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Syllabus Design

Page history last edited by Anne McKinney 14 years, 6 months ago



Syllabus Design

A syllabus is often one of the first items people think of when they plan a course for development. I've placed it towards the end of our Introductory workshop, however, because it builds upon course design elements we have now covered in this module and in previous modules.


Some of you may be experienced instructors who do not need much practice creating syllabi. Likewise, some institutions offer their instructors templates to help them put their content together according to the school's recommendations. For everyone else, it's helpful to have some guidance in terms of creating a useful syllabus for an online course.


If you are starting from scratch, a simple web search for syllabus templates will turn up several options. You can refer to these as examples for formatting and information you would want your students to know.


Recommended Syllabus Elements

In terms of content, a syllabus should clearly state the requirements for successful completion of the course and disclose information that students need to know about contacting you, acquiring necessary materials, and finding assistance like technical support and disability services:


  • Link to your profile page and contact information
  • A description of the structure of the course
  • Navigation guidelines
  • Course learning objectives and/or expected outcomes (what students should be able to know/do by the end of the course)
  • Course schedule, including lessons, reading assignments, assignments and deadlines, projects, quizzes, exams or papers, and/or other learning activities
  • Assessment rubrics, grading scale, late submission policies, policies for posting messages to the discussion forums, participation grades, and/or other assessment/evaluation policies
  • Expected instructor response time (for response to an emailed request or for a graded assignment)
  • Preferred communication methods


Assembly & Revision

You might consider the following questions as you create and revise your syllabus:


  • How does it look?
  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • Are the course objectives clearly stated?
  • Does the course structure support these objectives?
  • How might the syllabus might be improved, if it needs improvement?


The following questions may help you consider the "strength" of your syllabus. Overall, if you were a student, how would you respond to the syllabus? Do you think it effectively communicates course information?


  • Will the structure and design of the course help students achieve the learning goals and learning objectives?
  • Do the structure and materials provide for all learning types?
  • Does the structure provide for the best use and comprehension of materials?
  • Does the structure connect with other course resources?
  • Do the assignments provide enough opportunities for student interactivity and learning?
  • Are the lessons academically rigorous?
  • Have the pages been carefully proofed and edited?
  • Are all materials accessible?
  • Are the correct files linked to the correct topics?
  • Are the directions crystal clear?
  • Does the site map and navigation make sense?
  • Is the content and navigation consistent?
  • Do files take too long to download?
  • Is the amount of work comparable to a traditional class? (With the wealth of material on the web, it is easy to get carried away and overwhelm the student.)



Exercising Your Knowledge

Create a draft for an online course syllabus, following the guidelines above. Then, post your draft as a new thread in the Syllabus Design Forum and respond to at least two others' messages in this forum for credit toward the Certificate of Completion. You may wish to refer to the questions above to help you provide your feedback. This is meant to be a positive, productive environment to help you create and cultivate your own syllabi.


Lawton, Pat. (2005). Syllabus Design. Syllabus analysis questions retrieved from a 2005 online workshop on Introduction to Online Pedagogy for the WISE Consortium.



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