541 (V/TTY), and students with AD(H)D and/or specific learning disabilities may contact the Office for Learning Disability Services located in the Rinella Learning Center at 529-8741.

Course Calendar or Schedule

Look up the academic calendar on the Registrar’s website so that you are aware of when your class will be meeting. The Registrar assigns final exam dates. You should find the final exam schedule on the Registrar’s website and include the date and time of your final exam on your syllabus.

Identify the key topics, assignments, and exams. Give as much information as you have about the work the students will be doing. You may want to tie the listing of the course activities back to the student learning outcomes for the course. You may want to include rubrics for major assignments here, or you may want to note here that more detailed information about assignments will come later.

You may wish to note that any of the course activities listed in the syllabus may be subject to change under certain circumstances, such as to enhance student learning.

Readings

Provide a list of readings (with full information) and where students might be able to acquire or access them

Assignments

Include a list of assignments, and specify which are graded and how they will be evaluated.

Grading Policy

Build in opportunities for formative feedback, and scaffold assignments carefully. Be clear about how you will calculate the final grade. Is there a set number of points for the semester, or are you using weighted grades? Be sure that what students are graded on, and therefore their course grades, will be tied to the course learning outcomes.

Academic Support

Include a list of resources (including locations, hours) for academic support that can help students to succeed in the course, such as the Rinella Learning Center and Howe Center for Writing Excellence.

Motivating Students to Review Syllabus

  • Introduce the syllabus on the first day of class as a learning activity. Have students review it in class, and create questions or make suggestions for improvement.
  • Be strategic about where you place the syllabus on the Canvas or LMS site so that student can see it easily.
  • If students ask questions that the syllabus answers, ask a student who has the course syllabus to find the answer on the spot.