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. This TALE Teaching Tip: Backward Design: a Powerful Course Design Method with Worksheet Template (word document), Worksheet Stage 1 (word document), Worksheet Stage 2 (word document), and Worksheet Stage 3 (word document) are a good place to start.

In addition, you might read the 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 Lang, 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:

The schedule of courses for final exams differs from the regular semester:

Student-Friendly Syllabus

During the first week of classes, students may become easily overwhelmed with the variety of syllabi. Consider providing them with a quick reference infographic that offers an overview of the course goals and requirements. Share more details in the syllabus and calendar presented to your students as separate documents or as content items in our learning management system, BOLT.

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 course or other 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. Requests for a tutor are made online:

Writing and Literacy Engagement Studio (WALES) Information;

The Writing and Literacy Engagement Studio (WALES), supports students’ growth as writers and readers. We enjoy easing the writing process for all students from any background working in any major. We also enjoy helping students develop strategies for reading and making sense of course and research material. Students set the agenda for each appointment—whether they’re concerned about their reading material, about getting started on a writing project, about improving clarity, grammar, organization, or citations, or about any other aspect of reading, writing, or the English language. Appointments are highly recommended, but walk-ins are welcome.

Our diverse group 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. 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 can reach us online through a link we will provide. Students will be able to speak with consultants and share their documents with us.

WALES hours for Fall 2019 (Near the beginning of each semester Ted Roggenbuck WALES Director sends out a "blurb" to include in your syllabi.)
• 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 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm.
• In Andruss (Schweiker Room), Sun.—Thurs. from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

You can drop into Bakeless 206 or request an appointment through email: Visit their website ( for more information.

Accommodations for Students is managed through University Disability Services ( 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 University Disability Services 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:

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:

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

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.