Course Outlines: What to Include


Decorative: "Syllabus checklist" with a clipart image of a checklist

A. Course Outlines for Contract Lecturers

All instructors must include basic elements in their outlines:

  • Course requirements
  • Assignments
  • Evaluation procedures
  • Components and percentage weighting of the final mark
  • Penalties for late filing of assignments
  • Office hours for academic counselling
  • “Any other relevant material” (LUFA contract)

B. What Specifically to Include

For contract lecturers especially, this “any other relevant material” should include a number of very specific components.

Below is a list of what is needed.

1. Logistics

  • Include the course name, course code, course location, class time and prerequisites.
  • Include your name, your office location, your office hours, and your telephone and email.
  • If you have a teaching assistant, include their name, office location, office hours, email, and telephone number as well.

2. Course Overview

  • Include a course overview based on the calendar description – but more detailed and specific.

3. Course Objectives or Learner Outcomes

a. Start with a statement like, “By the time student have completed this course, they will be able to do the following: …”

  • Follow this with a list of bullet points, each beginning with a verb, to indicate what should achieve.

b. Use SMART verbs – Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. (Google “SMART verbs for lists of options.)

  • Think, “Can I assess what I say they will learn?” If not, find better verbs.
  • Avoid unassessable verbs like “understand” or “know” – actions that occur only in the mind.
  • Prefer concrete, assessable verbs: “demonstrate,” “explain,” “solve,” “design.”

c. Link the objectives to assessment features wherever possible.

4. Assessment

  • Outline assignments, tests, and evaluation as specifically as possible.
  • Indicate the weight of each assessed component, including attendance and participation.
  • Consider using rubrics so everyone knows what is expected.

5. Course Resources

List all required course resources and where students will be able to find, access, or purchase them.

  • This includes required and recommended texts, links, multimedia, course websites (e.g. D2L), and other needed materials, resources, electronic access, etc.
  • Indicate whether the additional resources (besides textbooks) are included in the cost of the course or must be purchased separately.
  • Give an estimate of such costs.

6. Course Schedule (A chart works well for this.)

Include the following:

  • Administrate dates (last date to add or drop a course, holidays, breaks)
  • Course dates (test dates, assignment due dates, seminars, etc.
  • A class-by-class or week-by-week outline of material to be covered – subjects, topics, required readings, assigned viewings, seminars, workshops, etc.

7. Test and Assignment Policies

  • Spell out very explicitly your policies for missed tests, late assignments, excused or unexcused absences, the circumstances and required documentation for retaking tests or late-assignment submissions (e.g. “dire and documented circumstances,” “notes from professionals on letterhead,” “not notes from parents or partners,” etc.).
  • Include specific policies about academic integrity and expectations for contributions in class, discussions, workshops, etc.
  • Make clear what is allowable help on tests (e.g. For online tests, can students use their texts, their notes, the Internet?), assignments (How much help can they get from others? What constitutes plagiarism or academic dishonesty?), and group work (What are individual and collective responsibilities?).

8. Marking Standards

  • If your department has stated marking standards, include these or link to them.
  • If not, make your expectations as clear as possible for each assignment, for tests, for each kind of contribution, and for anything else that may earn marks.

9. Collaboration

Make it very clear what is acceptable and unacceptable collaboration for work in your course.

  • Policies which are not stated in the syllabus are not enforceable if there is an appeal or a complaint, so spell out your expectations.
  • Do not assume that students “should” know: assumptions are not enforceable.

10. Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty

a. Explain what plagiarism and academic dishonesty are and what they include.

  • Perhaps begin with what academic honesty is. Then discuss deviations from the norm.
  • This gives students a high standard to aim for rather than just negative behaviour to avoid.

b. Be sure to include or link to the university’s “Academic Dishonesty Regulations” page and the “Code of Student Behaviour and Disciplinary Procedures” for added authority.

11. Course Policies

  • Reiterate your late-assignment and missed test policies.
  • Restate your attendance requirements (if any).
  • Outline your standards for lateness, general in-class conduct and civility, netiquette, cell-phone use in class, etc.
  • If you have specific penalties for specific misbehaviours, spell them out here as well.
  • The syllabus is, in effect, a contract between you and your students.
  • Anything that is not explicitly spelled out on the in syllabus is not practically enforceable.

12. On-Campus Resources

Include university resources that are available to students.

  • List and briefly annotate each one so students know the services provided.
  • Include the email, the location, and the phone number for each relevant service.
  • Include the Academic Support Zone (for writing and math support as well as tutoring), the Student Health and Counselling Centre, the Aboriginal Cultural and Support Services, and other centres or services appropriate for your students.
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