Syllabus and Policies
Online Syllabus Template and Advice
When you're teaching online, there are some special considerations you'll want to consider to help your students adjust to the expectations for an online learning environment.
To start, take a look at the Center for Teaching and Learning's Online Syllabus Template. This is a customizable document containing links to resources and policies you may find useful as you craft your syllabus for your online course.
If you upload your syllabus to the Canvas learning management system's Syllabus tool it will automatically be published to the Stanford Syllabus website.
Here are some other syllabus construction practices to keep in mind:
In remote learning situations, it can be exceptionally difficult for students to manage their time and to balance their commitments. Therefore, anything you can do in the syllabus to present a well-ordered understanding of the class content and schedule will be very helpful. Try:
- Giving a sense of the organization of content: for instance, you might give a title to each week or module of the course.
- Building in a clear weekly rhythm for the class, say by having forum posts and small assignments due at the same time every week. This will make it easier for students to manage their work in the class.
- Emphasizing key dates and times (e.g., assignment due dates, exam times).
A formal writing style can feel more harsh to student readers online than it might in person. It's a fine line--while you don't want to be insincere or sound unlike yourself, but don't be afraid to weave a bit of humor and personality into your syllabus and emails. Consider the difference between: "Attend office hours if you need to," vs. "I'm here to help, and look forward to seeing you in office hours." A friendly written tone may better express the attitude you wish to convey and can help significantly in allowing students feel personally connected to the class.
Acknowledging the Moment
The syllabus can be a place to acknowledge the realities of the moment. The CTL offers this suggested syllabus language for Spring Quarter 2020--depending on the situation, you may find it helpful moving forward as well.
As you know, we are engaged in this class under extraordinary circumstances. Not only are we now conducting the class online, but we are all working with repercussions of the COVID-19 emergency. (I/We on the course team) want to acknowledge the challenges of this, and express our gratitude to you. This new version of our course, and the circumstances it is offered under, are going to require adaptability, understanding, and help from all of us--we thank you in advance for all that you do.
These are trying times. Please do feel free to reach out to me about how the class is going at any time by email, or during these virtual office hours: __________. Also, I want to especially call attention this term to the support Stanford offers through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), available 24 hours a day at 650-723-3785.
Set Equitable Classroom Policies
Start from a place of compassion and understanding when setting policies, particularly around attendance. Learn more about equitable classroom policies.