Syllabus Design

CLT's Syllabus Template


“A well-designed syllabus is an essential tool for effectively managing a course. It gives students a clear understanding of your expectations and a road map for how the course will be conducted. When done right, a syllabus can prevent a lot of misunderstandings as the semester progresses.”

Jennifer Gonzalez, Cult of Pedagogy

The CLT promotes a student-centered syllabus design, assisting faculty in moving from from thinking of syllabus creation as "what do I have to include?" to "what do the students need to be successful in this course?"

We encourage instructors to write their syllabi to meet the following goals:

  • encouraging students to read and use the syllabus
  • focusing on essential content and relevant activities
  • improving daily effectiveness in the classroom
  • anticipating student questions and issues
  • spurring student engagement and involvement

A syllabus serves many purposes. Most importantly is sets the tone for the course. A well-designed and organized syllabus signals to the students that the instructor has put thought and effort into the course. Logistically, the syllabus is the primary location where students are informed about what, when, and how students will learn and what they need to do in order to be successful. Finally, the syllabus is a vehicle for communicating  expectations in terms of student responsibilities and course policies.

According to Jennifer Gonzalez, Cult of Pedagogy, the course syllabus should include:

  • Your Details: Name, email, phone number, office hours

  • Course Details: Course name, course number, days and times the course meets, credit hours

  • Course Description: A brief overview of what the course will cover for the term or year

  • Prerequisites/Corequisites: Any courses or other requirements that must be completed before taking this course. Corequisites are courses that must be taken at the same time as your course.

  • Objectives: Describe what the student should know and be able to do as a result of taking your course.

  • Required Texts and Resources: List all required textbooks, other books, online resources and subscriptions, or other materials students must have to take the course.

  • Attendance Policy: Be very specific about what constitutes an excused absence, what constitutes a “tardy” (be sure to consider early departures as well…I had some students who regularly had to leave class early), and how these will impact student grades, if applicable. Make sure your policy is in line with university policy.

  • Communication Protocols: Specify how often and through what channels students should be accessing course information, looking for updates and announcements, and contacting you. Because we have so many different means of communicating (Blackboard announcement and discussion boards, social media, email and texting), it’s important to tell students exactly which channels they should be on for your course and how often you expect them to check those channels. For example, if you plan to post new information to Blackboard every Sunday night, tell students they should be checking the platform every Sunday night.

  • Electronic Device Policy: Explain your policy on the use of cell phones, laptops, and other electronic devices in class, including any information about whether exceptions are made for students with accommodations.

  • Food & Drink Policy: Are food and drinks permitted in class? Explain your policy here.

  • Disability-related equal access accommodation statement is recommended by SSD for inclusion in all faculty syllabi. Binghamton’s suggested language:

    • Disability-related Equal Access Accommodations – Students needing accommodations to ensure their equitable access and participation in this course should notify the instructor with an Academic Accommodation Authorization from Binghamton University's Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office as soon as they're aware of their need for such arrangements. Please visit the SSD website ( for more detailed information.  The office is located in University Union, 119.

  • Course Requirements/Assignment List: Describe how students will be graded in the course. What assignments will you give? Will there be tests and quizzes? If each one is worth a certain number of points, specify that here. I found that rather than try to weigh assignments or make them a certain percentage of the grade, it was simplest to just assign points to every assignment, including tests, then calculate student grades as a percentage of the total points possible.

  • Academic Policies and Procedures: Explain how assignments should be submitted, along with your policy on late work, resubmissions, and plagiarism/academic integrity.

  • Course Calendar: This probably requires the most work up front from you, but if you put the time in now to mapping out daily or weekly activities and due dates, you’ll be more likely to stay on track this term. If you aren’t sure about some activities, it’s okay to put TBA in those spaces; just having the spaces set up will help you and your students plan for the semester. It’s also a smart idea to include some kind of “subject to change” language about specific due dates and activities; this will give you some flexibility to adjust the schedule as needed.