As noted in the overview syllabus development is often dependent on department, school, or institutional requirements that may provide the framework for the syllabus or syllaus components. Beyond these requirements there are elements of the syllabus that are essential if students are to enter the course informed and fully prepared.
The syllabus should address basic course identification information such as course title, description, and prerequisites. Instructor information should include not only the instructor’s name and contact information but also their accessible office hours, including online options. The syllabus should include clearly defined goals and objectives for the course. Students need to be made aware of the expectations of the instructor for their perspective performances in the course. Informing students of the expected outcomes of the course will provide them with the tools necessary to not only prepare for the course but also to succeed.
The course materials should be carefully outlined for the students. Text materials, software, online options as well as learning management systems should be identified and introductory support should be provided. If there are accessible materials that can provide the students with the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in the course those materials should be included and clearly identified.
Assignments, activities, exams, projects, and other class based interactions should be identified and also qualified so that students fully understand their role in the course and how their mastery of the course materials will be assessed. Class calendars can play an important role in the course syllabus by offering students the information necessary for planning and preparing for the course. Including dates associated with readings, activities, assignments, quizzes, exams, and projects provides students with the tools needed to manage their time and to establish a plan for success.
In any instruction, to the two most valuable components are the course objective and the assessment. Assessing student mastery is an instructor’s method of measuring student success in a course. Providing students with the mechanisms that will be implemented to measurheir mastery will better prepare the students for their instructional journey. Grading scales should be included to inform students of their grade ranges.
In addition to the basic information provided on a syllabus, instructors should incorporate items related to department, school, or institutional requirements. Those items can include sections related to policies for attendance, late work submission, academic honesty, incompletes, and disability accommodations. While there are components of a syllabus that are considered invaluable to the success of the student there are no limitations to what information can be provided in the syllabus.
A course syllabus resource and checklist can be found at Best Practices in Syllabus Writing at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2384173.