Syllabus Design

The Center for Excellence in Teaching holds workshops on syllabus design. Resources includes sample and actual course syllabi and videos.

The USC Curriculum Coordination Office (CCO) provides resources on a syllabus template, exemplar syllabi, “top 10 syllabus errors to avoid,” and minimum requirements for office hours.

Mandatory Items

(from the syllabus template provided by the USC Curriculum Coordination Office)

There are several boiler plate items that should be in all syllabi. They can be cut and pasted into your syllabi.

Statement for Students with Disabilities

Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure the letter is delivered to me (or to TA) as early in the semester as possible. DSP is located in STU 301 and is open 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Website for DSP and contact information: (213) 740-0776 (Phone), (213) 740-6948 (TDD only), (213) 740-8216 (FAX)

Statement on Academic Integrity

USC seeks to maintain an optimal learning environment. General principles of academic honesty include the concept of respect for the intellectual property of others, the expectation that individual work will be submitted unless otherwise allowed by an instructor, and the obligations both to protect one’s own academic work from misuse by others as well as to avoid using another’s work as one’s own. All students are expected to understand and abide by these principles. SCampus, the Student Guidebook, contains the University Student Conduct Code (see University Governance, Section 11.00), while the recommended sanctions are located in Appendix A.

Emergency Preparedness/Course Continuity in a Crisis

In case of a declared emergency if travel to campus is not feasible, USC executive leadership will announce an electronic way for instructors to teach students in their residence halls or homes using a combination of Blackboard, teleconferencing, and other technologies. See the university’s site on Campus Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Syllabus Checklist

Please check that your syllabus contains the following items:

  1. Basic course information on syllabus: Course ID, units, title, preparation needed by students (prerequisites, recommended preparation, etc).
  2. Course objectives related to department or program objectives.
  3. Grading breakdown
    • Adds up to 100%
    • None of the grade given solely for attendance
    • If “participation” is more than 15%, describe how it will be graded so students know what is expected
    • Indicate clearly how much each assignment is worth
  4. Contact hours consistent with policy: Courses must meet for a minimum of one 50 minute session per unit per week. For a 1-unit, 15 week course, the minimum contact hours for the semester are 750 minutes or 12.5 hours (see contact hours reference)
  5. Weekly schedule of topics, assignments, and exams: 15 weeks (or equivalent, for courses taught in shorter time period).
  6. Enough information about assignment components so reviewer (and students) can tell how work should be completed.
  7. Undergrad courses:
    • Due by week 8, adequate graded work on which midterm standing can be based
    • Graded work due on the scheduled date of the final exam (exam, paper, project, etc).
  8. Statement for Students with Disabilities, Statement on Academic Integrity, and Emergency Preparedness/Course Continuity in a Crisis.
  9. Statements about incompletes and grading consistent with the “Grading and Correction of Grades” handbook

Best Practices

  • Make your policies crystal clear (or at least clearer) in terms of how the class assignments, exams, discussion sections, count for portions of students’ final grade, and spell out your objectives and expectations for the course.
  • Spell out your policies for plagiarism, cheating on exams, missing exams, making up exams, attendance, field trips (required?), incompletes, and so forth.
  • If you want to regulate laptop use in your classroom, make that clear in your syllabus. The Center for Excellence in Teaching has suggestions for how to regulate the use of personal technology, including laptops and cellphones, in the classroom.

last updated August 22, 2014