Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Course Design > The Syllabus

The Syllabus

​​​ This guide begins with tools and recommendations for creating inclusive and effective syllabuses: 

The rest of the guide contains examples and templates: 

A syllabus is a map.

Twenty years ago, many instructors would have described the syllabus as a “table of contents” or, alternatively, a “contract.” Today’s books on college teaching and course design are likely to draw on different metaphors: the syllabus is a map or travelogue, as it both describes the intended destination and explains why one might want to go in the first place (Nilson, 27).

The most effective syllabus goes beyond listing the logistics and the topics covered in the course – it (a) articulates the conceptual framework for the course; (b) introduces students to the key questions or problems facing experts in the field; (c) suggests the ways in which an understanding of the course subject matters; (d) establishes an inclusive learning environment; (e) identifies the specific skills and knowledge students will be able to demonstrate upon completion of the course.

Typical elements of a syllabus include:

  • Course information (course title, quarter, your name)
  • Contact information including your office location, phone number, and email address (some instructors also choose to include their pronouns
  • Course description and prerequisites
  • Student learning outcomes
  • Required materials
  • Assigned work
  • A calendar or events including lecture topics, assigned work, and special announcements (due dates should include the timezone to prevent confusion)
  • Participation guidelines 
  • Grading policies and rubrics when appropriate
  • Course policies and student/teacher expectations (attendance, participation, tardiness, academic integrity, missing homework, missed exams)
  • Campus resources 
  • Advice to students

Required Information for DePaul Syllabuses

According to the DePaul Faculty Handbook (Faculty Rights and Responsibilities, p. 6) all syllabuses should contain the following information at a minimum:

  1. A rationale for the course stated in the context of the aims of the department and/or division;
  2. A statement on the types of instruction (i.e., lecture; lecture-discussion; lab, etc.);
  3. Specific materials required for the course (books, pamphlets, library materials, etc.);
  4. Proposed major and minor topics to be covered in the course;
  5. Specific required readings, and written and oral assignments (inclusion of tentative dates for such assignments is desirable);
  6. Specific descriptions of the criteria and methods (i.e., nature of quizzes and examinations) to be used by the instructor in evaluating students’ academic performance;
  7. Statement on academic integrity;
  8. Instructor’s office number and office hours for the term in which the course is being offered.

Inclusive Syllabus Tools 

Moore, Brantmeir, and Brocheild developed the Inclusion By Design: Survey Your Syllabus and Course Design tool to help educators examine inclusion in theirsyllabus and course design. As they describe, the tool is “rooted in theory and research on inclusion, multicultural education, universal design, implicit/unconscious bias, and the hidden curriculum.” The following reflection questions are taken from the tool: 

  • What is the course content? Whose voice is heard? What perspective dominates? What is omitted?
  • How is the content relevant in the “real” world and for the learners in your class? How can it be made relevant for those who may not recognize its relevance?
  • What are the implicit rules and messages of your course and are they stated in your syllabus?
  • What are the hidden/implicit/unconscious biases and stereotypes?

Duke University, as part of an accessible syllabus project, also has a set of resources for designing accessible syllabi.

Conceptual Framework and Value of Course

In its review of literature on cognition and learning, the National Resource Council found that "organizing information into a conceptual framework allows for greater 'transfer'; that is, it allows the student to apply what was learned in new situations and to learn related information more quickly" (17).

One way you can do this in your syllabus is by explicitly stating the specific skills and knowledge students will possess upon completing the course. Articulating clear and specific learning outcomes for students helps students grasp what is expected of them, measure their progress, and seek help in the areas that continue to elude them.

Consider  explaining to students how they might use what they learn in your course in their other classes or, better yet, in their everyday lives. Informing your students of where the course fits in with their degree program and DePaul career as a whole helps create a sense of continuity and purpose. For some suggested approaches, see The First Day of Class.

Course Policy Framing 

Use your course policies to help establish a supportive learning environment. By using student-centered language that emphasizes achievements and goals rather than punitive measures, you can help signal your commitment to students’ learning, growth, and development. 

The following revision suggestions are adapted inclusive syllabus design resources available from University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Emphasizes Punitive Measures
Emphasizes Achievements & Goals
Students must...
I encourage you to...
I only accept….
You have the opportunity to...
Late work will be penalized by….
Late work is eligible for partial credit of...
Unexcused absences will result in... Attendance is important because….
Students will face consequences if….
The following course policies will help you to learn because….

Accessible Document Design

These principles and features can help ensure you create a syllabus that is accessible:

  • Use headings
  • Use lists
  • Use meaningful hyperlinks
  • Add alternate text to images
  • Use tables wisely

The University of Washington has short and focused resources for creating accessible documents. See“Creating Accessible Documents in Microsoft Word” and  “Checking PDFs for Accessibility.” Finally, the National Center on Disability and Access to Education has guides for making documents in many programs (including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) more accessible. See Document Accessibility Cheatsheets for the guides and Accessibility for more information and suggestions.

Syllabus Template

A syllabus template can help make the process of drafting a new syllabus easier. A number of the example statements on this page have been incorporated into the template. After opening the template in Google Docs, you can download a copy (File > Download) or make a copy to your Drive (File > Make a copy) if you are signed in.

Example Syllabus Statements

University Policies

The following statements are taken or adapted from official university policies and procedures, including DePaul’s COVID-19 Updates and Guidance.

Keeping our DePaul community safe is of utmost importance in the pandemic. Students, faculty and staff are expected to (1) wear a mask as required at all times while indoors on campus; (2) refrain from eating and drinking in classrooms; (3) keep current with their COVID-19 vaccinations or exemptions; (4) stay home if sick; (5) participate in any required COVID-19 testing; (6) complete the online Health and Safety Guidelines for Returning to Campus training; and (7) abide by the City of Chicago Emergency Travel Advisory. By doing these things, we are Taking Care of DePaul, Together. The recommendations may change as local, state, and federal guidelines evolve. Students who do not abide by the mask requirement may be subject to the student conduct process and will be referred to the Dean of Students Office. Students who have a medical reason for not complying with any requirements should register with DePaul’s Center for Student with Disabilities (CSD).

DePaul University is a learning community that fosters the pursuit of knowledge and the transmission of ideas within a context that emphasizes a sense of responsibility for oneself, for others and for society at large. Violations of academic integrity, in any of their forms, are, therefore, detrimental to the values of DePaul, to the students’ own development as responsible members of society, and to the pursuit of knowledge and the transmission of ideas. Violations include but are not limited to the following categories: cheating; plagiarism; fabrication; falsification or sabotage of research data; destruction or misuse of the university’s academic resources; alteration or falsification of academic records; and academic misconduct. Conduct that is punishable under the Academic Integrity Policy could result in additional disciplinary actions by other university officials and possible civil or criminal prosecution. Please refer to your Student Handbook or visit Academic Integrity at DePaul University (http://academicintegrity.depaul.edu) for further details.

For more example syllabus statements, including abbreviated versions and versions highlighting areas of concern such as cheating and plagiarism, visit the Academic Integrity website.

Students seeking disability-related accommodations are required to register with DePaul's Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) enabling you to access accommodations and support services to assist your success. There are two office locations:

Loop Campus - Lewis Center #1420 - (312) 362-8002

Lincoln Park Campus - Student Center #370 - (773) 325-1677

Students can also email the office at csd@depaul.edu.

Students who are registered with the Center for Students with Disabilities are also invited to contact me privately to discuss how I may assist in facilitating the accommodations you will use in this course. This is best done early in the term. Our conversation will remain confidential to the extent possible.

All students are required to manage their class schedules each term in accordance with the deadlines for enrolling and dropping classes as indicated in the Academic Calendar. Review DePaul's registration policies if you have not already done so.

Students who withdraw from the course do so by using the Campus Connection system (campusconnect.depaul.edu). Withdrawals processed via this system are effective the day on which they are made. Simply ceasing to attend, or notifying the instructor, or nonpayment of tuition, does not constitute an official withdrawal from class and will result in an academic as well as financial penalty.

Administrative Withdrawal Appeals are submitted to and processed by the Dean of Students Office, and allow students to be retroactively withdrawn from classes for medical, mental health or personal crises even after the term has ended. 

I will gladly address you by the name and pronouns that you indicate. Please advise me of your name and/or your pronouns early in the quarter so that I may make appropriate notes in my records. Please also note that students may choose to identify within the University community with a first name that differs from their legal name, and they may also update their gender and gender pronouns. If a new name is identified, it will display as a “preferred name” in University-related systems and documents except where the use of the legal name is necessitated or required by University business or legal necessity. For more information and instructions on how to make these updates, please see the LGBTQIA Resource Center’s Personal Information Change resources and the Student Preferred Name and Gender Policy at policies.depaul.edu.

In accordance with the Protection of Minor Children Policy, students placed at community organizations that work with minors (under 18 years of age) are required to complete the Illinois Mandated Reporter training designed to help them understand the state mandated reporter laws and requirements for recognizing and reporting child abuse. Training must be completed prior to beginning service at the site. 

Course evaluations, called Online Teaching Evaluations (OTEs) at DePaul, provide instructors’ valuable feedback from students that can improve teaching and learning. While these surveys are optional, greater levels of participation generate more useful results. Your comments about what works and what doesn't can help faculty build on the elements of the course that are strong and improve those that are weak.

Your honest opinions about your experience in and commitment to the course and your learning may help improve some components of the course for the next group of students. Positive comments also show the department chairs and college deans the commitment of instructors to the university, and teaching evaluation results are one component used in annual performance reviews. The evaluation of the instructor and course provides you an opportunity to make your voice heard on an important issue – the quality of teaching at DePaul. Don't miss this opportunity to provide feedback!

As a DePaul community, we share a commitment to take care of one another. Classroom relationships are based on trust and communication. Sometimes, material raised in class may bring up issues for students related to sexual and relationship violence. In other instances, students may reach out to faculty as a source of help and support. It is important for students to know that faculty are required to report information reported to them about experiences with sexual or relationship violence to DePaul's Title IX Coordinator. Students should also know that disclosing experiences with sexual or relationship violence in course assignments or discussion does not constitute a formal report to the University and may not begin the process of DePaul providing a response. Students seeking to report an incident of sexual or relationship violence to DePaul should contact Public Safety (Lincoln Park: 773-325-7777; Loop: 312-362-8400) and/or the Title IX Coordinator (Lincoln Park: 312-362-8970 or titleixcoordinator@depaul.edu).

Students seeking to speak confidentially about issues related to sexual and relationship violence should contact a Survivor Support Advocate in the Office of Health Promotion & Wellness for information and resources (773-325-7129 or hpw@depaul.edu). More information is available at http://studentaffairs.depaul.edu/hpw/shvp.html. Students are encouraged to take advantage of these services and to seek help around sexual and relationship violence for themselves as well as their peers who may be in need of support.

Course Policies

Course policies are descriptions of your expectations for student behavior, such as attendance, participation, late work, etc. that relate to your course.

View a detailed discussion of attendance, participation, and late work policies.

While you are not required to have your camera on at all times, I strongly encourage you to do so, especially when you are speaking, working in small groups, and participating in discussions.

Any class recording of on-campus classes is available to students/faculty until one week after the end of the term in which the course was taught. After this time, the recording is destroyed and no longer accessible by either faculty or students. 

The term “class recordings” refers only to recordings of class activities with the possible involvement of students, and does not apply to recordings of lectures or other class content that a faculty member creates as part of their reusable course materials.

This statement has been endorsed by the Committee on Online Learning.

Please bring an internet-enabled device such as a laptop, tablet, or smartphone to class. You will use your device to easily access our class materials and/or engage with your peers. Please use your device for our learning activities and avoid any distractions during class. If you don’t have a device, please pair up with another student. DePaul offers discounts on technology from vendors such as Apple, CDW, and Dell.

At DePaul, our mission calls us to explore “what must be done” in order to respect the inherent dignity and identity of each human person. We value diversity because it is part of our history, our traditions, and our future. We see diversity as an asset and a strength that adds to the richness of classroom learning. In my course, I strive to include diverse authors, perspectives and teaching pedagogies. I also encourage open dialogue and spaces for students to express their unique identities and perspectives. I am open to having difficult conversations and I will strive to create an inclusive classroom that values all perspectives. If at any time the classroom experience does not live up to this expectation, please feel free to contact me via email or during office hours.

The above statement was drafted by the President's Diversity Advisory Committee (PDAC). Please refer to a guide developed by PDAC that includes more considerations and example statements.

The purpose of our synchronous class sessions is to engage you in activities and exercises that will help you apply what you're learning with your peers. Synchronous sessions are most successful when everyone has prepared by watching the assigned lectures, reading the assigned texts, and completing any assignments or activities beforehand.

For students joining remotely, please observe the following guidelines:

  • Use your given or preferred name as your display name.
  • Don’t use distracting or inappropriate profile photos or virtual backgrounds.
  • Don’t share meeting links, passwords, screenshots, recordings, or other meeting information with people outside the class.
  • Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking to minimize background noise.
  • Be fully present by refraining from engaging in other activities during our sessions (e.g, driving, cooking, cleaning, etc.)

Contact DePaul’s Technology Support Center/Help Desk at (312) 362-8765 if you need technical assistance during a video call.

Campus Resources

There are a number of offices and programs at DePaul that offer students a range of resources and support.

Students who miss class due to illness or significant personal circumstances may complete the Absence Notification form through the Dean of Students office. Students must submit supporting documentation alongside the form. The professor reserves the sole right whether to offer an excused absence and/or academic accommodations for an excused absence.

Access to nutritious food and reliable housing are factors that influence many students’ ability to succeed in the classroom and beyond. However, students facing food or housing insecurities may be hesitant to call attention to their ongoing struggles. DePaul University is committed to and cares about all students. To help you manage personal challenges and basic needs security, the university offers several resources. Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, is urged to contact the Dean of Students Office for support: by calling (773) 325-7290 or emailing deanofstudents@depaul.edu. You can also contact Elizabeth Ann Seton Food Pantry and Sandwich Kitchen and the Dax Program (Chicago - Depaul; email: emily.edwards@depaulusa.org; phone: (312) 362-7931 for support. The Center for Access and Attainment has also created a guide for Food and Housing Resources that you can review.

If you are comfortable doing so, please also let me know about these challenges, so that I can help you access resources.

This statement was developed by the CAA Lab Team from the Center for Access and Attainment.

The DePaul Career Center helps students build confidence, explore possibilities, and develop a powerful personal brand. We offer resume and cover letter review, skills assessments, career exploration and pathway conversations, assistance with internship and job searches, interview preparation, access to alumni mentors, employer insights workshops, career fairs, and many more experiential opportunities to prepare for your future. It’s never too early to begin exploring! Start your personal and professional journey here: careercenter.depaul.edu.

The Dean of Students Office (DOS) promotes student learning and ethical decision making in an inclusive and validating environment. Utilizing a comprehensive approach to student advocacy that is informed by DePaul’s Catholic, Vincentian, and urban mission, the office collaborates with students, staff, faculty, parents and community partners to support students in reaching their academic and personal success. 

The Dean of Students Office is primarily responsible for administering and adjudicating violations of the Code of Student Responsibility at DePaul University. Additionally, the office provides the administrative withdrawal and absence notification process, and can help students identify campus and community resources in times of personal and/or family crises and medical emergencies. 

You can contact the Dean of Students Office by calling (773) 325-7290 or emailing deanofstudents@depaul.edu. In cases of emergency, please call the Department of Public Safety at (773) 325-7777. 

The Office of Health Promotion & Wellness (HPW) empowers the DePaul community to embrace a healthy lifestyle and is dedicated to creating a culture of health and well-being that fosters personal and academic success for every DePaul student.    

HPW empowers DePaul students, staff and faculty members to 'Take Care DePaul' through holistic education, support, and resources for individuals to establish and sustain long-term, healthy behaviors. HPW provides services and programs on mental well-being, sexual and relationship violence, alcohol and substance misuse and many more topics. The office consists of professional staff members and the Health Education Action Team (HEAT), which consists of a group of trained undergraduate peer health educators.     

In light of the COVID-19 impact on the University, the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness programs and services will continue and can be accessible to students remotely. Students can meet with a staff member via Zoom or telephone. Appointments can be requested by calling (773) 325-7129 or by completing an online intake form. Learn more by visiting our website: go.depaul.edu/HPW.

The Help Desk provides technical assistance via phone, email and web for current DePaul students, faculty and staff. The Help Desk supports computers, network access, telephones, email accounts, and university instructional and administrative software. They can troubleshoot and resolve hardware and software related issues with both the Mac and Windows operating systems. For help, you can visit helpdesk.depaul.edu, call (312) 362-8765, or email helpdesk@depaul.edu.

DePaul students, faculty and staff have free unlimited access to LinkedIn Learning, which offers a large library of video tutorials across a range of topics, from how to use popular software titles such as Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office to practical advice on saving time and being productive. Visit bit.ly/dpu-linkedin to learn more.

Your success is our number one priority at DePaul University. University resources to help you succeed include computer labs, free or discounted software, tutoring centers, health services, and services for designated groups, such as veterans and students with disabilities. Visit go.depaul.edu/success to learn more.

University Counseling Services (UCS) helps remove barriers to learning by providing accessible psychological assessment, short-term psychotherapy, consultation and crisis intervention, community referrals, group counseling, growth-oriented workshops and psychoeducational programming to currently enrolled students. Counseling support is available through University Counseling Services (UCS) at 1-773-325-7779, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In addition, DePaul has partnered with My SSP to offer students real-time counseling support through a call center and chat feature available seven days a week, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Students can call 1-866-743- 7732 or access this support by downloading the My SSP app from the Apple App Store or Google Play. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

I strongly recommend you make use of the Writing Center throughout your time at DePaul. The Writing Center provides free peer writing tutoring for DePaul students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Writing Center tutors work with writers at all stages of the writing process, from invention to revision, and they are trained to identify recurring issues in your writing as well as address any specific questions or areas that you want to talk about. Visit www.depaul.edu/writing for more information.

For a more comprehensive syllabus statement you can use, see "Writing Center Syllabus Boilerplate" on the Writing Center’s website.

Grading Scale and Policies

One of the requirements of a DePaul syllabus is "specific descriptions of the criteria and methods... to be used by the instructor in evaluating students’ academic performance." A common method employed by instructors is a grading scale.

The grading scale below is used by many faculty in a variety of disciplines at DePaul. However, some departments may use grading scales that differ somewhat from the one shown here. Consult with your chair if you have any concerns about whether your grading scale is consistent with the one used by other instructors in your department.

A: 93-100

A-: 90-92

B+: 87-89

B: 83-86

B-: 80-82

C+: 77-79

C: 73-76

C-: 70-72

D+: 67-69

D: 63-66

D-: 60-62

F: Below 60

In addition to a common grading scale, offer multiple opportunities for learning and assessment and describe the ways students can demonstrate their learning and understanding. Provide clear criteria for how students will be assessed and what feedback they can expect from you. Include a grading response time (e.g., I will grade and provide feedback on your work within one week of submission).

For more guidance on feedback and assessment, see Feedback and Grading.

Further Reading

Grunert, J. (1997). The course syllabus: A learning-centered approach. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.

Lockwood, A. (2020). “A ‘How to Write’ Craft Syllabus From Non-White, Non-Cis Writers.” Literary Hub.

Nilson, Linda. (2003). “The complete syllabus”. Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company.

Wasley, Paula. (2008). “Research Yields Tips on Crafting Better Syllabi.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(27), A11.

Wasley, Paula. (2008). “The Syllabus Becomes a Repository of Legalese.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(27), A1.

Write the Syllabus from Carnegie Mellon includes practical information on when to write a syllabus, general advice, and writing creative s​yllabi.