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Teaching and Technology Center

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Digital Syllabus Design

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Digital Syllabus Design

A syllabus is a contract between you and your students.  It sets the tone for the course and lets students know exactly what their expected learning outcomes are, what is required of them, and the support available to them.  The purpose of this web page is to provide you with some guidelines as to what you can consider including in your course syllabus and how you can design your syllabus document so that it is accessible to all users.  

You can download a syllabus_template.docxsyllabus template (Word .docx format) to use for designing​ your own course syllabi.  NEW IN SPRING 2019: You can now also download and use our syllabus form template.docmsyllabus form template.docm (Word .docm format), which provides form boxes for entering data into the template.

Table of Contents

Syllabus Design Strategies

Visit the Office of Teaching and Learning's Teaching Resources web site and scroll down to the section on Syllabus Design for guidance on the development of learning objectives using Bloom's Taxonomy, sample syllabi, and more.

Course Overview

See the first page of the syllabus_template.docxsyllabus template (Word .docx format) for sample course overview details to include.

Course Policies to Include

See pages 3-4 of the syllabus_template.docxsyllabus template (Word .docx format) for sample course overview details to include, such as an Attendance policy, a Netiquette policy, and a Special Circumstances policy (particularly for students with a document disability).

Details for Online Learners

If you are teaching an online course, it is imperative that you provide as many clarifying details as possible in your syllabus so that your students are never unsure as to how your online course operates. Consider including a "Typical Week" section in your syllabus to demonstrate what a typical week in your online course looks like.

Also consider including a "Geography of our Blackboard Course Site" section with guidance on how to navigate your Blackboard course site - see page 5 of the syllabus_template.docxsyllabus template (Word .docx format).

Designing an Accessible Syllabus

There are some simple steps you can take to ensure that your syllabus document meets accessibility standards for students with visual impairments who are using screen reader technology. Microsoft Word has an “Accessibility Checker” tool which allows you to run an accessibility scan of your document and provide you with a report of how you can improve any discovered accessibility issues.  The following resources demonstrate how to use Word's Accessibility Checker feature:

Also consider converting your Word document to a PDF (Portable Document Format).  PDF documents do not require that your students have Microsoft Word installed on their computing devices.  Students can install free PDF readers on their laptops, tablets, and smartphones to review your course syllabus.​​​​​​​​​​​

Depending on how creative you want to get, there are some easy and slightly more complex tools at your disposal for creating an interactive syllabus. By adding a navigation structure, incorporating multimedia, creating hyperlinks, and more, you can improve student retention of your digital syllabus; information is more visually pleasing and students have easy access to the information they need.  

One simple method of adding interactivity to your digital syllabus is to include a hyperlinked Table of Contents. On the first or second page of your syllabus, students can review the Table of Contents and click on hyperlinked text to quickly navigate to the appropriate section (i.e. assignments, grading structure, rubrics). To set up a Table of Contents in Word 2016 use the following steps:(Note: Use your BSU credentials to access videos) 
  1. Create Headings for each section of your Syllabus in Word (video)
    1. NOTE: This is a key step, for without creating Headings, the Table of Contents step will not work.
  2. Create a Table of Contents in Word (video)
If you'd like to create a visually stimulating syllabus with colors and multimedia, consider using a web content service like populr.me. To get a sense of what's possible with designing syllabi in populr.me, check out these example syllabi:

Gauging Student Knowledge of the Course Syllabus

When deploying your syllabus to your class, consider polling your students on their smartphones, tablets, and laptops to gauge their knowledge of the course syllabus using these free polling tools: 

Creating a Syllabus Overview Video

If you are teaching a hybrid or fully online course, consider creating a narrated video overview of your course syllabus.  These videos are easy to create, and allow your students to pause, rewind, and skip forward as needed.  Keep the syllabus video as short as possible in order to best keep your students' attention (10-15 minutes is ideal).  Consider creating an additional video in which you provide a high-level overview of your course site (i.e. Blackboard).

Contact the Teaching & Technology Center to learn more about the development of a syllabus overview video using these free tools:

The Course Schedule

Provide your students with a concise 1-2 page schedule that outlines weekly assignments, due dates, class meeting dates (if you are teaching a hybrid online course), and topics that you are covering.  See syllabus_template.docxsyllabus_template.docx (Word .docx format) for a sample course schedule. 

This page is maintained by the Teaching & Technology Center. Send comments and suggestions to ttc@bridgew.edu​. Last reviewed 07/05/19.​