Syllabus Best Practices and Exemplars


This article provides examples, ideas, and resources for creating a syllabus that is inclusive and accessible to students.

The syllabus template aims to share information and evidence-based practices that help you establish a welcoming, supportive, student-centered syllabus. The underlying purpose of syllabi is to introduce students to the instructor and course purpose, policies, and procedures, and inform false assumptions and misconceptions about online courses (Appleby, Drew, 1994; Ko, Susan, et al, 2010). Also, in general, when students perceive their instructor as approachable, they tend to be more motivated, engaged, and actively involved in their learning (Thompson, 2001; Woodside, Wong, & Weist, 1999).

With that in mind, please review the best practices provided below for creating a welcoming, engaging, and informative syllabus.

Editing the Template

While editing your syllabus, be mindful of the following:

  • Edit your syllabus to meet the requirements of your School, Department, and/or Program. Suggested text and required text are designated as such.

  • Sections

    • This syllabus template has many sections-- you don’t need to include all of them

    • Place sections in an order that makes sense for your course

  • Sample language

    • You can use the sample language as-is or revise it to be consistent with your voice

    • Students respond best to language that is authentic, warm, welcoming, and encouraging

    • Avoid punitive language or alarmist text styles (such as bold, red, and underlined styles)

  • Formatting and images

    • Keep in mind that this is your syllabus, so feel free to change the layout, fonts, etc. to your liking

    • Read each line carefully and be sure to fill in the blanks, remove the annotations and instructions

    • Refer to the why and how to use images page to learn about adding them to your syllabus

  • Voice and Consistency

    • For consistency and approachability throughout the syllabus, refer to the reader as “you” rather than “the student”, or “students”

    • Setting a positive and excited tone at the beginning of your syllabus can make it easier for students to approach you with questions/ideas

Document and Text Legend

  • Purple text: Customize, reuse as-is, or delete, as preferred

  • Black text: Recommended language for consistency

  • Images: Using images gains students' attention and connects with their emotions

    • Provide attributions as specified on the hosting site

  • Tables: Tables can be difficult to read on a mobile device and by screen readers-- consider other layouts

Online Syllabus Editing Checklist

The Online Syllabus Editing Checklist is available to help guide you in editing and choosing a file format for your syllabus.

Template Section Annotations

The Syllabus Template Section Annotation page includes annotations of the syllabus template.

Course Schedule (Optional)

If you choose to employ a course schedule-- either in your syllabus or as a separate document-- please consider the following information:

  • eCampus Recommendations

    • Include readings/viewings/activities that students should complete before class each day; this could include:

      • Assignment due dates

      • Exam dates

      • The date and time of the final exam

    • Specify what, if anything, is subject to change, and where students may find the most up-to-date version of the schedule

  • Additional Considerations

    • As you craft your course calendar, keep in mind that the last seven days preceding the start of the officially scheduled final examination period are exam-free

      • Consult Policy 3080 for more information and exceptions

Canvas Communication Tools

Canvas has multiple tools you may find helpful:

  • Inbox is helpful for keeping email between students and you in close proximity to work in the course

  • Students may also use the Ask Your Teacher a Question tool using the Canvas Help button

  • This initiates communication via Canvas Inbox

Additional Resources and Research

Need more help? Try eCampus Center Faculty Development.
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