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Syllabus Tips and Sample Statements

This site contains tips and sample statements that you can adapt to fit your needs. We have organized this site into categories, including required syllabus elements (as referenced in the Faculty Handbook) and additional considerations that may be beneficial to the learning environment. Click on a category below to see tips and example statements.

Required Syllabus Elements

These are areas required by the University in the Faculty Handbook. Note: Required elements are subject to change, so please make sure you are referencing the requirements of the Faculty Handbook.

Additional Considerations

While these statements are currently not required to be in the course syllabus, they may be helpful for promoting student success, inclusion and diversity, and sense of belonging, as well as ensuring clear, transparent communication regarding expectations.

Required Syllabus Elements

Academic Accommodations

Example 1 (from Services for Students with Disabilities)

Virginia Tech welcomes students with disabilities into the University’s educational programs. The University promotes efforts to provide equal access and a culture of inclusion without altering the essential elements of coursework. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers that may be due to disability, including but not limited to ADHD, chronic or temporary medical conditions, deaf or hard of hearing, learning disability, mental health, or vision impairment, please contact the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office (540-231-3788, ssd@vt.edu, or visit www.ssd.vt.edu). If you have an SSD accommodation letter, please meet with me privately during office hours as early in the semester as possible to deliver your letter and discuss your accommodations. You must give me reasonable notice to implement your accommodations, which is generally 5 business days and 10 business days for final exams.

Example 2 (from the Office for Inclusion and Diversity)

If there are aspects of this course that prevent you from learning or exclude you, please let me know as soon as possible. Together we’ll develop strategies to meet both your needs and the requirements of the course.

Academic Integrity Statements

Undergraduate Academic Integrity Statement

from the Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity

The Undergraduate Honor Code pledge that each member of the university community agrees to abide by states:

“As a Hokie, I will conduct myself with honor and integrity at all times.  I will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor will I accept the actions of those who do.”

Students enrolled in this course are responsible for abiding by the Honor Code. A student who has doubts about how the Honor Code applies to any assignment is responsible for obtaining specific guidance from the course instructor before submitting the assignment for evaluation. Ignorance of the rules does not exclude any member of the University community from the requirements and expectations of the Honor Code.

For additional information about the Honor Code, please visit: https://www.honorsystem.vt.edu/

*Note: Please visit the Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity's page for the Honor Code Pledge for assignments, modules and other preventive education opportunities, and more information and tips about what to include in your syllabi.

Graduate Academic Integrity Statement

The tenets of the Virginia Tech Graduate Honor Code will be strictly enforced in this course, and all assignments shall be subject to the stipulations of the Graduate Honor Code. For more information on the Graduate Honor Code, please refer to theGHS Constitution located at https://graduateschool.vt.edu/academics/expectations/graduate-honor-system.html

Attendance

In this section, address any requirements for course attendance. For example, are students required to attend a certain percentage of course meetings in order to pass? If this is a requirement, consider explaining the rationale for required attendance for greater transparency.

Course Objectives

Course objectives are shared with students so they know what they should be learning in the course and the standards by which they will be evaluated. To show alignment between course objectives and course assessments, include which objectives assessments are measuring as part of your syllabus.

Grading

In this part of your syllabus, you should provide the grading scale for the course as well as how the final course grade is calculated. This can be presented in a list or a table.   

Office Hours

Students need to know when they can find you in your office or stop by for assistance in the course. Be sure to include your contact information (e.g., email, office phone). If you're including virtual office hours, consider sharing your Zoom room information on the syllabus.

Prerequisites  

While you can list the prerequisite course numbers and names, it may help students to understand why these courses are required. Here is an example statement to that effect:

Foundations of Educational Psychology is a prerequisite for this course as we will be expanding on cognitive theories of learning. Therefore, a basic understanding of cognitive processing is foundational for this course.

Topical Outline

A topical outline lets students know what content areas (or topics) are covered during the course. Consider providing a calendar for the course so students have a clearer understanding of when topics will be covered and when assignments are due. Using a table format with appropriate headings (e.g., date, topic, readings due, work due) can help students more quickly and clearly understand work and content expectations.

Additional Considerations

Basic Needs Example Statements

Example Statement from the Dean of Students Office

For any student who has difficulty affording groceries, accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, and if you believe this may affect your performance in this course, you are urged to contact the Dean of Students office for support at 540-231-3787 or complete an interest form to participate in The Market at Virginia Tech.

The Dean of Students, through The Market at Virginia Tech, offers food options and other resources. There is also a Student Emergency Fund program. If you are comfortable in doing so, please notify your professor or departmental advisor of your situation. This will enable them to provide any resources they have access to.

Course Success

Addressing tips for how students can be successful in your course can make for a more motivational syllabus. Consider asking students from previous semesters what they found useful in preparing for your course. (This also makes a great end-of-semester reflection activity.) In this statement, you can also highlight campus resources that may be of benefit to the students.

Example Statement:

Course 1234 is a discussion-focused course. To best prepare for class sessions, you should arrive to class with notes from the readings and a list of questions you would like to discuss. The readings can be intense to digest, which is why I recommend starting your reading early and doing a little bit at a time. A useful tip is to time yourself actively reading (meaning reading for understanding) 2 pages of the text. This will give you an idea of how long it will take you to read the full text. If you find yourself struggling to comprehend the readings, I am happy to meet with you and discuss effective reading strategies that you can try.

Grading Questions or Disputes

Students may have questions about how their work was graded and want to know how they should approach you. Providing this information opens lines of communication and shows that you care that students understand how they are evaluated.

Example statement:

I want you to understand how you are evaluated in this class. If you have any questions about your grade or feedback on course work, please email me to schedule a time to meet. I kindly ask that you wait at least 24 hours after work has been returned before requesting an appointment. This is to give you time to more thoroughly consider questions you have about your work. 

Inclusive Statements

The syllabus is one of the first means of communication with your students and can be an effective tool for normalizing inclusion. The Office of Inclusion and Diversity has a first week of class handout which includes example statements for topics such as gender pronouns, mental health support, veterans and active duty personnel, first generation students, and cultural and religious holidays.

Instructional Technologies

It is helpful for students to know which instructional technologies will be utilized as part of the course, how they can access help with those technologies, and expectations for use.

Software Needed for Class Sample Statement:
As part of this course, we will be utilizing SPSS for in-class activities and out-of-class assignments. Please make sure you have access to SPSS on your personal laptops that you will bring to class.

How to Access Technology Help Sample Statement:
If you need technical assistance, please contact 4Help. You can call 4Help at 231-4357 or visit their website at https://4help.vt.edu/ to submit an online help ticket. 4Help's website also provides a knowledge base of articles that may be of assistance. If you find that you are having technical problems that may affect your class work or participation, please let me know as soon as possible so we can discuss alternate arrangements or temporary solutions.

Late and Missed Work

Clearly stating your policy on late and missed work sets expectations for student work and timeliness.  If there is a grade penalty for late work, make sure that is stated. If documentation is required, include that in your policy. As philosophies and rationales for accepting or not accepting vary by instructor, we have provided some example statements below that vary in permissiveness.

Example 1

from Designing a Motivational Syllabus by Harrington and Thomas (2018, p. 158)

It is important to stay on track with your assignments; not only will this help you feel less stressed, but it is also an important skill you will need in your career. Being able to meet deadlines and juggle many tasks are important life and career skills. Thus, you will need to complete all quizzes, exams, and assignments according to the schedule. However, I recognize that personal circumstances may at times make it difficult or impossible to complete a learning task on schedule. If you have a personal situation that prevents you from completing a task on time, you will need to discuss this with me prior to the due date if possible, or as soon as it becomes possible, so that we can come up with a plan. Reading assignments can be submitted PRIOR to class in the learning management system if you will be absent. Extensions are at my discretion. If an extension is provided, it is important to know that the format of the exam or the assignment may be modified.

Example 2
If you find that you need an extension, please contact me to discuss your concerns. Extensions may be granted in the case of illness, family emergency, or other substantial need. Please contact me prior to the due date, if possible, to request an extension. Submitting assignments late, without a granted extension from the instructor, may result in a reduced grade (x points per day late).

Example 3
The due dates for each assignment are listed on the course syllabus and posted in Canvas. However, I know that sometimes life happens and you have competing responsibilities. In light of this, I have allotted two flex opportunities that you can use to extend two assignments up to two days each. You can use these flex opportunities for any assignment for any reason. You do not need to share with me the reason why. Just email me that you'd like to use them.

Example 4

All assignments are due on the date assigned at the listed time. No late assignments will be accepted. Make up quizzes and tests will not be offered. Exceptions are made for extreme circumstances. Contact the instructor as soon as possible to make arrangements. Documentation of the circumstance may be required. 

Participation

Explaining your expectations for course participation provides another level of transparency for students. If participation is part of their course grade, make sure you are clear about how you define participation and how it is measured. The following is an example statement from the text Designing a Motivational Syllabus by Harrington and Thomas (2018, p. 157):

You are expected to be an active participant in class discussion and other learning opportunities. To do this, you must be prepared, so be sure to complete all reading and other assignments according to schedule. The class activities have been carefully designed to help you achieve the learning outcomes for the course. Missing class or not actively participating will negatively affect your ability to learn the content.

Use of Personal Technology

Technology is ubiquitous, and our classrooms are no exception. While many students use devices for educational purposes (e.g., note-taking, polling devices for in-class activities), technology can be distracting when used inappropriately. Carefully think through your policy about the use of phones and computer devices in your classroom. Keep in mind that some students may need technology for academic accommodations.  Some additional considerations for technology policies are found here.

Example Statement

As a courtesy to your classmates and to me as the instructor, please refrain from using your phones and computers for purposes not related to the course. While you may think you are only distracting yourself, your technology use can distract others and impact their learning. Please make sure your phones are set to silent to avoid unnecessary interruptions. I do realize there may be times when you need to take an urgent phone call. In those situations, please quietly excuse yourself from the classroom before answering your phone.

Withdrawal

Students often need to withdraw from courses due to personal or academic reasons. However, some students may not realize withdrawal is an option. It can be helpful to mention this on your syllabus, especially for first-year and first-generation students.

Example Statement
Sometimes students may need to withdraw from a class because of personal or academic reasons. If your performance in the class is not where you want it to be or you are experiencing difficulties, please contact me prior to withdrawing.