We’ve had lots of conversations with faculty members about what their teaching in the Fall semester will look like, and course outlines have come up regularly.

Students need access to the basic information about the courses in which they are enrolled. This is true in the best of times, and is even more important as we move into a period of hybrid delivery. A well-constructed course outline can help students get the information the need, and support you in communicating your expectations for the course.

To help streamline this part of the process for you and to save you time, we’ve put together this guide, which both highlights the essential components of a good course outline, and also serves as a template that can be imported into your VIULearn course shell. You’ll need to fill in the specifics for your course, but we hope that having this structure makes that as easy as possible for you.

Roles and Purposes of a Course Outline

The course outline can serve many roles within your course – it is not just a document to share on the first day and forget about. Here are some roles your course outline could serve:

Share ExpectationsA course outline will share formal and informal expectations of the course (student-related, course-related, behavior-related, goals of course, etc.)
Promises of Learning OutcomesLearning outcomes are really promises of student learning to be achieved by the end of the course. The course outline should include all outcomes to meet accreditation and accountability requirements.
Convey EnthusiasmAn instructor who is excited to teach the course will have a course outline that conveys this through the choice of topics, the design of assignments, and the organization of the course.
Set ToneStudents will quickly pick up the tone of the course through reading the content of the course outline.
Establish ContractSome institutions will have students sign their name to indicate they have understood course outline and its contractual conditions regarding learning.
Define RolesOne can quickly determine the roles of the student and instructor after glancing over a course outline.
Assess Readiness
for Course
A good course outline will give enough detail on course content that students can assess their readiness for taking the course. There may be prerequisite courses or skills and abilities students should have before entering course.
Outline WorkloadBy far the most important component of the course outline for students is how much work there will be! The workload should be clearly outlined.
Explain Policies
and Procedures
There will always be a standard set of statements and references to policies and procedures. It helps ensure everyone is exposed to the academic expectations of taking the course and the boundaries they must adhere to.
Share Resource
Textbooks, workbooks, clickers, specialized materials, safety equipment, and so on, are some of the items students need for a course.
Outline Big PictureThe course outline often will share how the course fits within department programs or institutional certificates, degrees or diplomas.
Serve as a Learning ToolWell-detailed course outlines are excellent learning tools. They help students design study notes and follow along from week to week.

We have built a syllabus template that you can use to build an accessible template for use in VIULearn. There are two versions of this template below. The HTML version will need to be unzipped and then can be uploaded into VIULearn and edited within your course content. The HTML version of the syllabus is responsive and will display on any screen size. The other version is a Word document which you can edit offline and print or upload to share with your students.