Course Syllabus Recommendations

 

Course Syllabus Recommendations

Section (A) of Faculty Rule 3335-8-19 (modified April, 2016) states: Each course as defined in rule 3335-8-01 of the Administrative Code will have a syllabus to be provided to each student explaining how the student's performance will be assessed. University policy further requires that it be made available to students at the beginning of, and throughout the conduct of the course. The syllabus is typically written by the instructor, but often follows guidelines provided by the program, the department, or the college. There is no central requirement for the contents of a course syllabus, but there is a culture that has been established around the expectations associated with this important document.

Syllabi seem to vary in two fundamental areas - the apparent reason for writing the syllabus and the material that it contains. The purpose of the syllabus should drive the decision as to what content to include (Parkes & Harris, 2002)*. Three major purposes that a syllabus should serve are described by Parkes and Harris:

  • The Syllabus is a contract - It makes clear what the rules of the class are; it sets forth what is expected to happen during the term of the course; it delineates the responsibilities of students and of the course instructor; and it describes appropriate procedures and course policies.
  • The Syllabus is a permanent record - It serves accountability and documentation functions related to the course; It contains information useful for evaluation of the instructor(s), course, and program; and it documents what was covered in a course, at what level, and for what kind of credit (useful in course equivalency transfer situations, accreditation procedures, and articulation).
  • The Syllabus is a learning tool - It helps students become more effective learners in the course; it Informs students of the instructor's beliefs about teaching, learning, and the content area; and it places the course in context (how it fits in the curriculum, and how it relates to students' lives).

The syllabus usually contains the following information.

  • Prerequisites: Classes, skills, and information required prior to enrolling in course.
  • Course Objective: Information to be covered, general themes, and course activities.
  • Learning Objectives: A precise statement(s) linking subject matter and student performance. The objective includes competencies, skills, and knowledge students should acquire by the end of the course.
  • Textbooks/Readings: Titles, authors, editions, and local book retailers. You should always attempt to order textbooks for which electronic format is available. For information on available alternate format of a book, contact the publisher.
  • Course Schedule: Supply schedule of events; include discussion topics, exam dates, assignments, and readings to be completed for each day.
  • Additional Required Materials: Any additional course material such as calculator or art supplies that the student has to buy to successfully complete the course. Information on such materials needs to be as detailed and specific as possible.
  • Grades: Describe how you are going to calculate the grades and give an explanation of what is required to receive a particular grade.
  • Course Policies: Specify how you deal with tardiness, absences, late assignments, test/assignment make-ups, and course academic misconduct.
  • Specific University statements or policies: Policies such as academic misconduct, disability services, safety, trigger warnings, etc.

A sample template provided by Arts and Sciences is found at the following link.

https://asccas.osu.edu/curriculum/asc-syllabus-elements

Departments in ASC, for example, have additional syllabus statement requirements listed at the end of their template.

 


 

Sample Syllabus Statements and Policies

There have been recent requests for OAA to expand the number of these required statements. It is felt that this could make the syllabus unwieldy, so one recommendation is to include electronic links to sample statements. The following statements respond to some of these requests:

Academic Misconduct

The Committee on Academic Misconduct (COAM) recommends that every faculty member, instructor, and graduate teaching associate who is teaching a course prepare and distribute (or make available) to all students a course syllabus that contains a statement concerning "academic misconduct" or "academic integrity". The Ohio State University does not have a standardized statement on academic misconduct that instructors can use in their syllabi. Thus, COAM has prepared the following statement, which course instructors are free to use (with or without modification) for their syllabi:

"It is the responsibility of the Committee on Academic Misconduct to investigate or establish procedures for the investigation of all reported cases of student academic misconduct. The term "academic misconduct" includes all forms of student academic misconduct wherever committed; illustrated by, but not limited to, cases of plagiarism and dishonest practices in connection with examinations. Instructors shall report all instances of alleged academic misconduct to the committee (Faculty Rule 3335-5-487). For additional information, see the Code of Student Conduct at http://studentconduct.osu.edu"

Disability Services

All instructors are encouraged to include in their syllabus a statement inviting students with disabilities to meet with them in a confidential environment to discuss making arrangements for accommodations. There are several reasons why this syllabus statement is critical. This statement both normalizes the accommodation process and helps to create a positive and welcoming environment for students with disabilities. Also, the statement creates a collaborative vehicle for making legally mandated accommodations and serves as a reminder to students who need the accommodations that these arrangements need to be made.

"Students with disabilities that have been certified by the Office for Disability Services will be appropriately accommodated and should inform the instructor as soon as possible of their needs. The Office for Disability Services is located in 098 Baker Hall, 113 W. 12th Avenue; telephone 292-3307, TDD 292-0901, VRS 429-1334; http://www.ods.ohio-state.edu/."

Grievances and Solving Problems

A student who encounters a problem related to his/her educational program has a variety of avenues available to seek resolution. (Note: the procedures for grade grievances are explicitly covered in the faculty rules at http://trustees.osu.edu/rules/university-rules/chapter-3335-8-instruction.html) Typically, a student is advised to resolve any dispute, disagreement, or grievance as directly as possible, engaging with the person or persons most closely involved. The faculty and staff of the departments and colleges are available to work with students in this regard. If this step does not produce acceptable results, the student should follow a logical stepwise progression to address the academic concerns:

  • Course instructor(s)
  • Course supervisor
  • Department or division chairperson
  • College official (Dean or Associate Dean)
  • Office of Undergraduate Education (the Graduate School has similar grievance procedures for graduate student concerns - see http://www.gradsch.osu.edu/i.-overview-grievance.html)
  • University Student Advocacy Center - http://advocacy.osu.edu
  • Counseling and Consultation Services - http://www.ccs.ohio-state.edu (Note: Student advocates from the Advocacy Center may provide feedback on a student's written communication or statement to the department chair regarding grievances or appeals, or in instances where the student believes they have been unfairly treated, an advocate can help determine the best course of action.) Many OSU departments have department-specific grievance and appeal processes listed on their websites or in their student handbooks.

"According to University Policies, if you have a problem with this class, you should seek to resolve the grievance concerning a grade or academic practice by speaking first with the instructor or professor. Then, if necessary, take your case to the department chairperson, college dean or associate dean, and to the provost, in that order. Specific procedures are outlined in Faculty Rule 3335-7-23. Grievances against graduate, research, and teaching assistants should be submitted first to the supervising instructor, then to the chairperson of the assistant's department."

Diversity

"The Ohio State University affirms the importance and value of diversity in the student body. Our programs and curricula reflect our multicultural society and global economy and seek to provide opportunities for students to learn more about persons who are different from them. We are committed to maintaining a community that recognizes and values the inherent worth and dignity of every person; fosters sensitivity, understanding, and mutual respect among each member of our community; and encourages each individual to strive to reach his or her own potential. Discrimination against any individual based upon protected status, which is defined as age, color, disability, gender identity or expression, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status, is prohibited."

Counseling and consultation services

In 2013, USG passed a resolution (47-R-13) recommending that all Ohio State University campuses encourage every academic department to include a statement on their course syllabi informing students of the counseling and consultation services available to them. Their recommended statement is included below:

"As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance or reduce a student's ability to participate in daily activities. The Ohio State University offers services to assist you with addressing these and other concerns you may be experiencing. If you or someone you know are suffering from any of the aforementioned conditions, you can learn more about the broad range of confidential mental health services available on campus via the Office of Student Life Counseling and Consultation Services (CCS) by visiting ccs.osu.edu or calling (614) 292- 5766. CCS is located on the 4th Floor of the Younkin Success Center and 10th Floor of Lincoln Tower. You can reach an on-call counselor when CCS is closed at (614) 292-5766 and 24 hour emergency help is also available through the 24/7 National Prevention Hotline at 1-(800)-273-TALK or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org"

Trigger Warning language

Some students around the country are requesting that professors give a warning ahead of time if there is class material that could evoke a traumatic experience. Some schools, such as Oberlin College, have a proposed policy that would have required professors to give such warnings. Ohio State does not have a formal policy regarding trigger warnings, but the following language could be used by a faculty member who may want to provide such warnings, perhaps in the syllabus:

"Some contents of this course may involve media that may be triggering to some students due to descriptions of and/or scenes depicting acts of violence, acts of war, or sexual violence and its aftermath. If needed, please take care of yourself while watching/reading this material (leaving classroom to take a water/bathroom break, debriefing with a friend, contacting a Sexual Violence Support Coordinator at 614-292-1111, or Counseling and Consultation Services at 614-292-5766, and contacting the instructor if needed). Expectations are that we all will be respectful of our classmates while consuming this media and that we will create a safe space for each other. Failure to show respect to each other may result in dismissal from the class."

Statement on Title IX

Title IX is a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, Public Law No. 92-318, 86 Stat. 235 (June 23, 1972), codified at 20 U.S.C. Section 1681-1688. It was renamed the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002. It states (in part) that: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

An April 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter issued by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights states, "The sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students' right to receive an education free from discrimination and, in the case of sexual violence, is a crime." It is the responsibility of institutions of higher education "to take immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence." The letter illustrates multiple examples of Title IX requirements as they relate to sexual violence, and makes clear that, should an institution fail to fulfill its responsibilities under Title IX, the Department of Education can impose a fine and potentially deny further institutional access to federal funds.

"Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender are Civil Rights offenses subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offenses against other protected categories (e.g., race). If you or someone you know has been sexually harassed or assaulted, you may find the appropriate resources at http://titleix.osu.edu or by contacting the Ohio State Title IX Coordinator, Kellie Brennan, at titleix@osu.edu"

Safety - Student Escort Service

Several years ago the Undergraduate Student Government requested that faculty include the phone number for the University Escort Service on their syllabi, preferably on the first page somewhere and especially for courses that meet or end after dark.

" University Escort Service
A safe ride is a service provided to university students who would like safe transportation across campus. Any university student, faculty, or staff member may request a safe ride.
Hours: 7pm-3am
Phone: 292-3322 "

 

Copyright

"The materials used in connection with this course may be subject to copyright protection and are only for the use of students officially enrolled in the course for the educational purposes associated with the course. Copyright law must be considered before copying, retaining, or disseminating materials outside of the course."

Online course Syllabi

Most syllabus contents will be the same for online or face-to-face courses, but ODEE has provided a template for syllabi for online courses that provides delivery specific guidelines.

* Parkes, J., & Harris, M. B. (2002). The purposes of a syllabus. College Teaching, 50 (2), 55-61.