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Creating a Clear Syllabus

CHSS Online Teaching Initiative

Creating a Clear Syllabus

Teaching online “requires greater attention to detail, more structure, and additional student monitoring” (Coppola 97). Many online instructors organize their course content and schedule by “instructional units” or by learning modules with specified themes, reading materials, lectures, tasks, and deliverables (Grady and Davis 110-111). Each unit or module must be logical and respond to a specific learning objectives.

In addition to other customary sections, consider adding the following items to the syllabus:

  • Technology requirements, including access to the Internet; Canvas; required software to complete assignments, such as Word and Acrobat Reader; storage devices; headphones; a webcam; or any other requirements. Consider adding a statement about mobile devices. Be sure to include a warning that some course materials may not be accessible or correctly displayed by smartphones.
  • Basic computer literacy skills that students must possess to complete assignments in the course.
  • An attendance policy that specifies how many times and on which days of the week students are required to access the online classroom. In addition, discuss the expected weekly time commitment so that students can plan accordingly and add the university-wide attendance policy (CHSS A Handbook of Online Teaching, 2-3). 
  • The Statement of Reasonable Accommodations that contains the most recent contact information for the Office of Disability Services.
  • An overview of all folders that contain course materials and features in Canvas. Another option is to create a PowerPoint presentation called StartHere.ppt and place it in Canvas before the syllabus and the schedule. Such an introductory presentation can include a basic overview of the course, instructor credentials, an overview of major folders and functions in Canvas, file naming procedures, and IT/Canvas support contact information.
  • Grading policies that clearly outline grading criteria, assignment weights, and grading rubrics or tools. Specify the time required to finish grading student work so students will know when to expect feedback. Also, explain where and how students can obtain feedback and grades in Canvas.
  • A clear and detailed schedule that lists due dates and specific times by which students are required to complete readings and tasks. Also, state where and how (in Assessments, Assignments, Discussions, or via email) students should submit assignments and tests.