Syllabus Template and Syllabus Design

IHP Course Syllabus Template (Word.docx) - updated 7/26/22

In order for a course to be successful there must be a strong plan behind its delivery. The syllabus as a document defines and communicates that plan to students in a meaningful way. Crafting a well organized syllabus is critical not simply for establishing course policies and deadlines, but for setting student expectations and conveying what is important to you as an instructor.

Many instructors think of the syllabus as a contract between student and instructor. In this sense it is a formal document that establishes what the student can expect from the instructor and what the instructor in turn expects from the students. Instructors may have differing ideas about changing a syllabus after it has been shown to students, but if you do make changes (such as a new recommended text, changes to assignments etc.) take extra steps to be transparent about the changes and your reasoning for them. To avoid unnecessary changes to the syllabus over the course of the semester, endeavor to strike a balance between providing sufficient details for students and leaving yourself some degree flexibility. Adjustments to scheduling are often unavoidable, but changes to grading policies or increasing the number of assignments have the potential to be seen as unfair.

Though some might think of the syllabus as an early part of designing a course, in that it needs to be ready on the first day of class, the syllabus is actually the culmination of many course design decisions that must first be made. Only once you have planned learning objectives, assignments, and assessments, then you can begin the actual construction of your syllabus. Looking at other syllabi, particularly from other instructors within your department, can be valuable.

As part of an effort to assist faculty in creating a strong plan and developing consistency across programs at the Institute, all faculty are being asked to use a common format for course syllabi. MGH Institute has created a new standardized IHP Course Syllabus Template (see above) to be used as the common format. The syllabus template includes all required syllabus elements with blank and pre-populated fields. The Course Syllabus User’s Guide (see above) directs you through the structure and fields of the new IHP Course Syllabus Template.

Further Reading

University of Michigan on Creating Your Syllabus


What can’t I change about a syllabus?
Changes to official course description, credit hours, or course objectives must be approved by the Course and Curriculum Review Committee (CCRC) and submitted to the IHP Registrar. 
Major changes to course content or structure should be discussed with your program head/track coordinator.

Can I add sections to the syllabus?
The syllabus template is intended as a starting point, you are free to add sections as you see fit!

Why are some sections “Optional”?
Most sections of the syllabus template are required to create a consistent baseline for the student experience at the IHP but recent optional sections (welcome message, instructor responsibilities, etc.) have been added that instructors can make use of or delete at their discretion. 

What information goes in the syllabus vs. in D2L?
Your syllabus should serve as the high level overview of the detail, requirements, and logistics of a course. All significant graded activities, due dates, and policies should be listed. Further detail on specific items can be provided as other documents via D2L, such as:

  • Longer form instructions for an assignment and how it will be graded
  • Overview of tasks for a week including links to many readings etc. 
  • Rubrics and grading criteria

A good syllabus must strike a balance between being concise and complete.

Where can I learn more about incorporating Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) concepts into my syllabus?
The Teaching and Learning D2L Site includes a recording and workshop materials from a recent workshop on this topic presented by the Instructional Designers and JEDI team.
Consider reviewing those materials for advice on considerations for tone, instructor responsibilities, and transparent language in your syllabi.

When does the syllabus template get updated?
Every September the registrar posts a new version of the student handbook at which points some links in the syllabus template are updated.
Other changes and adjustments to the syllabus are made by the Provost’s office.

Where can I get help with my syllabus?
The Instructional Design and Teaching Innovation Team is available to consult and provide feedback on  your syllabus or any aspect of your teaching.

FAQs Last updated 7/25/22 by Tony Sindelar