A course syllabus should minimally convey course topics and learning goals, how course-learning resources are available, how students are evaluated and graded, expectations of students enrolled in the course, information about course content and depth, information about learning resources and textbooks, the number of credits awarded and how they can be achieved, and information about the course instructor(s). In essence, it conveys course expectations, serves as a durable record of the learning experience and is a tool to support student learning. Syllabi should also be in English.
Every group instruction course should have a syllabus. Undergraduate independent/directed study courses should follow the Policy on Independent/Directed Study for Undergraduates.
Recommendations and Templates
For a complete set of syllabi recommendations, including required elements, faculty and instructors can use and edit either of the following:
Required Elements for Course Syllabi
Starting in spring 2018, three elements need to be included on all course syllabi that may not have been routinely included before then:
- Course learning outcomes – Course learning outcomes are statements about the knowledge and skills that students are expected to know, be able to do, or value by the end of the course. Include the course learning outcomes that have been previously approved in the course proposal. Please distinguish learning outcomes for undergraduate vs. graduate vs. variable credit activity. Find guidance on how to write learning outcomes.
- Number of credits associated with the course – The number of credits associated with each course can be found at guide.wisc.edu/courses.
- How credit hours are met by the course – A course syllabus should show how the course offering and learning expectations are consistent with the course credits and the UW-Madison Credit Hour Policy. Follow these recommendations for how to describe course credit information. UW-Madison definitions of the credit hour are as follows:
- Traditional Carnegie Definition – One hour (i.e. 50 minutes) of classroom or direct faculty/instructor instruction and a minimum of two hours of out of class student work each week over approximately 15 weeks, or an equivalent amount of engagement over a different number of weeks. This is the status quo and represents the traditional college credit format used for decades. Instructors who have regular classroom meetings and assign homework, reading, writing, and preparation for quizzes and exams, should use this definition.
- 45 Hours per Credit – One credit is the learning that takes place in at least 45 hours of learning activities, which include time in lectures or class meetings, in person or online, labs, exams, presentations, tutorials, reading, writing, studying, preparation for any of these activities, and any other learning activities. Regular and substantive instructor/student interaction is required and the syllabus should be clear on how this happens. This option may be useful for nontraditional formats, “flipped” courses, lab courses, seminars, courses with substantial meeting time and little out-of-class work, or any time this is a better fit for learning activities than the Carnegie definition.
This information meets expectations for the 2019 HLC accreditation review; providing this information to students in course syllabi is one way instructors fulfill their responsibility, not only for basic information conveyance to their students, but also to a successful accreditation outcome.