The course syllabus is often treated as a contract by both faculty and students. As such, syllabi should not be altered after the semester has begun to ensure fairness for the students. One suggestion to allow flexibility for instructors is to decouple the schedule on the syllabus, perhaps even keeping the two documents entirely separate.
Purpose and Value
A syllabus is an academic agreement that establishes the academic relationship between instructors and students in a course, used as the basis for communication and accountability. It communicates course expectations, organizes information, sets the tone for the learning environment, maps the path of student learning, and provides accountability. A carefully constructed syllabus helps clarify course goals and learning objectives, assessment and evaluation standards, grading policies, and expectations for student and faculty behavior.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Criteria for Accreditation require that a syllabus be placed on file in the department for each course taught and that students must be provided written information about the goals and requirements of each course, the nature of the course content, and the methods of evaluation to be employed.
Every scheduled academic course, regardless of delivery method (e.g., on campus, online), must have a written syllabus distributed to students enrolled in the course. The syllabus should be posted electronically in USF's learning management system for the class and be available to students by the first day of class.
A syllabus for each course taught each semester during each academic year (summer, fall, spring) shall be placed on file in the department offering the course. Only one syllabus is required for course offerings with multiple sections. Department syllabi should be updated each academic year. Departments are responsible for maintaining these files.
Instructors should avoid making major changes to a syllabus once classes have begun, particularly changes affecting attendance standards, grading standards, or performance measures. However, since it is impossible to cover all contingencies in the planning stages of a course, students should be advised that instructors may need to make changes as the semester progresses. Any changes to a syllabus should be for compelling reasons and follow these guidelines:
- Fair and adequate notice is given to enrolled students either by email, in writing, or through the learning management system
- Modifications to the syllabus are not arbitrary or capricious.
- Students are not unfairly disadvantaged by mid-semester changes to grading standards, attendance standards, or performance measures. Efforts should be made to avoid penalizing students as a result of any necessary changes.
All syllabi at USF should include the following items:
- Instructor name
- Office hours and location
- Contact information
- Course name and number
- Credit hours
- Course description
- Instructor Goals (what instructors will cover; note: known as "course objectives" in the State Course Numbering System)
- Student learning outcomes (what students can perform by the end of the class; uses only action verbs)
- Required texts and materials
- Grading scale
- Grade breakdown by course deliverables
- Classroom policies, including attendance policy
- Calendar of major events, including final exam date and time
- Information about or links to university information about academic deadlines, religious holidays, attendance, academic honesty and disability services
In addition, you may wish to use the following USF-specific syllabus template to help craft your syllabus(note: this is not a "required" template, but merely a suggestion and a format for those seeking an easy template). Please note that our syllabus template may not contain every field required for some specialized purposes, such as approval for General Education. You may freely copy the boilerplate policies found within for your own syllabi.
Below is a document that has important semester dates (holidays, drop dates, etc.) along with possible class dates that you can readily use to build your own class schedule:
Syllabi should be provided to students in Canvas (and not only handed out on paper).
As you build your syllabus, consider mapping your course results onto the national career readiness standards (NACE), which provide a common language for discussing how your course addresses critical soft skills for the workplace, like critical thinking,
Here is an example from one Religion Studies syllabus:
In the interest of career readiness, I am supplying these connections between the
course objectives and the seven competencies identified by the National Association
of Colleges and Employers (NACE) as most desirable to potential employers. The numbers
here correspond with the numbering in Course Objectives, and further information on
these categories can be found in section XVI of this syllabus:
- By analyzing the nature of a field of study, students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. In this analysis, students are frequently asked to explain their conclusions verbally in class time which builds oral communication skills. The instructor will frequently challenge their interpretation, asking for clarification and presenting opposing sides of the argument. Overcoming this challenge will require leadership skills – by assessing and managing one's emotions under stressful circumstances – and further refinement of critical thinking and problem solving skills.
- The ready knowledge that students develop about different cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles and viewpoints through their study in this course further develops their teamwork and collaboration skills and will also aid in the empathic abilities required for leadership skills.
- While we will focus on comparing different religious traditions, the tools of comparison that we develop can be broadly applied to any comparative act. This more rigorous comparative ability is another development of a student's critical thinking and problem solving ability. In addition, the instructor will frequently ask students to furnish their own information for these comparisons, something which adds to information technology application.
- By becoming more aware of how religion affects their own thought, students develop a greater metacognitive ability, that is, the ability to think about thinking. This not only increases critical thinking again, but is also an important aspect of negotiating diversity in teamwork/collaborative activities, the interpersonal skills and emotion managing aspects that are part of leadership, and the ability to think ethically and contemplate one's own integrity which contributes to professionalism/work ethic.
Students who are unable to complete all requirements of the course for circumstances beyond their control may request to receive an "I" grade to allow for completion of the remaining coursework the next semester(s).
USF Tampa Undergraduate: http://ugs.usf.edu/policy/IGradePolicy.pdf
USF Tampa Graduate: http://www.grad.usf.edu/policies_sect7_full.php
USFSP Undergraduate: http://regulationspolicies.usf.edu/policies-and-procedures/pdfs/policy-11-004.pdf
USFSP Graduate: http://regulationspolicies.usf.edu/policies-and-procedures/pdfs/policy-11-004.pdf
USF System Policy 10-005
All final examinations are to be scheduled in accordance with the University's final examination policy.
ACADEMIC INTEGRITY OF STUDENTS
USF System Regulation 3.027
Knowledge and maintenance of the academic standards of honesty and integrity as set forth by the university are the responsibility of the entire academic community, including the instructional faculty, staff, and students.
DISRUPTION OF ACADEMIC PROCESS
USF System Regulation 3.025
Although disruptive student conduct is already prohibited by the Student Code of Conduct, the purpose of this policy is to clarify what constitutes disruptive behavior in the academic setting, what actions faculty and relevant academic officers may take in response to disruptive conduct, and the authority of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities or designated office handling conduct issues in Student Affairs to initiate separate disciplinary proceedings again students for disruptive conduct.
STUDENT ACADEMIC GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES
USF System Policy 10-002
The purpose of these procedures is to provide all students taking courses within the USF System an opportunity for objective review of facts and events pertinent to the cause of the academic grievance An "academic grievance" is a claim that a specific academic decision or action that affects that student's academic record or status has violated published policies and procedures, or has been applied to the grievant in a manner different than that used for other students.
EARLY NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENT FOR OBSERVED RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS
USF System Policy 10-045
Students who anticipate the necessity of being absent from class due to the observation of a major religious observance must provide notice of the date(s) to the instructor, in writing, at the beginning of the term.
GENDER-BASED CRIMES/SEXUAL MISCONDUCT/SEXUAL HARASSMENT (INCLUDING SEXUAL VIOLENCE)
USF System Policy 0-004
USF has a commitment to the safety and well-being of our students. Please be aware that educators must report incidents of sexual harassment and gender-based crimes including sexual assault, stalking, and domestic/relationship violence that come to their attention. I am required to report such incidents in order for the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities or the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity can investigate the incident or situation as a possible violation of the USF Sexual Misconduct/Sexual Harassment Policy and provide assistance to the student making the disclosure. If you disclose in class or to me personally, I must report the disclosure and will assist you in accessing available resources.
The Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention, the Counseling Center and Student Health Services are confidential resources where you can talk about such situations and receive assistance without the incident being reported.
- Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention:
- (813) 974-5757
- Counseling Center
- (813) 974-2831
- Student Health Services
- (813) 974-2331
GENERAL ATTENDANCE POLICY
USF General Attendance Policy
Students are expected to attend classes. Faculty must inform students of attendance requirements on syllabi. Instructors should accommodate excused absences by making arrangements with students ahead of time (when possible) or by providing a reasonable amount of time to make up missed work.
USF System Policy 0-108
Students with disabilities are responsible for registering with Students with Disabilities Services (SDS) in order to receive academic accommodations.
SDS encounters similar difficulties with course syllabi each semester. Highlighted here are some issues to consider as faculty members develop syllabi:
Accommodated Quizzes, Tests and Exams
SDS administers more than 7,000 exams to the USF community each academic year. The student is responsible for scheduling accommodated tests and exams with SDS. Students must schedule with SDS at least one full week before the requested test date. Students who miss this deadline complete a Late Exam Request Form requiring an instructor signature. SDS schedules late exam requests as space allows and as close to the original test date as possible.
Due to the volume of tests and exams SDS manages, SDS cannot provide accommodated testing space for "pop" or unscheduled quizzes. Consult with SDS for information on accommodating unscheduled quizzes.
Students who are taking a make-up exam due to disability reasons (medical issues, scheduling conflicts with other courses and extended exam time, disability related appointments etc.) should be allowed to take a make-up exam within 10 business days of the student's return to classes. SDS schedules make-up exams as space allows.
Online Proctoring such as Proctorio
Consult with SDS prior to a student who utilizes accommodations using Proctorio. Some SDS students have atypical testing behaviors. Other SDS students utilize adaptive software that does not collaborate well with Proctorio software.
Laptop or Electronic Device Usage
If prohibiting laptop, phone or electronic device usage in class, keep in mind that some SDS students utilize such devices for note taking and recording. Still others have medical applications on cell phones that the student cannot turn off (blood sugar monitors, medication alerts etc.) Policies that indicate, "Only those with accommodations may use such devices" inadvertently draw attention to the student with the accommodation. SDS suggests using language that indicates, "Students utilizing laptops, cell phones or other electronic devices for non-academic reasons during class time may be penalized . . . ."
Consult with SDS about alternatives to clicker points. Many SDS students have disabilities that affect the ability to answer clicker questions.
Attendance/Participation Accommodations Apply to all courses – Even on-line
If a student has attendance or participation accommodations, SDS provides an "Attendance/Participation Accommodation Form" as part of the student's accommodation letter. This form is tool intended to guide a conversation between a student and instructor about missed courses, missed deadlines and the procedures to follow when requesting extensions. The accommodation does not allow a student to miss an indefinite number of classes or deadlines. Instructors may always consult with SDS to determine what is reasonable.
USF policy requires that all course materials be accessible to students. Per the USF Caption and Media Access Policy, all media sources must be captioned prior to use. SDS encourages faculty to consider document accessibility. Use the "Style" functions in Microsoft Word and the OCR functions in Adobe to ensure that all course documents are accessible to those who utilize screen reading technology. See the SDS Accessibility Guide for more information: www.sds.usf.edu (under resources).