Time to Update Your Syllabus (Again)

Dear Colleagues (and welcome to a new year),

A syllabus is your contract with students laying out important logistical information and mutual expectations. The larger the course, the more time and headaches you can save by initially distributing a thorough and accurate syllabus.  Ideally, there would be time for a thorough proof-reading by yourself and your TA (if any).

First Request: Engineering is not doing very well uploading syllabi to the class roster.  When you finish the syllabus, please upload by clicking on the Syllabi balloon at the top right of the roster webpage https://classes.cornell.edu/syllabi-manage/roster/SP20.

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.

There are also several not always obvious, but critical items, that you should consider including (specific text that you can cut/paste is included at the end of this message):

  • Academic integrity:  Include both an introductory statement and specifics so there is no confusion if AI violations occur.  Also, with the increasing popularity of course sharing sites, we suggest explicitly including posting of copyrighted material as an AI violation (e.g. CourseHero). 
  • Copyright: If you do not want your course materials on the Web, it is critical to include copyright notices on all notes, exams, slides, homework, solutions, etc.  With a copyright notice, it is much easier to get material removed from sites like CourseHero.
  • Accommodations for students with disabilities:  Let students know that you will work with them on disability requests, but remind them that accommodation needs must be documented (Student Disability Services) and that they need to communicate with you in a timely fashion.
  • Schedule: Unless you have taught a course multiple times and have good control of the content (or 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. 
  • Policies: Specific policies such as late submission penalties, make up exam requirements, or any attendance requirement should be included in the syllabus.
  • Resources: Include, for example, reference material on hold at the library or online resources.  Also consider including links to the Engineering Learning Initiatives, the Learning Strategies Center, or the Math Support Center.
  • Course Environment: Given the current world situation, we can support all of our students by including a statement about valuing all students and expecting students to treat each other with respect.

Example text follows:

AI language:

MTEI has examples of language (www.engineering.cornell.edu/MTEI/teaching-tips-week/creating-academic-integrity-statement-your-course) and Cornell’s official policy is at theuniversityfaculty.cornell.edu/academic-integrity.

Copyright notice:

All materials distributed in this course are copyrighted and may not be distributed further.  They are intended for your sole use and may not be posted on any public or private website, or by any other sharing method (e.g. fraternity exam files).

SDS language:

Students with Disabilities: Your access in this course is important. Please give course staff your Student Disability Services (SDS) accommodation letter early in the semester so that we have adequate time to arrange your approved academic accommodations. If you need an immediate accommodation, please speak with me after class or send an email message to me and/or SDS. If the need arises for additional accommodations during the semester, please contact SDS.

Course Environment Example

Course environment: Students come from many different backgrounds and bring a wide variety of strengths, as well as different approaches to solving problems and viewing the world.  This is a strength of Cornell and we value all of our students, and insist that everyone treat colleagues with respect and consideration.  You are encouraged to learn with, and from, each other in an inclusive manner.

Course Specific Policies Examples:

Examples of late submissions policies:

           o   No late work will be accepted.

           o   Late assignments will be accepted within 24 hours of the due date with a 25% penalty.

           o   No late work will be accepted but one homework grade will be dropped.  Use this wisely and still learn that material.

           o   Each student will be given 1 slip day pass (turn in the assignment one day late without penalty).  This may be attached to any one assignment, except …,. 

Examples of attendance policies:

          o   You are responsible for your own learning.  Lectures and section are designed to help you learn, however, it is your decision whether to attend.

          o   Clickers or other active learning activities will be part of most lectures and sections.  While attendance is not taken directly, failure to participate in these activities misses some of the assigned work and can impact your grade.  To account for occasional reasons you might have to miss class (illness, job interview, team travel, battery died in clicker, etc.) participating in 85% of the questions and activities will count as full credit.

         o   This is an attendance based class.  If you miss more than 2 sessions you will not pass.  If there are extenuating circumstances beyond your control, contact the instructor to discuss your options.