Students

Course Design Tips

 

Create a Learner-Centered Syllabus

An effective, learner-centered syllabus:

  • Offers tangible evidence that you have thought seriously about the course’s objectives, content, and organization
  • Dramatically reduces the amount of work that you have to do when you actually teach the course
  • Is a contract with your students that articulates the class’s conceptual framework, its content and scope, and your course policies, requirements, and assessment techniques.

What You Need to Include in Your Syllabus

  • COURSE NAME
    When known, also include the course number, semester, class hours, and location.
  • COURSE DESCRIPTION
    Provide a concise, informative overview of the course’s subject and approach. In this overview, identify main themes and sections of the course.
  • COURSE OBJECTIVES
    Include specific skills and expertise that students will gain in this course.
  • INSTRUCTOR CONTACT INFORMATION
    When known, include office address, office hours, office phone, email address, course web page, and contact policies.
  • MATERIALS FOR THE COURSE
    List required and recommended materials, with publication information for readings. Also identify unique resources (at Columbia or elsewhere) engaged by the course.
  • WEEKLY SCHEDULE OF ASSIGNMENTS AND ACTIVITIES
    Indicate the structure and flow of the course, and inform students what they will be reading and doing on a weekly basis.
  • GRADING CRITERIA
    Indicate the make-up of the final course grade, with percentages. For major assignments, indicate different components that will be assessed and their respective weights. For any assignments involving group work, be specific about how such work will be graded. If participation is an element of the course grade, specify what counts as participation. If extra credit work is possible, specify.

    The course grade should be based on a variety of assignments; no single portion should be worth more than 40% of the total grade. The course schedule should include graded feedback as soon as possible into the term, but no later than by the midterm.

  • ACADEMIC SUPPORT SERVICES
    Identify campus resources offering support pertinent to this course, such as the Writing Center, the Libraries, tutoring services, etc.

Notes

  • Films should be viewed outside of regular class time.
  • Additional resources geared toward instructors of undergraduate students can be found here.

Consult the Center for Teaching and Learning

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTLgrads@columbia.edu) provides individual consultation on course design and syllabus construction.