A course syllabus is a cohesive document introducing students to your course. It should be student-centered and contain important information such as course information, assignment details, topic schedule, and policies. The UCI Academic Senate has a Subcommittee on Courses & Continuing, Part-Time, & Summer Session Education (SCOC) that publishes updates to syllabus guidelines. The guidelines specify mandatory sections for every syllabus, as well as recommended sections. Along with these guidelines, we have created a syllabus template that also incorporates evidence-based Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) pedagogical best practices. These practices will help you keep an inclusive and student-centered mindset while designing your course. Read on to explore more about how to use the template!
Guidelines and Syllabus Templates
Use asset-based language
Increase sense of belonging by using positive motivators and highlighting paths to success.
Clearly describe course regulations, expectations, and evaluation criteria.
Incorporate flexible learning approaches
Offer a variety of engagement option, representation, and alternatives to support multimodal learning.
Provide student support
Include sections on accommodations and resources and provide a detailed course schedule.
It’s important to include DEI and UDL throughout the entire syllabus. To help you on your journey, here are a few versions of the syllabus template that incorporate SCOC requirements along with evidence-based DEI, UDL, and pedagogical practices:
Sections of the template that have an asterisk (*) are required by the SCOC. Other sections are optional, but represent best pedagogical practices. Feel free to include them if they are relevant to your course. You can download the templates and modify the content to fit your course needs. The templates have passed accessibility checkers in Microsoft Office 365. As you modify the templates, please be sure to complete a final accessibility check to ensure document accessibility is retained.
Now that you’ve created a draft of your syllabus, here’s a checklist to ensure you have the appropriate sections:
Want to take the syllabus further?
If you’re looking at your syllabus and wondering how to spiff it up a bit more, a couple of ideas include adding more visual components or gamifying your course syllabus.
Graphical Representation of Key Information
Add some visual components to your syllabus to break up the text. Some tips include:
- Ensuring that the visuals are related to the text
- Checking licensing (copyrights, Creative Commons licenses, etc.)
- Adding alt text where necessary, or mark the visuals as decorative
- Replacing text-heavy sections with a visual component (for example, replace a grading table with a pie chart)
- Making sure there is enough contrast in the images
Here is an example of a visual syllabus: Sample 1
Flexible Online Living Document
A Liquid Syllabus welcomes students and introduces them to their instructor while also reducing student anxiety. Some strategies include:
- Beginning with a friendly greeting video
- Ensuring fair course standards
- Having first assignment due dates posted
- Adjusting course activities or syllabus content based on student needs
One of the advantages of having a liquid syllabus is that it can be changed over time if you build it in Canvas, Google Docs, or a website that can be updated depending on the needs of the class. The liquid syllabus is not a static document; rather, it is a publicly accessible, mobile-friendly living document that supports clear and updated communication for students.
Interactive Gaming Experience
If you’ve ever enjoyed playing a game, think about what components made it a memorable experience. What were the rules of the game? How were you expected to progress? If you messed up, how could you learn and alter your strategy? Did you earn achievements? What did it mean to win? These same questions are what guides gamification of courses.
Gamification is an evidence-based method of further engaging students, where gaming components are included to enrich learning (see Sailer & Homner, 2020; Zainuddin et al., 2020 for meta-analyses). Benefits with gamifying your course from a syllabus standpoint include:
- Enhancing the course syllabus to make it a more engaging and interactive learning tool
- Encouraging students to read syllabus thoroughly and carefully
- Providing timely and constructive feedback for growth
Here is an example of a gamified syllabus from a UCI alum and Pedagogical Fellow: Sample 1
Notes: There are many different ways to gamify a course, and it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole when gamifying! Here are some aspects to consider.
It might sound cheesy, but it’s important to have fun with gamification! When coupled with pedagogical approaches such as specifications grading, a gamified course can be a truly unique and engaging experience.
Need more support or want to learn more?
We understand that every course has unique content needs and may sometimes need further assistance. We are here to support you if you have any questions, require clarification, or want to find more resources for building your course syllabus. Please don’t hesitate to contact us and schedule an appointment:
- Pedagogical Wellness
- Bloom’s Taxonomy
- Measurable Verbs
- Formative and Summative Assessments by Yale
- What is Active Learning?
- AI Content (ChatGPT)
- Learning Mode
- Inclusive Syllabus Language
- UCI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Rubric
- UCI Definitions, Policies and Procedures for Course Development.
These tools can supplement and deepen your comprehension of constructing a course curriculum. We hope you utilize these materials to investigate and enrich your course syllabus to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive, whether you seek extra readings to revamp the existing course syllabus or construct a new one.