Essential Elements


The course syllabus is both a central guiding document for any course as well as a contract between yourself (as the instructor) and your students. defines a syllabus as “an outline or other brief statement of the main points of a discourse, the subjects of a course of lectures, the contents of a curriculum, etc.”. As such, the course outline needs to include enough information for our students to know what to expect from our course while also ensuring they understand expectations (for delivery and assessment) for the upcoming term.

The University of Lethbridge has a two policy documents (Assessment of Student Learning Policy and Procedures – Undergraduate Students and Assessment of Student Learning Policy and Procedures – Graduate Students) that outline requirements for a course syllabus. Links to these may be directly included into your syllabus if you choose.


  • These policies clearly outline the information that is required. They state (pg. 2) – statements in the grey boxes are taken directly from the policy:


1.2 The course outline includes the following essential elements:

1.2.1 The instructor’s name and contact information, course number, section and title, and the Department, Faculty or School.

1.2.2. Where, when and how students may seek assistance from the instructor.


  • Clear lines of communication are vital in any classroom, but in an online classroom it is essential that the methods of communication are both accessible and reliable (for both student and instructor). No matter what communication methods you use, test them out with your students to ensure that everyone is able to contact you via these methods BEFORE they need to.


1.2.3. A list of required reading materials, supplies and expenses for events outside of regular classes, and, where the instructor requires the study of material that cannot be specified at the outset of the course, and explicit statement to that effect.

1.2.4. Relative weights of all work used to determine a final grade. Where attendance or other forms of class participation are required, the criteria for these measures should be explicitly stated.

1.2.5. How the final letter grade for the course will be determined if percentages are used.

1.2.6. Due dates, approximate due dates or the approximate frequency of graded work.

1.2.7. Penalties for late work, if appropriate.

1.2.9. If instructors use a University-approved plagiarism detection service to determine the originality of student papers, notice must be provided in the course outline. Student work may be stored in the database of the service, and if students object to such storage, they must advise the instructor in sufficient time that other techniques may be used to confirm the integrity of written work.


  • The final entry in this section of the document speaks directly to the contractual nature of the course syllabus. Many people erroneously believe that once the course outline is passed out to the class, it is set in stone. This is not the case. There is language in our policies to allow for modification of the course outline – as long as it is in the best interest of the students – and should be done in consultation with students. This statement can even be included in your course syllabus (if you choose), so that it is clear that modifications can be made under certain situations if they are in the best interest of the students. That final passage states that:
1.2.10. The essential elements of the course as specified in the course outline shall not be altered after the Add/Drop deadline. However, recognizing that teaching excellence requires a degree of flexibility and responsiveness to both students’ needs and emergent circumstances, adjustments to the course outline may sometimes be necessary, provided that no student is disadvantaged by the change.


Syllabus. (n.d.). in, retrieved March 29th, 2020) from


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Fit for Online Learning Copyright © 2020 by U of L Teaching Centre: Jördis Weilandt, Erin Reid, Kristi Thomas, Brandy Old, and Jeff Meadows is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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