Creating Your Course Syllabus

Your syllabus gives students a first impression about what to expect from your course. It also fosters curiosity and interest. A comprehensive syllabus helps you to structure and articulate your course expectations to support student learning. A student-centered syllabus explains what content is most important, which teaching strategies you will use, what students will be asked to do to practice and demonstrate their learning, and how they will be assessed. It is an opportunity to establish the learning climate they will experience, clarify expectations, and share resources.

CTI has designed a syllabus template with a structure and sample language that you can download and modify for your own courses. This resource also contains recommendations for writing your syllabus as well as links to Cornell guidelines and other information.

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Additional Resources for Preparing Your Syllabus:

  • Open Syllabus Project: The Dean of Faculty encourages instructors to attach their syllabi to the Cornell Class Roster (which displays course details for a specific semester). This resource is only open to the Cornell community and is accessed via your NetID. Including your syllabi online, even in an initial draft form, gives students a sense of your course experience and helps them make informed decisions when registering for classes. If you are new to Cornell, log in to the Open Syllabus Project to view Cornell syllabi!
  • To use Canvas features to automatically add dated assignments to the course schedule part of your syllabus in Canvas, please consult the Canvas Syllabus Tool walkthrough in the Canvas@Cornell Resource Library and/or contact the CTI with questions.
  • When creating your course schedule, consult the Cornell calendar, religious holidays of all faiths, as well as your own schedule (conferences, grant deadlines, etc.). The Faculty Senate strongly discourages scheduling assignments that require students to work over a university break (e.g., Thanksgiving, Spring Break, etc.).
  • When requiring purchases for your course, consider the total cost for students. If possible, explore alternatives such as reserve copies of textbooks at the library or online pdfs to help reduce costs for students. Your University Library liaison can help you find online course resources and navigate copyright rules and fair use guidelines. There may be Cornell University Research Guides that are useful for your course. To create a new research guide for your course (a website with organized class and subject specific resources for your course), contact your library liaison. Note that textbook orders are due several months before your course starts.