Syllabi Design


Best Practices in Syllabi Design

There are two models that you can follow: content coverage and backward design. The content coverage model will sound familiar. Determine what content must be covered, oftentimes the choices are shaped by discipline standards and textbooks, then decide how many assignments or exams will be given and fit the details into the school calendar. Backward design begins at the end. Contemplate what outcomes (significant learning experiences) you desire your students to achieve; decide what assessments the students will complete to demonstrate they have achieved the outcomes; develop learning (what the students do) and teaching (what the teacher does) activities; and determine the calendar of what will be completed in and outside of class. For a brief description, read a short essay advocating a backward design approach entitled, "Integrated Course Design," Idea Paper No. 42, and written by L. Dee Fink. Another essay worth reading is Barbara Millis' explanation of deep learning and how it can be promoted in the classroom and in course design, "Promoting Deep Learning," IDEA Paper 47. Seeking additional inspiration? The open access, online journal, Syllabus, includes discussion and sample of syllabi in all disciplines. James Lange, a professor of English at Assumption College, identifies "The 3 Essential Functions of your Syllabus, Part 1, Part 2," which is worth the time to read.

Teaching online?

First, you should design your course according to the principles of backward design, then make decisions about technology. Will the course be hybrid (blended), synchronous, or asynchronous? The Learning Management System at BU is D2L which we call BOLT. What tools can your students make use of through BOLT? How should you set up your BOLT content to make it as user-friendly as possible? For more support, begin a conversation with the IMDC (Instructional Media and Design Center) Staff, who can guide you to resources and people with expertise.

The academic calendar for each semester should be consulted for essential dates: http://intranet.bloomu.edu/academic-calendar.

The schedule of courses for final exams differs from the regular semester: http://intranet.bloomu.edu/registrar/finals

Copyright Your Syllabus

If you have concerns about commercial note-taking and its impact on student learning, or if you want to protect the intellectual property rights of your course content, then you should consider making a policy statement and copyrighting your syllabus. The university does not have a policy prohibiting students selling notes, yet the "Acceptable Use of Technology Policy" (PRP 2550) does prohibit the use of the university network (e.g. eMail, BOLT, etc) for personal financial gain. Kansas State University suggests the following language: "Copyright 20xx ([your name here]) as to this syllabus and all lectures. During this course students are prohibited from selling notes to or being paid for taking notes by any person or commercial firm without the express written permission of the professor teaching this course." By the way, exceptions should be made for Students with Disabilities Center and other note-taking assistance provided to students by the university.

Suggested Checklist of Topics that You Might Include in your Syllabi

Information about you:

  • Office Location;
  • Office Hours;
  • Home Page URL;
  • Your Philosophy about Teaching and Learning;
  • Contact Information;
  • Your Response Time to e-mails;

Information about the Course:

  • Course Goals (e.g. student learning objectives, outcomes, competencies);
  • Course Description;
    How the Course will Fulfill General Education and Program Goals;
  • Explain Relevancy of Course Goals to Life-Long Learning;
    Required Prerequisites;
  • Required Laboratories;

Information about Course Materials:

  • Required Text(s);
  • Additional Required Materials;
  • Explanation of how the course material will be used;
  • Titles and Location of any Online Materials;

Grading Expectations and Assignment Guidelines:

  • Grading Expectations;
  • Grading Scale;
  • Grading Criteria;
  • Point Values for all Graded Assignments
  • List and Explanation of Assignments, Exams, Quizzes;

Information on the Schedule of In- and Out-of-Class Activities:

  • Weekly or Class-by-Class Course Schedule (i.e. Calendar of the Semester);
  • Explanation of How Changes in the Syllabus Will be Announced;

Guiding Students to Support Services on Campus: Tutorial Services Information;

Here is some potential language that you may use:

If you feel you need extra help to improve your academic performance in this or any of your courses, please consider requesting a tutor in University Tutorial Services (UTS). UTS offers peer tutoring at no charge to Bloomsburg University students. The UTS office is located in Warren Student Services Center, Room 13. Provide students with the URL: http://intranet.bloomu.edu/tutoring

Writing and Literacy Engagement Studio (WALES) Information;

Each semester the WALES Director will send you a “blurb” that you could put in your syllabus for students:

“The Writing and Literacy Engagement Studio (WALES), supports students’ growth as writers and readers. We enjoy both easing the writing process for all students of every major and also helping students develop strategies to help them read and make sense of course and research material. We are a free resource for undergraduate and graduate students. Our diverse staff of WALES consultants represent a variety of majors and share the common goal of working with students to develop skills and strategies that help them grow as readers and writers. Students set the agenda for each appointment—whether they’re concerned about getting started on a writing project, or about improving clarity, grammar, organization, citations or any other aspect of writing or the English language. Appointments are highly recommended, but walk-ins are welcome.

WALES consultants are also available to conduct sessions online. Commuting students or any student who wants to work with a consultant but cannot get to one of our locations will be able to reach us online through a link we will provide. Students will be able to speak with consultants and share their documents, usually without having to download any new software. We will be offering workshops and individual tutorials for students who are interested in working with us online.

WALES hours for Spring 2019

  • In Bakeless 206, Mon.—Thurs. from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm and Fridays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
  • In the Elwell lobby area, Sun.—Thurs. from 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm.
  • In Andruss (Schweiker Room), Sun.—Thurs. from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

You can drop in to Bakeless 206 or request an appointment through email: wales@bloomu.edu. Visit their website (www.bloomu.edu/wales) for more information.”

Accommodations for Students is managed through the Department of Equity and Accommodations (http://intranet.bloomu.edu/equity-accommodations). They suggest the following language for your syllabus:

Bloomsburg University values inclusion and seeks to create a climate of respect and the full participation and access for all students. It is the University’s policy and practice to provide reasonable accommodations for students with properly documented disabilities according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Students who have questions about these university services or have a disability are encouraged to visit the Department of Equity and Accommodations in the Warren Student Services Center, Room 043 or by contacting the department staff at 570-389-4491.

Library Research Help Information

The Andruss Library faculty and staff provide many useful links and library research tutorials. Here is a section of the Library’s webpage intended for faculty: http://guides.library.bloomu.edu/LibraryServices/faculty

Relevant Policies and Procedures:

You should contemplate and articulate policies on the following topics:

  • Instructional Technology Requirements;
    Policies on Cell Phone and Laptop Usage;
  • Civility in the Classroom
  • Tardiness Policies;
    Policies on Late or Missed Assignments and Exams;
    Syllabus Copyright Statement;
  • Some faculty participate in Safe Zone or Military Green Zone Training and you might include language suggested by them;
  • Legal Caveat or Disclaimer Indicating the Syllabus is Subject to Change;
  • Privacy Rights (FERPA)

To learn more about the university’s policies and procedures, consult the list at: http://intranet.bloomu.edu/policies_procedures

Some essential policies to know that have been adopted by the University that directly impact the classroom: