Time to Update Your Syllabus


A syllabus is your contract with the students laying out important logistical information and a set of mutual expectations. The larger the course, the more time and headache you can save throughout the semester by distributing a thorough and accurate syllabus at the beginning. Plan to complete your syllabus with time for thorough proof-reading by yourself and the TA.

The MTEI website has several resources and references on writing syllabi, including two excellent short PDFs; samples from various engineering courses; links to academic papers; and a variety of additional links and resources. Listed below are a few non-obvious items you should strongly consider including:

  • An explicit definition of academic integrity in your course with a link to Cornell’s official policy at http://cuinfo.cornell.edu/aic.cfm
  • An explicit statement that all materials are copyrighted by you (so you have a right to have them removed from sites like CourseHero)
  • A note to students with disabilities reminding them that accommodation needs must be documented through the Student Disability Services office (http://sds.cornell.edu); SDS provides sample syllabus text.  Consider requesting prompt notification or even a deadline for notification.
  • Unless you have taught a class multiple times and have good control of the content, or there is another compelling reason such as many guest lectures, it’s probably better to provide students with a general schedule rather than a lecture-by-lecture plan. 
  • A list of available resources is helpful, including reference material on hold at the library and online resources.  Consider also links to Engineering Learning Initiatives, the Learning Strategies Center, or the Math Support Center.