Building your Syllabus

A clear, detailed, and organized syllabus is essential to any successful course. It serves as the “contract” between you and your students by outlining your respective rights, responsibilities, and expectations.  A thoughtful and well-crafted syllabus ensures that students understand what is expected of them and how to meet those expectations. It also prevents potential miscommunications and obstacles to student learning, such as unclear grading criteria or ill-defined outcomes. 

Contact Information

 For Contact Information, provide your:

  • Name
  • Preferred means of contact (e.g. Canvas Inbox, email, phone)
  • Office hours (if applicable)

Tip: Student privacy law protects students' right to keep some personal information private. This includes personal email addresses. If you provide your email address as a means of contact, you must also include the following language:  "If you prefer not to share your email address, please contact me through the Canvas Inbox."


Course Description

This field is automatically populated with the description from the course catalog. You may not make any changes to the course description without the consent of your program department.

If you're developing a new course and/or writing a course description from scratch, you should think about the key information a potential student should know:

    • What are the top three or four topics that a student will learn in this course?
    • What is the primary focus or area of application for skills taught?
    • Who is the ideal “audience” for the course?
    • What is the scope and breadth of a course and what will need to be covered in that period?

Course Objectives 

Objectives describe the broad goals of your course and the skills you intend students to hone or acquire. 

Start by establishing and outlining what is important about your course. What are the top three things students should learn or do in your class? When writing your course objectives consider what you want your students to:

  • Know
  • Care about & reflect upon
  • Be able to do


    • Students will learn about the major theories in ethics and apply them to realistic problems in the healthcare field.
    • Students will investigate and identify three top problems in the healthcare field and current solutions that have been proposed by different agencies, organizations, and institutions.

Learning Outcomes

Outcomes are the measurable evidence that students have met these goals and honed and/or acquired these skills. 

In writing your Learning Outcomes, we recommend you follow the “ABCD” Model:

  • Audience: Describe the intended learner.
  • Behavior: With a clear “action verb,” outline what learners will demonstrate or be able to accomplish.
  • Condition: Describe the situation in which the learner will perform the behavior.
  • Degree: State the standard for the acceptable performance of the behavior

Address each of the components above when writing your learning outcomes. “Audience” and “Condition” may be implied or obvious to the learner. It is best to outline those items even if you believe they might be obvious - at least at first.

Example 1: By the end of this course, English 111 students will be able to outline an academic essay, identifying the thesis, introduction, body, and conclusion.

Example 2: By the end of this course, students will be able to correctly build their syllabus and first two weekly modules in their Canvas courses.

Note: When writing Learning Outcomes, avoid using the word "understand", since "understanding" is often vague and difficult to measure. Instead, describe the specific, measurable ways in which your students will demonstrate that they "understand."  In other words, how will you know that they "get it?"  What will they be able to do?  What will they show you?


In the "Materials" section, provide students with the following information:

  • Required textbooks, materials, and software needed to complete the course. You can also list supplemental, optional, or recommended resources. 
  • How to obtain the required materials. If any materials need to be ordered (i.e. from the campus bookstore), confirm this with your program department.
  • How to obtain course materials inside of Canvas. Here it may be helpful to make a note such as: "All course materials will be provided through the Canvas interface."


Grading Policies

In the "Evaluation" section, you should define your Grading Policies by answering the following questions:

  1. How will students submit their assignments? Which alternative submission methods are acceptable in the case of technology failure (e.g., Canvas is down, student is not able to log into Canvas, etc.)?
  2. What are your policies on late work? Will you accept work after certain dates (e.g. end of term)?
  3. How will you ensure fair and impartial grading? What can students do if they believe a grade is unfair? What is the process for disputing a grade with you and with the institution?
  4. How and when will assignments become available? Can students complete work early?
  5. What additional information do students need to know about your grading policies?

Some of these policies may already be present in your syllabus template. However, we recommend you read the section about grading on the UCLA Extension homepage:

We also recommend you familiarize yourself and your students with UCLA Extension's Student Conduct page.  For a copy of the most-current policy, please contact your program department. This policy must be provided to students in the syllabus.



In the "Criteria" subsection, you should give a percentage breakdown for all assignment types. Make sure that the breakdown is proportional to how important those activities are in supporting your learning outcomes.  Here is a typical breakdown:

    • Essays: 40%
    • Exams and Tests: 40%
    • Discussion & Participation: 20%
    • NOTE: These should add up to 100%
  • At this point you do not need to have every assignment mapped out, but you should outline the different types of assignments that students should expect and leave a placeholder for a more detailed point breakdown.
  • Example: Essays 30% - "Students will be expected to write # essays over the course of the quarter, each worth ___ points. These essays will range between 2-8 pages and be written following MLA or APA guidelines.
  • Finally, decide on your total number of points. In our experience, 100 or 1000 both work great because the percentage breakdown is easier to apply and students will easily be able to track their own progress as they move through the course.
  • Decide first on what percentage of the total a certain assignment group will be (e.g., how many points will discussion posts be worth?), then create the assignments. This can always be adjusted later on.
  • Be as clear and direct as possible about the total number of points needed to pass the course successfully and how those points will be awarded. Rubrics can be attached/connected to assignments later on.



Grading Breakdown

In the "Breakdown" subsection of the "Evaluation" section, you should provide students with a clear grading breakdown. This includes the letter grade and the range for that grade. 


This is the grading scheme for UCLA Extension courses. Note that none of the grades in this example have a+/-, but as an instructor, whether you include + and - to your students' grades is up to you. If you do opt to include + and - modifiers, ensure that your syllabus grading breakdown describes this  If you are teaching an X/XL 200-299; X 300-499 course, please eliminate the "D" grade. 

If you have questions about your grading scheme, please contact your program department.

Course Policies

In the "Course Policies" section, you may wish to articulate additional Course Policies, or further “ground rules” for you and your students. This could include: 

  1.  Policies on late work or make up assignments
  2. Changes to the course (alternative assignments for students who may need accommodations etc.).
  3. When you will give feedback to student work, or how you will address questions and requests for additional help.

Consider the different expectations that students bring to the class!

Note: Institutional Policies are included in the Course Syllabus and cannot be edited.  Please contact your program department if you have questions, comments, or concerns. 




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