It might be a single piece of paper or, more likely, a stapled stack, but you can bet that every class you attend this semester will have a syllabus. Some instructors simply hand them out and expect you to read it on your own. (Snooze!) Others, like me, review the entire document during the first class session. (I know, snooze, again!)

It’s hard to make these things fun, but I’ve seen instructors turn syllabi into newsletter-style documents and even heard one instructor sing her syllabus for her students. (I won’t be trying that one anytime soon!). Regardless of how you digest the information in your course syllabus, you should definitely pay attention to this seemingly innocuous document.

What is a Syllabus?

My answer is that a syllabus is a road map, a guide book, and a contract of sorts. Every instructor creates a syllabus for each and every course she or he teaches. You’ll usually get a paper copy and should have access to the document on D2L as well.

What Does a Syllabus Tell You?

At a minimum, your course syllabus will tell you how you can track down your instructor by phone, e-mail or in-person. It should contain general information about the course you’re taking—where it meets, what books you need, and how many credits you will earn.

Most instructors also include a list of “policies” in the syllabus that outlines:

  • General expectations for classroom conduct
  • Assignment formatting
  • Attendance requirements
  • Cell phone use
  • And more!

Often you’ll find a basic outline of course assignments, due dates, and information about how your final course grade will be calculated, too.

Why is a Syllabus Important?

Can’t remember when an assignment is due? Consult your syllabus. Need to know when your instructor’s office hours are? Look at the syllabus. Upset about how absences affected your grade? Check your syllabus. The syllabus is so important that some instructors will ask you to sign a statement indicating that you understand and agree to abide by the policies while others will actually quiz you on its contents!

So while reading (or listening to someone read!) a syllabus can be b-o-r-i-n-g, the information in these documents can be crucial to your academic success. Keep it somewhere safe and refer to it often.


Have you experienced a “creative” course syllabus? I’d love to hear about it!


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