Syllabi in the College of Arts and Sciences aim to be clear communications to students about course content, expectations, schedule and policies; they establish a contract between instructors and students about what each can expect from the other in the learning process.
The purpose of the syllabus
A syllabus communicates what students should expect to learn, what they're going to be reading and writing and when, what work is required for the course, how they're going to be evaluated, and where to find the support they need to effectively participate in the course. Syllabi are also one mechanism for communicating important information about University policies, legal obligations and resources and can further serve as vehicles to disseminate information about departments and programs.
We have divided these syllabus guidelines into required and optional elements; described each; provided a syllabi checklist for quick reference as well as the standard university-wide policy and legal statements that can be cut and pasted into syllabi. Sample syllabi and templates, one in traditional style for paper handout and the other in a more innovative style for online us, will be available soon on the Courses page. Basic CAS templates for the current semester are also posted on the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) Faculty Lounge site.
- Basic information about the course
- Course description
- What students can expect to learn in the course
- How student learning will be evaluated
- Grading breakdown and grading policies
- Texts and supplies for the class and where to buy/find them
- Course schedule
- Attendance policy
- Outcomes and Designations
- USF policies and legal declarations
- Credit-hour policy for courses in non-traditional formats
- Course- or instructor-specific academic honesty policy
- Other course-specific policies
- Course-specific behavioral expectations and classroom rules
- Outside activities information
- USF Credit Hour policy
- Other kinds of courses
- Graduate courses
- Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs)
- Syllabi in disputes
- Knowing and discussing USF policies
Basic information about the course
This includes instructor name; course number and name; number of units; meeting days, times, and location; instructor contact information (and TA contact information, if relevant); office location; and office hours. (Note: Instructors are required to offer office hours for a minimum of 15 minutes per unit per week.)
This is typically 1-2 paragraphs describing the overarching goals of the course and the key topics, themes, and content that will be covered in the course. The description should closely align with the approved catalog description; some departments have required course descriptions for particular courses, so be sure to check if that applies to your course, as well. You can add whatever details and expansions you prefer.
What students can expect to learn in the course
These statements are also known as “course learning outcomes." University of Toronto provides a good overview.
This is a succinct communication to students about the specific knowledge, skills and attitudes with which students are expected to leave the course. These are not reiterations of course content students will be exposed to; they are articulations of observable or measurable learning you expect to see by the end of the semester. San Diego State University has some excellent tips on writing these kinds of statements.
Note: If you are taking over or teaching a section of a course that already has course learning outcomes specified, you can certainly change the content and assignments you use to move students towards these learning outcomes; however, you can't change those outcomes themselves without putting the course through a new review and approval process.
How student learning will be evaluated
These gauges of student learning are also known as “assessments.” Carnegie Mellon University provides a good overview.
This is the required work for the course, such as exams and papers, both graded and ungraded. Since assignments aim in part to give the instructor a gauge of student learning, their descriptions should indicate to students which aspect(s) of student learning (as defined under "What students can expect to learn in the course") each assignment addresses. In other words, each learning outcome should be matched to its corresponding assessment(s).
Grading breakdown and grading policies
This is an explanation of how student grades will be calculated and any other policies related to grading.
Texts and supplies
Please include texts and supplies for the class and where to buy/find them
This should include assigned readings and major writing (or other types of) assignments with due dates.
This should inform students on the syllabus about your policy on lateness and absences so that there is no misunderstanding about the impact (if any) on grades. This often becomes important in grade grievance procedures, too. Some departments have agreed on a department-wide policy; consult with your Chair if you are unsure. If there is no departmental policy, the attendance policy is set by individual instructors.
Outcomes and Designations
Please include links to the relevant Program learning outcomes as well as to the learning outcomes for any relevant Core area, Service Learning or Cultural Diversity designations
All syllabi should include a list of or a link to the learning outcomes for the program in which the course is housed. If your course has been approved to meet a Core area, Service Learning or Cultural Diversity graduation requirement, the syllabus should include a link to the relevant learning outcomes. Further information about which program learning outcomes are met by the course, and about how each of the learning outcomes for any special designations is going to be met, should be either listed fully within, or provided as an annotation, footnote, appendix to, the syllabus.
USF policies and legal declarations
These are standard statements on University policies and resources, including disclaimers on confidentiality, mandatory reporting, sexual assault; statements regarding USF's Honor Code and Academic Integrity and behavioral expectations; important campus resources for student health, safety, and wellbeing. On the CAS Curriculum web page you will find two options for including these statements on your syllabus, which can be cut and pasted into your syllabus. The first version has complete descriptions and the second is an abridged version with hyperlinks, suitable only for electronic syllabi.
Credit hour policy for courses in non-traditional formats (lab, studio, fieldwork)
If your course is taught in a non-traditional format, you should include a brief statement about USF's credit hour policy and how it is going to be met. (See Additional Notes below for further information.)
Course- or instructor-specific academic honesty policy
Beyond the required general university statement on academic honesty, if you or your department have a specific policy on handling plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty, stating it or linking to it on your syllabus is strongly recommended.
Other course-specific policies
This might include policies on late papers, make-up exams or rewrites, incompletes, and so on.
Course-specific behavioral expectations and classroom rules
Beyond the required university statement on behavioral expectations, this might include policies on use of technology, eating and drinking, respect towards others, communication, and so on.
Outside activities information
If the course involves field trips or other activities outside of the classroom, it's important to include these with as much specificity as possible (time expectations, dates and times, etc.). In addition, students can be notified that they will need to complete an Off-Campus Events Waiver Form (either the Voluntary or the Required version, depending on whether attendance at the event is a required part of the course).
USF Credit hour policy
For courses in traditional formats (lecture or seminar) you may want to include a brief statement about USF's credit hour policy in order to clearly communicate the amount of time students should expect to spend on the course. One unit should approximate one hour of direct faculty instruction (or 50 minutes plus a break) and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work per week through one 15-week semester. Even if you don't include a statement to this effect, your syllabus should reflect these credit hour guidelines in the amount of scheduled class time and out-of-class work.
Other kinds of courses
Not all courses are taught in the same pedagogical format; Directed Studies, Lab, Fieldwork, Studio, and Internship courses, for instance, may involve different modes of instruction and different uses of time. Like all other courses, these need to have a syllabus with the required elements set out above, though adapted to the particular format. Particular attention should be paid to satisfaction of the credit hour requirement, which states that "if the time is wholly occupied with either the seminar, studio, field, clinical or laboratory work, or internships, service learning, directed study or intensive semester (e.g. summer, online or courses offered in shorter form), a minimum of 45 hours of student work is expected for each unit of credit. Note that there may be other and/or future modes of instruction to which this alternate satisfaction of the credit hour requirement may apply. Additionally, where classroom work is supplemented by systematic outside reading, experiment or research under the direction of the instructor, a reduction may be made in the actual studio, field, clinical, laboratory, internship or classroom time as seems appropriate to the instructor with the approval of the pertinent department and/or school or college's curriculum committee."
The requirements for graduate syllabi in the College of Arts and Sciences are the same as those for undergraduate syllabi. However, course requirements for graduate courses are expected to be more rigorous and advanced than for undergraduate courses. If a course is serving both undergraduates and graduate students, the syllabi should be separate; there will most likely be a lot of overlap, but there should also be distinctions between the two in terms of the depth and scope of assignments and possibly also some of the learning outcomes.
Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs)
Every department and program has specified what they expect students learn by the time they complete the program, a curriculum map linking those outcomes to individual courses. Departments are responsible for planning out how they want to communicate learning outcomes to students in their program, so that students have a strong sense of the skills, knowledge, and attitudes they should expect to be getting from the program by the time they finish. Among the common mechanisms are availability in the catalog and on the program web page and other program documents; inclusion on syllabi (we require a link to PLOs, but departments may want more than that); in-class discussion of how a course aligns with the program; and student participation in the creation and use of rubrics for program assessment.
Syllabi in disputes
The syllabus serves not just as a communication tool but also as a contract and is therefore an important document in grade appeals and academic integrity cases. This is one reason to be clear and explicit about your course policies and expectations.
Knowing and discussing USF policies
Faculty members are responsible for knowing the USF policies that are included on syllabi and are strongly encouraged to go over these with students.
See the main Syllabi page for including USF policies and legal declarations on your syllabus.