Preparing a Syllabus

For many of us, the most difficult step in teaching a course is also the first step: preparing a syllabus. On this page, we offer some practical guidance for the many questions that arise when constructing a syllabus. In July 2023, the university formally approved a University-wide Syllabus Policy, developed by a working group of KU faculty, staff and students. The policy articulates required and recommended information to be included in all syllabi and requires that all courses have conforming syllabi filed with the university by Fall 2024. The guidance provided on this page has been aligned with the required and recommended elements in the policy to help you start aligning your syllabus now.

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Syllabus FAQ

An accessible version of the documents on this site will be made available upon request. Contact cte@ku.edu to request the document be made available in an accessible format.

The purpose of a syllabus is to communicate to your students what the course is about, why it is taught, where it is going, and what will be required of students for them to be successful in the course.

It is important that instructors set clear expectations for students and themselves in their syllabi. The syllabus lays out your expectations for when and how you expect students to engage with your course. It also explains the quality of work you expect from students, the climate you want to promote, and the policies that students are expected to follow.

Try to make your syllabus as clear, concise, and easy to read as possible. Students are unlikely to read an overly long or legalistic syllabus, leading them to will miss important information about a course.

Also, be sure your syllabus (and all other course content) is accessible (the templates, tools, and examples provided here are all in accessible formats).

You may use the following templates as guides to ensure the required information is included in your syllabus. Use them in part to update your current syllabus or use them in whole to create a syllabus that meets syllabus policy requirements.

A helpful syllabus FAQ has been created to accompany the syllabus policy.

Syllabus template tool with required information only (.docx)

Syllabus template tool with required and recommended information (.docx)

Here’s a list of fundamental information for you to include in your syllabus:

Basic Course Information

Start with the basic information of the course as it appears in the catalog, including:

  • Course title, subject code and number
  • Course description as it appears in the KU Catalog
  • Number of credit hours
  • Year and semester of the course
  • Meeting days, time and place
  • Instructional mode/format (See Instruction Mode Help Sheet.pdf for mode/format descriptions)

Prerequisites/Preparation for the Course

  • List any prerequisites if applicable.
  • Clarify what knowledge, skills, or experience you expect students to have or courses they should have completed.
  • Suggest ways they might refresh skills if they’re uncertain about their readiness.
  • Give them a sense of how much preparation and work the course will take.

Instructor Information

Provide instructor information and expectations about how students should use the provided contact information, including:

  • Instructor(s) name(s)
  • Office address (you can include a map if it's hard to find)
  • Contact information (email and/or phone)
  • Office hours (mention if appointments are required or if students can stop in)
  • Home number (if listed, specify any restrictions for its use)
  • Communication expectations (how and when students can expect to hear back from you)

A Credit Hour Statement

Provide an explanation of instructional time (e.g., this class will have 2 hours of in-person instructional time per week) and your expectation of out-of-class student work per credit (e.g., students should plan to devote approximately 2 hours weekly to coursework outside of class for each credit hour, for a total of 6 hours per week).

Course Purpose and Learning Outcomes

Explain the course purpose(s); what is the course about and why would students want to learn the material? List the course learning outcomes and describe how the course fulfills requirements associated with the degree/major, if applicable. For courses that count towards the KU Core, include the specific learning outcome for each Core goal the course is approved for; the learning outcomes for the course should demonstrate their support for/alignment with the KU Core learning outcome(s). You may also wish to explain why you’ve arranged topics in a given order and the logic of themes or concepts you’ve selected.

For more guidance on identifying and writing learning outcomes, see our material on Backward Design and our guide on Course Level Outcomes.

Course Requirements

Specify the nature and format of in- and out-of-class instructional activities. When discussing the course format and activities, tell students whether the class involves fieldwork, research projects, lectures, and/or discussion, and indicate which activities are optional, if any. Describe the assignments and assessments for the course, their dates, and the nature of any exams or quizzes (e.g., essay, short answer, take-home). Explain how the assignments and assessments relate to course objectives. Describe any required or recommended extra- or co-curricular activities (e.g., attend plays, field trips).

Course Materials

List required texts and readings, and any additional materials, supplies and equipment that will be needed (e.g., paintbrushes, computer, calculator, iClicker, wifi, whiteboard marker); platforms and how to access them (e.g., Canvas, Zoom, Teams). Let students know whether they are required to read before class meetings.

Grading Policies

Describe grading procedures, including the components of the final grade and weights for each component. Explain whether you will grade on a curve or an absolute scale, if you accept extra credit work, and if any of the grades can be dropped.

Course Calendar and Schedule

Include a course calendar with the sequence of course topics, readings, and assignments. Exam dates should be firmly fixed, while dates for topics and activities may be tentative. Also, list on the course calendar the last day students can withdraw without penalty. Consider including other drop dates and key university-wide deadlines listed on the registrar's site.

Course Policies

Clearly state your policies regarding class attendance and participation, illness and make-up work, student academic success and personal needs, and academic misconduct. You might also list acceptable and unacceptable classroom behavior.

Student Survey of Teaching

Include a statement that a course evaluation will be available to students through an end-of-semester Student Survey of Teaching, if applicable.

University Policies and Student Resources

The KU Syllabus Policy requires that specific University Policies and Student Resources are provided or referenced in all course syllabi. Instructors may reference the KU Academic Success Student Resources website for a complete listing of the required student-facing policies and resources. You may either list all of these policies directly in your syllabus OR provide a link from your syllabus to this Academic Success webpage. If you choose to provide a link to the webpage with these policies and resources, the following language may be helpful:

"In addition to any polices and resources noted above, the KU Academic Success Student Resources website provides links to KU Policies and Resources pertaining to academic misconduct, grading polices, harassment and discrimination, diversity and inclusion, mandatory reporting, equal opportunity and affirmative action, and student rights and responsibilities, and to key student resources. Please visit the site to familiarize yourself with these policies and resources. If you have questions or concerns about any of these policies, statements, or resources, please let me know, or contact Student Affairs directly."

In addition to including the above link and information, you might choose to highlight specific policies and student resources directly in your syllabus. Below is a list of policies and some suggested syllabus language you might decide to highlight in your syllabus. You may also want to use your syllabus (or Canvas site) to make students aware of the many resources that are available to support and assist them with and beyond academics. You can download this list of student support resources to include on your syllabus and/or on your Canvas site, or use content from this page, which describes the many resources that are available to support student needs.

Recommended Syllabus Statement by the Student Access Center (SAC):

"The Student Access Center (SAC) coordinates academic accommodations and services for all eligible KU students with disabilities. If you have a disability for which you wish to request accommodations and have not contacted SAC, please do so as soon as possible. They are located in 22 Strong Hall and can be reached at 785-864-4064 (V/TTY). Information about their services can be found at access.ku.edu. Please contact me privately in regard to your needs in this course."

Suggested Language for Syllabus Policies for Academic Misconduct and Disruptive Behavior:

Academic Misconduct: Academic misconduct will not be tolerated in this class. An instructor may, with due notice to the student, treat as unsatisfactory any student work which is a product of academic misconduct.  Cases of academic misconduct may result in any or all of the following penalties: reduction of grade, admonition, warning, censure, transcript citation, suspension, or expulsion.

The following information about Academic Misconduct is discussed in Article II, Section 7 of the rules and regulations of the University Senate. “Academic misconduct by a student shall include, but not be limited to, disruption of classes; threatening an instructor or fellow student in an academic setting; giving or receiving of unauthorized aid on examinations or in the preparation of notebooks, themes, reports or other assignments; knowingly misrepresenting the source of any academic work; unauthorized changing of grades; unauthorized use of University approvals or forging of signatures; falsification of research results; plagiarizing of another's work; violation of regulations or ethical codes for the treatment of human and animal subjects; or otherwise acting dishonestly in research.” 

Reduction of grade for the Course: Reduction of grade may include the assignment of an F in the course. If the charged student dropped or withdrew from the course prior to the outcome of the adjudication, the course will be reinstated and assigned the grade as determined by the outcome of the hearing. No student is allowed to change their grade to credit/no credit if found responsible of academic misconduct with the sanction of a reduction of grade for the course.
 
Plagiarism: The website of the KU Writing Center provides some excellent information and resources on how to avoid plagiarism. We will be asking you to familiarize yourself with these materials this semester.

It is your responsibility as a KU student to make sure you understand the policy on academic honesty and misconduct.

Artificial Intelligence: Use of an AI text generator when an assignment does not explicitly call or allow for it without proper attribution and authorization is plagiarism.
 
Disruptive Behavior: The scope and content of the material included in this course are defined by the instructor in consultation with the responsible academic unit. While the orderly exchange of ideas, including questions and discussions prompted by lectures, discussion sessions and laboratories, is viewed as a normal part of the educational environment, the instructor has the right to limit the scope and duration of these interactions. Students who engage in disruptive behavior, including persistent refusal to observe boundaries defined by the instructor regarding inappropriate talking, discussions, and questions in the classroom or laboratory may be subject to discipline for non-academic misconduct for disruption of teaching or academic misconduct, as defined in the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities (CSRR), Section VI, and the University Senate Rules and Regulations, Section 2.7.1. Section VII of the CSRR and section 2.7.5 of the University Senate Rules and Regulations defines potential sanctions for these types of infractions.

Sample Syllabus Statement about Diversity, Inclusivity, and Class Climate:

The instructor considers this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect as a human being – regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, political beliefs, age, or ability. Additionally, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided you can agree to disagree. It is the instructor’s expectation that ALL students experience this classroom as an environment that supports their learning.

The University of Kansas supports an inclusive learning environment in which diversity and individual differences are understood, respected, and appreciated. We believe that all students benefit from training and experiences that will help them to learn, lead, and serve in an increasingly diverse society. All members of our campus community must accept the responsibility to demonstrate respect for the dignity of others. Expressions or actions that disparage a person’s or group’s race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, gender, gender identity / expression, religion, sexual orientation, age, veteran status, or disability are contrary to the mission of the University. We expect that KU students, faculty, and staff will promote an atmosphere of respect for all members of our KU community.

It is likely you may not agree with everything that is said or discussed in the classroom. Courteous behavior and responses are expected at all times. When you disagree with someone, be sure that you make a distinction between criticizing an idea and criticizing the person. Expressions or actions that disparage a person’s or race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, gender, gender identity/expression, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, or marital, parental, or veteran status are contrary to the mission of this course and will not be tolerated.

For more resources about creating inclusivity in the classroom, visit our teaching resource page on Creating Inclusivity.

Suggested Syllabus Statements from the Provost's Office:

The suggested syllabus language on concealed carry from Provost's Office can help address concerns faculty may have about types of courses and course activities and how they intersect with the state’s concealed carry law and KU weapons policy. The wording, which covers a handful of academic scenarios, has been reviewed and revised by a small number of faculty, administrators, university governance leaders, and general counsel.

Common preamble for ALL course-specific wording

Individuals who choose to carry concealed handguns are solely responsible to do so in a safe and secure manner in strict conformity with state and federal laws and KU weapons policy. Safety measures outlined in the KU weapons policy specify that a concealed handgun:

  • Must be under the constant control of the carrier.
  • Must be out of view, concealed either on the body of the carrier, or backpack, purse, or bag that remains under the constant control of the carrier. 
  • Must be in a holster that covers the trigger area and secures any external hammer in an un-cocked position
  • Must have the safety on, and have no round in the chamber.

(Add the appropriate suggested language, below, that pertains to the course type or situation)

Course-specific wording
Lab classes

This course takes place in spaces that will require students to leave belongings such as backpacks and purses away and unattended for the duration of class time. Students who choose to carry a concealed handgun in a purse, backpack, or bag must review and plan each day accordingly, and are responsible for making alternate arrangements as necessary. The university does not provide appropriate secured storage for concealed handguns.

Individuals who violate the KU weapons policy may be asked to leave campus with the weapon and may face disciplinary action under the appropriate university code of conduct.

Tests and quizzes

Instructors are allowed by Kansas Board of Regents policy, to require backpacks, purses and other bags be placed (LOCATION) during exams and quizzes, and as such those items will not be under the constant control of the individual. Students who choose to carry a concealed handgun in a purse, backpack, or bag must review and plan each day accordingly, and are responsible for making alternate arrangements as necessary.  The university does not provide appropriate secured storage for concealed handguns.   

Individuals who violate the KU weapons policy may be asked to leave campus with the weapon and may face disciplinary action under the appropriate university code of conduct.

Workshops and design-build facilities

Coursework in the shops and in some design-build courses takes place in spaces that will require students to leave belongings such as backpacks and purses away and unattended. Several course-related activities require use of power tools and equipment that may catch on loose-fitting clothing. Activities also require physical movements that may reveal the presence of a concealed handgun. Students who choose to carry a concealed handgun must review and plan each day accordingly, and if they cannot adequately conceal a handgun on their body, are responsible for making alternate arrangements as necessary before arriving to the workspace. The university does not provide appropriate secured storage for concealed handguns.

Individuals who violate the KU weapons policy may be asked to leave campus with the weapon and may face disciplinary action under the appropriate university code of conduct.

Performance classes / athletic training / recreation classes

This course requires interactive movement, clothing changes, and/or physical contact with others that may reveal the presence of a concealed handgun. Students who choose to carry a concealed handgun must review and plan each day accordingly and transfer their handgun to a secured device in their vehicle or their residence before arriving to class. The university does not provide appropriate secured storage for concealed handguns or any other weapons.

Individuals who violate the KU weapons policy may be asked to leave campus with the weapon and may face disciplinary action under the appropriate university code of conduct.

Interactive and shared-spaces course

This course involves moving around the classroom to view and discuss the work of classmates on a daily basis. This process requires students to leave belongings such as backpacks and purses away and unattended for significant portions of class time. In addition, other students may occupy chairs and tables used by classmates. Students who choose to carry a concealed handgun in a purse, backpack, or bag must review their schedule and plan each day accordingly, and are responsible for making alternate arrangements as necessary. The university does not provide appropriate secured storage for concealed handguns.

Individuals who violate the KU weapons policy may be asked to leave campus with the weapon and may face disciplinary action under the appropriate university code of conduct.

Field Trips A (unattended backpacks)

This activity will require students to leave belongings such as backpacks and purses away and unattended for prolonged periods. Students who choose to carry a concealed handgun in a purse, backpack, or bag must review and plan each day accordingly, and are responsible for making alternate arrangements as necessary. Many field trip locations do not provide appropriate secured storage for handguns. Activities may also include strenuous physical movement that may reveal the presence of a concealed handgun. Plan accordingly prior to beginning this activity. The university does not provide appropriate secured storage for handguns.

Individuals who violate the KU weapons policy may face disciplinary action under the appropriate university code of conduct, including dismissal from the course.

Field Trips B (visit to restricted areas, unattended backpacks)

This activity will require students to visit areas where a variety of self-defense weapons may be legally restricted. Students will also be expected to leave belongings such as backpacks and purses away and unattended for prolonged periods. Activities may also include strenuous physical movement that may reveal the presence of a concealed handgun. Students who choose to carry a concealed handgun or other means of self-defense should plan accordingly prior to beginning this activity. The university does not provide appropriate secured storage for concealed handguns or any other weapons.  

Individuals who violate the KU weapons policy may face disciplinary action under the appropriate university code of conduct, including dismissal from the course.

Field Trips C (unattended backpacks, out-of-state travel)

In addition to traveling out of state, this activity will require students to leave belongings such as backpacks and purses away and unattended for prolonged periods. Students who choose to carry a concealed handgun are responsible for knowing and following all related laws and restrictions of the ultimate destination as well as points in between. Students who choose to carry a concealed handgun in a purse, backpack, or bag must review and plan each day accordingly, and are responsible for making alternate arrangements as necessary. Many field trip locations do not provide appropriate secured storage for handguns. Activities may also include strenuous physical movement that may reveal the presence of a concealed handgun. Plan accordingly prior to beginning this activity. The university does not provide appropriate secured storage for handguns.

Individuals who violate the KU weapons policy may face disciplinary action under the appropriate university code of conduct, including dismissal from the course.

Keep in mind that a syllabus is a written contract between you and your students. End with a caveat to protect yourself if changes must be made once the course begins; e.g., “The schedule and procedures in this course are subject to change in the event of extenuating circumstances.”