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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.

Course Specific Information

COURSE NAME
Semester

Section Specific Information

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

Instructor Specific

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)

Course Description

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.

Prerequisites

Any prerequisites for the course should be listed here.

Course Rationale

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.

Student Learning Outcomes

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.

Required Texts/Materials

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.

Instructional Methodology

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 System

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.

Course Policies

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 the College Policies page. In addition, an instructor should be explicit about their expectations regarding missed or late work.

Attendance/Class Participation

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.

Withdrawal Policy

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.

Missed Exam and Late Work Policies

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.

Incompletes

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.

Statement on Scholastic Dishonesty

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 for more information.

Student Rights and Responsibilities

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.

Statement on Students with Disabilities

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

Safety Statement

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.

Concealed Handgun Policy

ACC faculty may notify students in their classes or learning environment about the Texas Campus Carry law taking effect at Austin Community College (and other Texas community colleges) on August 1, 2017. The following is recommended syllabus language, approved by legal counsel and the college. For courses including ACC-sponsored field activities, language is still being drafted.

1. Statement for standard classroom courses (non-exclusion zone)

The Austin Community College District concealed handgun policy ensures compliance with Section 411.2031 of the Texas Government Code (also known as the Campus Carry Law), while maintaining ACC’s commitment to provide a safe environment for its students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

Beginning August 1, 2017, individuals who are licensed to carry (LTC) may do so on campus premises except in locations and at activities prohibited by state or federal law, or the college’s concealed handgun policy.

It is the responsibility of license holders to conceal their handguns at all times. Persons who see a handgun on campus are asked to contact the ACC Police Department by dialing 222 from a campus phone or 512-223-7999.

Refer to the concealed handgun policy online at austincc.edu/campuscarry.

2. Statement for classroom courses with physical activity (non-exclusion zone)

The Austin Community College District concealed handgun policy ensures compliance with Section 411.2031 of the Texas Government Code (also known as the Campus Carry Law), while maintaining ACC’s commitment to provide a safe environment for its students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

Beginning August 1, 2017, individuals who are licensed to carry (LTC) may do so on campus premises except in locations and at activities prohibited by state or federal law, or the college’s concealed handgun policy.

It is the responsibility of license holders to conceal their handguns at all times. Persons who see a handgun on campus are asked to contact the ACC Police Department by dialing 222 from a campus phone or 512-223-7999.

IMPORTANT: (Class name) classes may involve considerable physical activity. Bending, stretching, lifting, and other rigorous activities associated with (class name) occur regularly in class. Such activities may expose concealed weapons and place the license holder in violation of state law. Therefore, it is recommended that concealed weapons be stored in a secure place as defined by college policy prior to entering the classroom, studio, or learning space.

Refer to the concealed handgun policy online at austincc.edu/campuscarry.

3. Statement for classroom courses in exclusion zones

The Austin Community College District concealed handgun policy ensures compliance with Section 411.2031 of the Texas Government Code (also known as the Campus Carry Law), while maintaining ACC’s commitment to provide a safe environment for its students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

Beginning August 1, 2017, individuals who are licensed to carry (LTC) may do so on campus premises except in locations and at activities prohibited by state or federal law, or the college’s concealed handgun policy.

In addition, concealed weapons are not allowed on ACC-sponsored field trips where the school owns or has chartered or leased vehicles for transportation.

It is the responsibility of license holders to conceal their handguns at all times. Persons who see a handgun on campus are asked to contact the ACC Police Department by dialing 222 from a campus phone or 512-223-7999.

IMPORTANT: (class name) classes are held in an area designated as an exclusion zone as defined by state law or the college’s concealed handgun policy. Concealed carry is prohibited in exclusion zones. Concealed weapons must be stored in a secure place as defined by college policy prior to entering the classroom, studio, or learning space.

Refer to the concealed handgun policy online at austincc.edu/campuscarry.

Use of ACC E-mail

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.

Testing Center Policy

  • 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. 

Student and Instructional Services

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.

Course Outline

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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