UW Continuum College Instructor Resources

Syllabus Design

The syllabus provides the instructor and students with a contract, a common reference point that sets the stage for learning throughout the course. Make sure that your students have easy access to the course syllabus by posting a digital copy on your course website. You may also choose to hand out hard copies if you teach in the classroom.

UW PCE Syllabus template

The form and content of a syllabus vary; however, there are common components that most successful syllabi contain. You can find a syllabus template for a UW PCE course on our Syllabus and Slide Templates page.

Course Description

Begin with the course description from the UW PCE program website. You might want to expand that description to make certain that it answers these questions:

  1. What is the basic content of the course?
  2. What makes it important or interesting?
  3. How does the course fit into the context of the other courses in the program?

Learning Objectives

List four to eight objectives for your course. What should students know and be able to do by the end of the course?  Objectives are most helpful when they are expressed in terms of knowledge and skills that can be readily identified and assessed.  For example, it can be more challenging to measure students abilities based on what they may “know” or “understand” as opposed to measuring their abilities to perform tasks such as “identify,” “differentiate,” “apply,” or “produce.”

For more information, also see Additional Resources under the Preparing to Teach page.

Course Format

What types of activities should students expect during class sessions? Discussion? Lecture? Small groups? Presentations? Will there be a pattern to how you use the time, especially if the class meets for three hours or more per session? Designing your course around activities that are most likely to lead students towards the goals you have defined will help them acquire and retain skills longer. Learn more about designing purposeful and engaging activities for adult learners.

Course Materials

List any suggested texts, providing as much information as possible. Make certain to let students know which are required and which are recommended or optional. Please coordinate the selection of texts with the other instructors in the program – you may find that you can agree on some common resources that will serve students throughout the program. Your Program Manager can also be helpful in the selection of a text.

Technical Requirements

If students need access to technology or software, you would list those here.

Course Schedule

What are the main topics of the course and when will they be addressed?  What will students need to do to prepare for each class?  Include a schedule of topics you intend to address along with a list of assigned readings and other course materials.

Student Assessment and Grading

How will students demonstrate their learning?  Give detailed information about what the student will need to do to complete the course successfully by listing the percentages of the final grade based on categories such as papers, assignments, quizzes, exams, class participation, group work and attendance (must attend at least 80% of the sessions). Visit the Assessing and Grading page for more information.

Course Policies and Values

What values will shape your teaching in the course and what policies will guide you?  Policies and values that you might want to communicate through your syllabus include:

  • Inclusiveness: How can your syllabus help you create an inclusive atmosphere that welcomes all students?  Some Syllabi include statements inviting participation from all students, honoring student diversity and differing points of view, and inviting requests for disability accommodations.
  • Integrity: What are policies and procedures regarding academic integrity and misconduct in relation to materials and assignments for this course?  For example, considering the types of work you are asking students to do, what do you want to communicate about working with data, representing original sources, or accountability for contributions to group projects?
  • Responsibility: What do students need to know about your expectations regarding assignments, attendance, online participation, or classroom interactions?  Other possibilities include policies regarding late work, make-up exams, and preparation for class participation.
  • Expectations for Success: How can students learn most successfully in your course?  In your syllabus, you can express confidence that all students are capable of doing well, and you can suggest strategies for success.  For example, what strategies for learning are particularly important for this material?  What resources – such as study centers, web tutorials, or writing centers – are available to help students succeed in your course?

Sample Syllabus