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Writing a Syllabus

Especially for a new instructor, the task of writing a syllabus can be a daunting one. The faculty member needs to clearly present their layout for the class, their expectations, and the policies that they will follow.

Every instructor’s syllabus is unique, but individual faculty members build the syllabus for their particular course sections upon the framework of the course’s master syllabus.

Master syllabi for all courses taught at ACC

For the sake of ensuring complete and consistent communication to students, the college has identified a set of items that all course syllabi are expected to contain. The goal is to provide all ACC students clear statements of the course expectations, requirements, and policies that may (among many other factors, of course) help them to succeed 
in the class. There are no particular expectations regarding the order, arrangement, 
or style in which these items are presented in the syllabus, but a checklist is 
available that lists all of the items in a sequence that many faculty might find useful.

Many of these statements, particularly those for course policies such as scholastic dishonesty, will be consistent across courses and even across the college. Since 
the syllabus serves as a contract between the instructor and the student, faculty members are encouraged to incorporate the course policies language approved 
by the College as it puts one in a much stronger position in case of grade disputes 
or lawsuits. In fact, some faculty may simply choose to download and print the 
course policies given here and include them among their first day handouts.

Generally, it is wise to go over the syllabus point by point with the students on the 
first day and answer any questions they might have. Some instructors also have students sign a waiver saying that they have read and agreed to the terms of the syllabus.

Examples of typical course syllabi for transfer and workforce courses are provided elsewhere on this website, and descriptions for each of the syllabus components is given below. Wording for the parts marked in red should be included in the master syllabus for the course.


The syllabus should have the
• course name (e.g., Engineering Physics I) and number (e.g., PHYS 2425)
• section number and synonym (e.g., RSNG 1247-011, #39130)
• campus, room, and time of day for lecture and laboratory sections

The following instructor information should be on the syllabus: 
• instructor’s name
• phone number(s) (including ACC voice mail for adjunct instructors) 
• office hours and location of office
• information on how conferences outside of office hours can be arranged
• e-mail address
• web page (if any)

The description from the college catalog should go here. Departments may have chosen to build upon the rather brief description in the catalog, so one should refer 
to the master syllabus for the course for the proper wording.

If there is a required field activity, that should be mentioned, as well other general information that seems appropriate.

Any prerequisites for the course should be listed here.

This is a statement on the purpose of class and its broad educational goals. 
One can describe relationships to subsequent courses, general education, 
service-learning, appreciation of the arts, civic engagement, or whatever 
seems appropriate. Again, the wording should be provided in the master syllabus.

This is the section in which the student learning outcomes for the course and 
program are listed. Departments should have identified student learning outcomes 
for every course and for every discipline/program for which they offer a degree. 
In addition, all Core Curriculum courses should list the general education outcomes that they address, and workforce courses should identify the SCANS competencies that are designated for that course. If instructors have additional student learning outcomes, they should list them here as well.

Any required textbooks, laboratory manuals, or other materials should be listed here. One may also list optional texts, such as study guides. Some departments require 
all sections to use the same textbook, whereas others allow each instructor to 
choose their own.

This statement identifies the format in which the instruction occurs: lecture, 
lecture/lab, distance-learning,etc. Field activities and co-curricular activities may 
be mentioned here as well.

Grading criteria should be clearly explained in the syllabus. The criteria should 
specify the number of exams and other graded material (exercises, term papers, homework, assignments, projects, etc.), and the weight assigned to them. 
Instructors should discuss the format of exams (multiple choice, short answer, 
essay, matching, combination, etc). Guidelines for other graded materials, such 
as homework or projects, should also be included in the syllabus, including 
penalties for failing to abide by deadlines. Having explicit detail in this section 
helps to more easily resolve issues with student grades should they arise.

Faculty should detail their course policies. Many of these policies are defined by 
the college and will therefore be the same across all courses. Should a faculty member choose, official wording for most course policies is available at {website}&. 
In addition, an instructor should be explicit about their expectations regarding 
missed or late work.

Each instructor should clearly express their attendance and class participation policies. If there are specific policies for field activities, they could be included here.

An example of wording adapted from the catalog: 
Regular and punctual class and laboratory attendance is expected of all students. 
If attendance or compliance with other course policies is unsatisfactory, the 
instructor may withdraw students from the class.

This should be clearly stated. The College defines withdrawals as occurring after 
the official reporting date of the semester, typically the 12th class day. In addition, 
the Legislature has mandated the Rule of Three and the Rule of Six (see below).

As an example of some possible wording:
It is the responsibility of each student to ensure that his or her name is removed 
from the roll should he or she decide to withdraw from the class. The instructor 
does, however, reserve the right to drop a student should he or she feel it is necessary. If a student decides to withdraw, he or she should also verify that the withdrawal is submitted before the Final Withdrawal Date. The student is also 
strongly encouraged to retain their copy of the withdrawal form for their records.

Regarding the Rule of Three, some possible wording adapted from the catalog:
Students who enroll for the third or subsequent time in a course taken since Fall, 2002, may be charged a higher tuition rate, for that course.

Regarding the Rule of Six, some possible wording again adapted from the catalog:
State law permits students to withdraw from no more than six courses during their entire undergraduate career at Texas public colleges or universities. With certain exceptions, all course withdrawals automatically count towards this limit. Details regarding this policy can be found in the ACC college catalog.

Each instructor should clearly express their policies with regard to missed exams, 
late homework or laboratory exercises, etc. Again, this helps immensely when 
dealing with student grade disputes. Some departments may have policies that 
apply to all sections of a course.

This policy should also be clearly stated. Note that the completion date for 
unfinished work cannot be later than the withdrawal deadline for the following semester.

Besides any specific policies, some possible wording quoted and adapted from 
the section on student responsibilities in the college catalog:

A student attending ACC assumes responsibility for conduct compatible with the mission of the college as an educational institution. Students have the responsibility 
to submit coursework that is the result of their own thought, research, or self-expression. Students must follow all instructions given by faculty or designated 
college representatives when taking examinations, placement assessments, tests, quizzes, and evaluations. Actions constituting scholastic dishonesty include, but are not limited to, plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, collusion, and falsifying documents. Penalties for scholastic dishonesty will depend upon the nature of the violation and may range from lowering a grade on one assignment to an “F” in the course and/or expulsion from the college. See the Student Standards of Conduct and Disciplinary Process and other policies at

In this context, student rights and responsibilities specifically refers to the rights of 
free expression and responsibility to respect others with differing opinions. A useful interpretation comes from the section on student rights and responsibilities in the college catalog:

Students at the college have the rights accorded by the U.S. Constitution to freedom 
of speech, peaceful assembly, petition, and association. These rights carry with 
them the responsibility to accord the same rights to others in the college community and not to interfere with or disrupt the educational process. Opportunity for students
to examine and question pertinent data and assumptions of a given discipline, guided by the evidence of scholarly research, is appropriate in a learning environment. This concept is accompanied by an equally demanding concept of responsibility on the 
part of the student. As willing partners in learning, students must comply with college rules and procedures.

As described on their website, the Office for Students with Disabilities assists 
students with documented disabilities by providing one-on-one advising, accommodation, and a variety of support services.

Some recommended wording for this section might be:
Each ACC campus offers support services for students with documented disabilities. Students with disabilities who need classroom, academic or other accommodations must request them through the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD). Students are encouraged to request accommodations when they register for courses or at 
least three weeks before the start of the semester, otherwise the provision of accommodations may be delayed. Students who have received approval for accommodations from OSD for this course must provide the instructor with the ‘Notice of Approved Accommodations’ from OSD before accommodations will be
provided. Arrangements for academic accommodations can only be made after the instructor receives the ‘Notice of Approved Accommodations’ from the student. 

Students with approved accommodations are encouraged to submit the ‘Notice of Approved Accommodations’ to the instructor at the beginning of the semester because a reasonable amount of time may be needed to prepare and arrange for 
the accommodations. 

Additional information about the Office for Students with Disabilities

The College seeks to provide a safe environment for all students and employees. What to do in case of fire, tornadoes, or armed subjects are procedures with which everyone should be familiar. Emergency procedures posters are posted in every classroom, and having a safety statement in the syllabus is one way of drawing 
students’ attention to it. Many ACC Departments require additional safety 
information in their syllabuses.

The following statement may be used here:
Austin Community College is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for study and work. You are expected to learn and comply with ACC environmental, health and safety procedures and agree to follow ACC safety policies

Because some health and safety circumstances are beyond our control, we ask 
that you become familiar with the Emergency Procedures poster and Campus 

Safety Plan map in each classroom. Additional information about emergency procedures and how to sign up for ACC Emergency Alerts to be notified in the 
event of a serious emergency.

Please note, you are expected to conduct yourself professionally with respect and courtesy to all. Anyone who thoughtlessly or intentionally jeopardizes the health or safety of another individual will be dismissed from the day’s activity, may be 
withdrawn from the class, and/or barred from attending future activities.

You are expected to conduct yourself professionally with respect and courtesy to all. Anyone who thoughtlessly or intentionally jeopardizes the health or safety of another individual will be immediately dismissed from the day’s activity, may be withdrawn from the class, and/or barred from attending future activities.

The recommended wording here is:
All College e-mail communication to students will be sent solely to the student’s ACCmail account, with the expectation that such communications will be read in a timely fashion. ACC will send important information and will notify you of any college related emergencies using this account. Students should only expect to receive 
email communication from their instructor using this account. Likewise, students should use their ACCmail account when communicating with instructors and staff.

Instructions for activating an ACCmail account.

    If students in the class might use the Testing Centers for either regular or make-up exams, a statement about Testing Center policies is useful. For example:

    Under certain circumstances, an instructor may have students take an examination 
    in a testing center. Students using the Academic Testing Center must govern themselves according to the Student Guide for Use of ACC Testing Centers and should read the entire guide before going to take the exam. 

    To request an exam, one must have:
  • ACC Photo ID
  • Course Abbreviation (e.g., ENGL)
  • Course Number (e.g.,1301)
  • Course Synonym (e.g., 10123)
  • Course Section (e.g., 005)
  • Instructor's Name

Do NOT bring cell phones to the Testing Center. Having your cell phone in the 
testing room, regardless of whether it is on or off, will revoke your testing 
privileges for the remainder of the semester. 
ACC Testing Center policies. 

This section provides general information about some of the services available to students. Some suggested wording would be:

ACC strives to provide exemplary support to its students and offers a broad variety 
of opportunities and services. Information on these services and support systems 
is available here.

Links to many student services and other information can be found at Current Students.

ACC Learning Labs provide free tutoring services to all ACC students currently enrolled in the course to be tutored. The tutor schedule for each Learning Lab may 
be found here

For help setting up your ACCeID, ACC Gmail, or ACC Blackboard, see a Learning 
Lab Technician at any ACC Learning Lab.

The syllabus should contain a course outline for the lecture (and laboratory), 
detailing what students will be doing on what days, identifying test dates and other 
due dates. Instructors are also encouraged to add a statement of variance, such as:

Please note that schedule changes may occur during the semester. 
Any changes will be announced in class.

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