Classes are Starting Soon! Is your Syllabus Ready?

Piled Higher and Deeper comic strip by Jorge Cham titled "It's in the Syllabus" A teaching assistant talks to four students. Student 1 asks What did we cover in class last week? The TA says It's in the syllabus. Student 2 asks What's your Late Homework Policy? The TA answers, it's in the syllabus. Student 3 asks When are your office hours? The TA answers, it's in the syllabus. Student 4 asks, "How will my grade be computed?" The TA holds up a sign that reads "It's in the syllabus."

It’s that time again! Classes are starting soon and instructors everywhere are getting the final details for their courses together, especially getting the syllabus done and posted on Canvas.

We all know the syllabus is a key document to any college course. In it we convey all of the essential information about our course: who the instructor is and how to contact them, what the course is about, the course learning goals, the assessment plan, our grading approach, important deadlines, schedule and policies. In addition, the syllabus communicates other important messages to our students. Students want to know: “Is this course for me? Do I belong here? Is my instructor approachable and invested in my success?”

With so much riding on this document, it makes sense that we take time at each class offering to examine it closely and look for opportunities to improve it. In a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Kevin Gannon offers this primer on crafting a syllabus that strikes a careful balance between providing information, setting clear expectations and communicating with a welcoming tone. In it, Gannon also includes pointers on crafting course policies on the use of generative Artificial Intelligence, which may be new to many instructors this term.

The Center for Teaching and Learning provides a number of resources to help you put your syllabus together.

  • The Syllabus Essentials and Policy Essentials handouts give you an overview of the important elements to include in your syllabus.
  • Download this syllabus template and copy your information into the pre-formated syllabus. The template includes guiding questions to help you include all of the information your students need to know about policies, assessments and more. Where an official Georgia Tech policy exists, the template has it preloaded with the approved language. We also have included optional sections with guiding questions to prompt you to think about what is most important for your class. We hope you download and use as much of it as you find useful.
  • CTL offers an annual Syllabus Clinic at Fall Teaching Kickoff where CTL consultants work with you to construct and revise your syllabus. If you missed it, you can still review these handouts from the session that guide you through reviewing and revising your syllabus.
  • CTL also offers an annual Course Design Studio where participants can delve deeper into the process of revising and developing courses. Course Design Studio materials are available on demand through Canvas.
  • CTL consultants are available to review and provide feedback on your syllabus or discuss any aspect of your course design or teaching practice. Complete this consultation request form to make an appointment.

You may also find these upcoming sessions helpful:

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