Making a Great Syllabus

What is a Syllabus?

The course syllabus is the document that an instructor produces for distribution to students on the first day of classes for the purpose of communicating (1) the nature of the course and (2) the instructor’s procedures and policies. It differs from the official course outline, constructed when the course was originally approved, in several important ways. However, it is a key mechanism for accomplishing the objectives indicated on the official course outline and therefore must be in fundamental agreement with it.

  • A course syllabus is required of all courses at City College.
  • It must be distributed the first week of instruction to the students and to the Department Chair.

Required Elements of a Syllabus

  • Instructor name, Course title, Section number
  • Current Course SLOs
  • Plagiarism Statement 
  • Accommodations 
  • Required materials
  • Field trips, if appropriate
  • Subject matter to be covered
  • Prerequisites/co requisites, if any. If a student has not met a course prerequisite/co requisite, she/he may not continue in the class. 
  • Nature and frequency of assignments and examinations
  • Grading system
  • Method of evaluations
  • Attendance regulations in writing (departmental guidelines)
  • Office hours and location 
  • Final exam date

Example Syllabus

What follows is just one example of a fictional syllabus. You can customize yours in any way needed as long as it contains the required elements listed above.

OCAN 123, Ocean Resources

Section 001, Fall 2016, Course Syllabus

Location: Science 5

Schedule: T/Th 11:10 am to 12:30 pm

Instructor: Jane Doe,, 415-452-5xxx

Office hours: MWF 12-1 pm

Class website:

Required text: any edition within the last 5 years of: Marine Resources, Thompkins and White

Grading scale: A=90-100%; B=80-89%; C=70-79%; D=60-69%; F=<60%.

Grading: 17% exam 1 | 17% exam 2 | 17% exam 3 | 17% exam 4 | 17% quiz average | 15% homework/discussions

Course Description: Introduction to the major resources of the ocean including....

Advisories: MATH 55 and 60; or ET 108B; and completion of or concurrent enrollment in ENGL 96

Based on pass-rate data for the past 10 years, students most likely to pass are those who have completed math through the second year of algebra (including geometry) and are prepared for College-Level English. Why? You will need to be able to read and understand the class textbook; complete in-class activities based on instructions provided in the activity; communicate effectively verbally in groups during class activities and in writing during exams; and solve critical thinking and computational problems involving exponents, inequalities, unit conversion, basic geometry, graphing (interpreting linear, exponential, and logarithmic graphs), and ratios.

Student Learning Outcomes: Upon completion of this course a student will be able to:

A. Apply the xyz theory to the origin, evolution, and features of abc.

B. Analyze and interpret the origin, distribution, and evolution of abc.

C. Evaluate society's impacts on the ocean and the impacts of marine resources on society.

Time required (units): The CCSF workload requirement for a 3-unit credit lecture class is that students put in 9 hours per week. For face-to-face, that’s 3 hours in class and 6 hours of homework for an average grade of a C. For online, that’s 9 hours at home. Each student will need to put in more or less time, depending on his or her background and study techniques. 

Seeking Help: If you have questions, attend study sessions, make an appointment (for face-to-face or Google Hangout, or phone call), or e-mail me. I’m here to help if you’re ready! But it’s your responsibility to seek it out. NOTE: If you contact me through email, you should expect a response at least within 24 hours (Monday through Friday during normal working hours). If you don’t hear back, try again – perhaps your email was misaddressed or lost in transit. Note: Do not expect a response to emails at night or on weekends.

Field Trips: You must arrange your own transportation to field trips. Start making friends now with students with cars. Carpools are encouraged! Field trips begin at times that provide you sufficient time to reach each site from CCSF. Arriving late means you may miss us (if we move) or parts of the trip to which you can’t return. Field trips will last between 2.5 to 3 hours depending on site (see syllabus). There are only a few field trips, so make plans well in advance to ensure you can participate for the full time if required. Dress in warm, dry clothing that you don’t mind getting messy (hats and gloves and raingear recommended). Weather cancellations of field trips will occur only during storms. Bring good boots for walking along beaches and up and down hills. Bring writing utensils and prereading material and a hard writing surface, like a clipboard. You will be working! Plan now for the field trips – especially night classes. These are mandatory. If you cannot clear your schedules to attend these field trips, you might not pass the class, and perhaps this lab is not the one for you.

Attendance: Your attendance will be tracked through homework completion and quiz/exam completion. If you miss 2 weeks of homework, 2 quizzes, or 1 exam (without making contact with me and plans to resolve), you will be dropped. Since being dropped from class might affect your financial aid or student visa status, if you want to stay enrolled be sure to keep attending class and contributing.

*NOTE: After the first week of the semester, no shows will be dropped. In online classes, no shows are identified as students who have not yet completed any assignments.

Standards of Conduct: Students who register in CCSF classes are required to abide by the CCSF Student Code of Conduct (Links to an external site.). Violation of the code is basis for referral to the Student Conduct Coordinator or dismissal from class or from the College. See the Office of Student Affairs and Wellness (Links to an external site.).

The highest level of integrity is required for all quizzes and exams and assignments. You are expected to do your own work, and have your own unique answers to questions. Anyone found cheating or plagiarizing the work of others will receive a zero on the exam or quiz and face disciplinary action at the college. PLAGIARISM = copying other people’s words or drawings without giving them credit.

Deadlines: Deadlines are not negotiable, regardless of the reason. However, you are ALWAYS welcome to complete assignments ahead of time! To get full points, assignments must be complete and on time. Late assignments are accepted, but for a maximum of 10% of the assignment grade. However, only submitted assignments get access to the keys, so submissions are encouraged, even if late. Note: a total of 2 weeks of assignments are dropped for all students to handle the inevitable list of emergencies or illnesses or forgetfulness that cause the occasional missing of a deadline

Special accommodations: Students with disabilities who need academic accommodations should request them from the Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) located in the Rosenberg Library, Room 323 on the Ocean Campus. Telephone: 415-452-5481 (V) 415-452-5451 (TDD).

SEMESTER CALENDAR including topics/chapters covered each week. *Chapters listed are for 11th edition of textbook.

  • Aug 12-21 Week 1: Class Policies and What is Science?
  • Aug 22-28 Week 2: Water Planet: Chapter 1: Introduction to Planet Earth, Chapter 16: The Oceans and Climate Change (Rising Sea Level section) and Appendix III: Latitude & Longitude
  • Aug 25 LAST DAY TO DROP with full refund
  • Aug 29-Sept 4 Week 3: Plate Tectonics: Chapter 2: Plate Tectonics and the Ocean Floor
  • Sept 2 LAST DAY TO ADD
  • Sept 5 to 11 Week 4: The Seafloor and its Sediments:  Chapter 3: Marine Provinces and Chapter 4: Marine Sediments
  • Sept 12-18 Week 5: Exam 1
  • Sept 19-25 Week 6: Physical Properties of Seawater: Chapter 5: Water and Seawater and Chapter 13: Biological Productivity & Energy Transfer (Light Transmission in Ocean Water section – 2 pages) and Appendix IV: Chemical Background on the Water Molecule
  • Sept 26-Oct 2 Week 7: Chemistry of Seawater: Chapter 5: Water and Seawater, Appendix IV: Chemical Background on the Water Molecule, and Chapter 16: The Oceans and Climate Change (Ocean Acidity section – 2 pages)
  • Oct 3-9 Week 8: Seasons & Atmosphere:  Chapters 6: Air-Sea Interaction and 16: The Oceans and Climate Change
  • Oct 10-16 Week 9: Currents & the Environment: Chapter 7: Ocean Circulation and Chapter 16: The Oceans and Climate Change (Changes in Deep-Water Circulation – 0.5 pages)
  • Oct 17-23 Week 10: Exam 2
  • Oct. 18 FLEX DAY -- NO SCHOOL 
  • Oct 24-30 Week 11: Waves: Chapter 8: Waves and Water Dynamics
  • Oct 31-Nov 6 Week 12: Tides : Chapter 9: Tides
  • Nov 7-13 Week 13: Coastal Processes & Pollution: Chapter 10: The Coast: Beaches and Shoreline Processes and Chapter 11: The Coastal Ocean
  • Nov 14-20 Week 14: Exam 3
  • Nov 21-23 Week 15: Marine Organisms Classification & The Living Ocean: Chapter 12: Marine Life and the Marine Environment
  • Nov 28-Dec 4 Week 16: Productivity and Plankton: Chapter 13: Biological Productivity and Energy Transfer
  • Dec 5-11 Week 17: Nekton and Benthos: Chapter 14: Animals of the Pelagic Environment and Chapter 15: Animals of the Benthic Environment)
  • Dec. 12-14 Week 18: Exam 4 *Online class takes exam between midnight 12/11 and midnight 12/14