Syllabus Design

Designing a learner-centered syllabus

Getting Started

A syllabus is 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 by carefully designed with transparency and student learning foremost in mind. Instructors who teach in online or partially online learning environments will also need to intentionally embed a sense of presence, care, and community into their syllabi.

  • Begin with your learning goals.  What do you want students to know, be, or do one year, five years, or ten years from now? Write these down and then revise or eliminate until you have the three or four that are most important to you. 
  • After you’ve created a list of only those most critical learning goals, ask what assignments or assessments you can give your students so that they can show they’ve made progress toward those goals.
  • Only after you have learning-focused goals and assignments, begin to lay out your course schedule, due dates, and readings in such a way as to encourage student progress toward those goals and assignments.
  • If you are teaching online, invite a colleague to view the syllabus and Sakai course as a student and then give you feedback on transparency, clarity, presence, and community.

More info


email: Jessica Tinklenberg
or the Claremont Colleges Center for Teaching and Learning: