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Syllabus for an Online Course

by Veronica V. Sanchez, M.Ed., Instructional Designer

Dr. Allison Boye recently conducted a great session at the TLPDC entitled "How Do I Create an Effective Syllabus" and I would like to share some of her great suggestions and add some online components.


Similar to a face-to-face course, a syllabus in an online course should carry a high level of importance but it can be used for several purposes depending on the instructor's teaching style. Here are a couple of purposes as outlined by Dr. Boye:

  • Contract, between instructor and students on policies, course details, etc.
  • Communication tool, expressing tone of the instructor.
  • Learning tool, informing students how to be successful in the course.

Communication is vital in online courses.

One pointer to keep in mind as you frame your purpose or intent of your online syllabus: Communication is vital in online courses. While in face-to-face courses you have opportunities to further explain details, in an online course it is important to go ahead and provide full details in order to leave nothing questionable or open for interpretation. A common expression I've been using lately which was a resounding concept at the 2017 TLPDC Advanced Teaching and Learning Conference is education shouldn't be a guessing game. Be sure to tell students exactly what the purpose and rationale are behind your policies, assessments, guidance, etc. Students will grasp a better understanding of what you want from them and what they will get out of it.

Required components

There are required components to include in any syllabus. Here is a list of requirements per Texas Tech's Operating Policy 32.06 (be sure to adapt these for online delivery as needed):

  • Course outline
  • Expected learning outcomes
  • Methods of assessing those outcome
    • Be sure to be direct/clear in identifying the alignment between the outcome to the assessment.
  • Criteria for grade determination
  • Academic honesty statement per TTU OP 34.12
  • Student absence for observance of a religious holy day statement, OP 34.19
  • Special accommodation for students with disabilities statement, TTU OP 34.22

In addition to the above, here are some best practice suggestions per the TLPDC Course Design Rubric used by our Instructional Design Team. Your syllabus should include:

  • policies listed in TTU's Operating Policy 32.06 (mentioned above).
  • prerequisites for the course (even if there is none).
  • course policies (adapted for online delivery).
  • statement informing students from other institutions that they are bound by TTU policies in this course (i.e. students not seeking a degree from TTU.)
  • clear expectations for the time students will be required to invest in the class through studying, student interaction, logging into the LMS, etc.
  • a statement addressing netiquette.
  • a communication plan for when and how students can expect the instructor to communicate with them as well as a time-frame for responses to questions.
  • a Computer Emergency Plan which instructs students on how to prepare for when their computer crashes and an assignment is due.


Providing accessible documents is a must for online delivery. While PDF is the suggested file type, there are a few other adjustments to making a file accessible. A helpful resource to making your syllabus accessible is this article: Seven Steps to an Accessible Syllabus by Dr. Jackie L. Luft, eLearning's online accessibility specialist.


Many times we get asked for a starting point or examples of what we suggest. Here are a couple of templates for your consideration:


Creating an Effective Online Syllabus by Cengage Learning

How Do I Create an Effective Syllabus? by Dr. Allison Boye, Texas Tech University