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Course Syllabus Guide

This page offers a guide for the various components for effective syllabus development.

Minimum syllabus expectations vary across campus, so please: 1) review and consider what options will best serve student learning in your course and 2) consult your college and departmental expectations and guidelines.

Functions of a Syllabus

Syllabi can serve multiple functions throughout the course that benefit you and your students (Davis 2009, Gannon 2018, and Grunert 2008).

  1. Course Road Map: It provides details of course content and requirements; learning activities; resources; and expectations and responsibilities for both the students and instructors.
  2. Learning Contract: It is an agreement between the instructor(s) and students about how the course will function. This contract includes a promise of what students will learn during the course and how they will demonstrate that learning.
  3. Learning Tool: It identifies the critical course resources and tips needed for student success.
  4. Course Tone: As one of the first course materials the students interact with, it sets the tone for the course and instructor-student interactions. The tone should be positive, respectful, inviting, and directly address the students as a competent, engaged learner.
  5. Diagnostic Tool: Students can use the syllabus to gauge their readiness for the course.

Your syllabus should be:

  • VALUABLE to your students
  • A useful and usable document to guide student success in your course
  • A way to communicate your enthusiasm for the course
  • Succinct
  • Accessible to students 24/7

How to make your syllabus relevant throughout the year

Many times, course syllabi make their entrance into a course at the beginning of the semester and quickly find itself filed away never to be seen again by students and instructors. However, syllabi should act as a resource that are referenced and accessed throughout the course. So, how do you motivate students to read and utilize the syllabus?  Here are some tips that can help encourage your students to access the syllabus more often:

  • At the beginning of the semester stress the importance of the syllabus to your students
  • Continually reference the syllabus when discussing assignments and assessments linking each to outcomes assessed
  • Highlight sections that are of most importance to the students

Strategies and Techniques

We offer a variety of strategies and techniques for you to create effective and relevant course syllabi. Below, you can select a button to further explore our strategies and techniques.

Cornell University, Create a student-centered syllabus, Accessed from
Cullen, R. & Harris, M. (2009). Assessing learner-centredness through course syllabi. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 34:1, 115-125.
Davis, B.G. (2009). The comprehensive course syllabus. Tools for Teaching, 2nd edition. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.
Gannon, K. (2018). How to create a syllabus: Advice guide. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Accessed from on 8/11/2021
Grunert O’Brien, J., Millis, B.J., & Cohen, M.W. (2008). The course syllabus: A learning-centered approach. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.
Johnson, C. (2006). Best practices in syllabus writing: Contents of a learner-centered syllabus. The Journal of Chiropractic Education, 20:2, 139-144.

Feb 7, 2023