A learner-centered syllabus sets clear expectations and encourages learning and engagement by fostering a community of care.
Designing a Learner-Centered Syllabus
A syllabus is not only an opportunity for you to describe your course goals and expectations to your students but also how you intend to support them and encourage their learning. It is often the very first communication an instructor has with their students, and as such, must be carefully designed with transparency and student learning foremost in mind. Designing a learner-centered syllabus also means intentionally embedding a sense of presence, care, and community into it.
You can use your syllabus to set a positive tone for the course and show students that you want them to be successful by using inclusive language and a welcoming, respectful tone. A learner-centered syllabus also contains the following information:
- Basic Course Information
- Instructor Information
- Learning Objectives
- Course Expectations
- Major Assignments, Activities, and Projects
- Grading (or Ungrading) Policy and Scheme
- Course Schedule (or provided as a separate document)
- College Resources for Student Support
Because the syllabus has a lot of information, it’s best to chunk it up with headings and lists if possible. To help keep it concise, you can link to the College’s webpages, where applicable. Once you have a draft, go back and read it out loud, paying special attention to language and tone. You might even invite a colleague to review it and give you feedback on transparency, clarity, presence, and community. Of course, be sure to proofread it carefully before uploading it to the learning management system or sharing printed copies with your students.
We have created a Syllabus Template with Schedule Checklist [MS Word] to help you get started. It provides a clean, consistent, accessible design with options for traditional grading as well as ungrading. It also includes a sample schedule with readings and assignments set up as a checklist to aid students in planning and prioritizing their time. Please download and edit the template to make it your own.
- Syllabus Template with Schedule Checklist [MS Word]
- Liquid Syllabus by Michelle Pacansky-Brock
- Crafting Your Syllabus on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning: Online Course-in-a-Box
- How to Create a Syllabus by Kevin Gannon in The Chronicle of Higher Education
- The Student-Centered Syllabus by Beckie Supiano in The Chronicle of Higher Education
- 10 Course Policies to Rethink on Your Syllabus by Matthew R. Johnson in The Chronicle of Higher Education
If you need further assistance, ITS-RITG is available to answer your questions or meet you for a consultation. Contact us through the Online Service Desk.