Syllabus Design

What is expected in an MSU syllabus?

Logistics & requirements

  • Course alpha number, section and title [WRIT105:43 College Writing I], meeting days and time, room and building
  • Term information; for example, Fall 2020.
  • Course format (online, face-to-face, hybrid, blended)
  • Faculty name, title, office number, telephone, email, web address, office hours, and preferred ways for students to make contact
  • Required resources, especially textbooks and online resources, with cost estimates and sourcing information
  • Prerequisites, if any

Course information

  • Course objectives
  • Student learning outcomes
  • Schedule of assignments: readings, quizzes, exams, papers, projects, presentations, and other required, assessed activities
  • Grading standards and criteria—elements that are included and criteria that used to determine final grades
  • Course policies that cover: attendance, participation, making up work, late assignments, tests or exam conditions, extra credit opportunities, academic honesty and plagiarism; also Pass/Fail, Incomplete, and Withdrawal policies and deadlines.

Student support resources

Students are often unaware of the many resources that are available to them and so syllabi should include clear information and guidance to students on accessing the University’s support services. Copy and paste the following statements or craft your own.

  • The Disability Resource Center: MSU is committed to assisting students with disabilities in receiving accommodations necessary to equalize access. Students who may need accommodations based on disability must self-disclose and initiate the request to the Disability Resource Center (DRC). The student is responsible for providing the DRC with documentation of their disability that meets our guidelines and it will be reviewed. An intake meeting will take place with the student and a DRC counselor to determine reasonable accommodations. Please know that accommodations require time to implement and are not set in place until we meet with a student. For more information, please contact the Disability Resource Center by email: or phone (973) 655-5431.
  • The Academic Success Center.  MSU students will find a variety of tutoring at the Academic Success Center, writing support at the Center for Writing Excellence.. [Reference any other academic support services offered by your department or college/school.]
  • Counseling and Support Services through Student Development and Campus Life:: As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning or reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. These might include strained relationships, anxiety, high levels of stress, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, health concerns or unwanted sexual experiences. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides free short term individual counseling, group therapy and referral services that are confidential and are not apart of your educational record. Call CAPS at 973-655-5211 between 8:30-5:30, M-F. In a crisis after hours, call University Police at 973-655-5222. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline offers 24/7 support at 800-273-8255. If you are in need of housing or access to food, please contact Durell Clark, Student Support Services Case Manager, at 973-655-7493.
  • Student services provided by department or college/school, including at least the Dean’s Office Advising center.

Document design suggestions

Additional suggestions for online courses

  • Make syllabus available to students before the course begins.
  • Attach it to your welcome email.
  • Post it on the course site early.
  • In webpage-based syllabi, include brief explanations of policies, major assignments, etc., and provide links to fuller ones.
  • Also outline tech support policies, netiquette, and how the online course differs from a face-to-face one.
  • Duplicate information: Post the whole syllabus on the course site, but also copy and paste relevant sections into your assignments, forums, announcements, etc.

Examples of visual syllabi


Barkley, E.F., Cross, K. P., & Major, C.H, & (2005). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Davis, B. G. (2009). Tools for teaching (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Grunert O’Brien, J., Mills, B.J., Cohen, M.W. (2008). The course syllabus: A learning-centered approach (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

McGlynn, A. P. (2001). Successful beginnings for college teaching: Engaging your students from the first day of class. Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.

Stephan, J. (2000). The Syllabus and lesson plan. In D. E. Grieve (Ed.). Handbook II advanced teaching strategies for adjunct and part-time faculty (pp. 55-62). Ann Arbor, MI: Adjunct Advocate.

University of Minnesota Center for Teaching and Learning (n.d.). Syllabus tutorial. Retrieved from

Updated 5.22.20