The following excerpts are from Red Deer College’s Course Outline Guidebook. They have been compiled here for ease of access.
Instructor Checklist for Creating a Course Outline
When creating a Course Outline, standard elements are included to provide clear and transparent information to students and to ensure that the Purpose of a Course Outline is met. The order and flow of the following standard elements may follow a designated School Course Template. Templates from the School of Arts and Sciences (Winter 2017 Course Outline Template), School of Health Sciences, School of Trades and Technologies, and Donald School of Business have been appended at the end of this Guidebook as examples. Please consult directly with the appropriate School for their most current Template.
- Academic Calendar Information
- Course Code and Full Course Name
- Department, School, and Red Deer College (or use School specific letterhead)
- Approved academic calendar entry (Course Description), including prerequisite and/or co-requisites (if any) and credit hours
- The academic term and year of the course offering
- Primary methods of delivery (e.g. face-to-face, blended, online) as timetabled for the academic year
- Names and pertinent contact information for all instructors involved in the section of the course. Please note, as Course Outlines are published on the RDC website, personal contact information and physical office location should not be included on the Course Outline but can be communicated to students in other ways such as through the Learning Management System.
- Preferred contact information, including anticipated response times and personal communication preferences
- Academic Schedule Dates: The following dates must be included in all course outlines as set by the Academic Schedule Policy and published in the Academic Schedule, found on the RDC Events calendar, as they impact student success:
- The date and method by which Midterm Feedback will be available to students.
- The date to Add/Drop courses without financial penalty
- The date to Withdraw without academic penalty
- The dates on which the College is closed or on which there are no scheduled classes
- Required class meeting times, including required alternate learning experiences outside of scheduled class times as timetabled for the academic year
- A statement referring students to the Student Rights and Responsibilities Policy including a link to the Policy.
- A statement of procedures for making changes to the approved Course Outline and a statement about when such changes might be made.
- Curriculum Information including:
- Course Outcomes used consistently across sections as approved by School Council and recorded on the Curriculum Elements Sheets. If you do not have the current Curriculum Elements Sheets for your course, please contact your Associate Dean.
- Course Topics
- Learning Activities: a brief description of the types of learning activities that students may expect to encounter and that learning activities may be subject to change following pedagogical requirements (e.g. lecture, group work, guest speakers, flipped classroom, online discussions, etc.).
- Assessment methods, including participation, attendance, or professionalism, used in the course and the weight of each as it relates to the calculation of the Final Grade. Assessments must be quantified, qualified, and provide all students with equal opportunity to achieve. Please refer to the Assessment and Grading Policy for more information.
- Due dates for all graded Assessments using specific dates or anticipated timelines (indicated by “the week of” or “between X and Y date”) if flexible or student-driven due dates are utilized. Note that changes to due dates cannot violate the Final Examinations Policy.
- A brief description of the expectations as they relate to the grading criteria for each Assessment and/or a statement referring students to additional Assessment details and/or rubrics/marking guides.
- A statement of penalties and procedures for late or missed graded Assessments.
- A statement indicating if any or all components of the Course must be either attempted or passed in order to successfully pass the Course.
- If the course includes a Final Exam, a statement indicating that the Final Examinations Policy is followed. E.g. exams written in the last 7 days of classes are weighted at less than 20% of the final mark and scheduled final exams have a weighting of at least 20% and no more than 50% of the final grade.
- Course Outcomes used consistently across sections as approved by School Council and recorded on the Curriculum Elements Sheets. If you do not have the current Curriculum Elements Sheets for your course, please contact your Associate Dean.
- A list of required textbooks, equipment, and materials.
- A list of supplemental, recommended, or optional textbooks, readings, equipment, or materials.
- A short statement on Academic Misconduct.
- If using a plagiarism detection tool, such as SafeAssign, that places student work in a global repository, a statement informing students must be included and students must be able to view the Originality Report.
- A statement informing students that the following policies are in effect and that students should refer to these policies should questions or concerns not be resolved with the instructor: Student Rights and Responsibilities, Appeals: Formal, Appeals: Informal Resolution, and Student Misconduct: Academic and Non-Academic.
- A statement regarding Prior Learning with a link to the Policy: “This course may be eligible for Recognition of Prior Learning. Students should refer to the RDC College Calendar for a list of excluded courses.”
- A statement informing students if, and under what conditions, audio or video recording of class is permissible (outside of approved accommodation plans).
- A statement referring students to services available on campus such as: Students are encouraged to explore the Services that RDC has to support them on the RDC Website, in Blackboard, and on the Loop. For a list of Services, see: http://www.rdc.ab.ca/future-students/services/student-services.
Instructors may include Optional Elements in a Course Outline. These elements may include, but are not limited to:
- Content or Trigger Warnings (see Sample Statement)
- Teaching Philosophy Statement (informing your students what you believe about teaching and learning and how this is enacted in your classroom)
- Expanded Course Description
- Rubrics and Grading Guides/Marking Guides
- Letter Grading Scale to Percentage Conversion Chart
- Explanation of Usage of the Learning Management System
- Classroom Norms
- Links to Online Classroom Websites or Online Textbook Resources
Course Outlines can be very text heavy. Graphic Course Outlines can provide an alternative to a text-heavy course outline while still providing students with the key information. Knaack (2011), Nilson (2016), and Nilson (2007) have information on Graphic Syllabi (see Resources, above). A Graphic Course Outline may include charts or graphic timelines that visually represent your course to your students.
When writing your Course Outline, consider your audience and how they may interpret what you have written.
- Does your Course Outline flow in a logical manner?
- Readability of Document: documents are more readable and easier to comprehend when they use consistent styles and formats. These include:
- lots of white space
- left justified alignment
- limited numbers of legible fonts
- minimum 11 pt font
- high contrast between font colour and page colour (usually black on white)
- use of headers to highlight information
- use of bullets and tables where appropriate
- use of page numbers for ease of reference.
For more information, see “Improving Document Readability” from Gonzaga University: http://www.gonzaga.edu/academics/colleges-and-schools/school-of-business-administration/undergraduate/SBAWR/IDR.asp
- User-friendly Language: Consider the use of inclusive language in your Outline and language aimed at students. For more on inclusive language, see the Government of Canada: https://www.noslangues-ourlanguages.gc.ca/bien-well/fra-eng/style/nonsexistguidelines-eng.html#sn
|Traditional Wording or Issue||Inclusive Wording or Suggestion|
As appropriate for the level of the course and the context of the course, does your Course Outline demonstrate learner-centeredness? If not, consider whether these aspects of your course could be communicated to your students outside of your Course Outline?
- The Role of the Instructor: is your role, as the instructor, defined for your students?
- The Function of Content: does your Course Outline indicate both the content and the learning skills that students will gain from your course?
- Assessments: is the function and purpose of your assessments clearly presented to students?
- Student Responsibility for Learning: does the Course Outline clearly lay out the students’ responsibilities within the classroom?
- Power Sharing: does the Course Outline indicate where student power, choice, and decision making are incorporated into the course?
The following Statements have been provided as Samples by RDC Faculty Members and are used with permission. These statements can be used as a foundation for your Course Outline.
“It is the student’s responsibility to be familiar with the information contained in this Course Outline and to clarify any areas of concern with the instructor. It is also the student’s responsibility to be familiar with RDC Policies.”
“No changes will be made to this course outline without the consent of the class and the approval of the Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.” School of Arts and Sciences Course Outline Template.
“Changes to the course outline will be made with the consent of the course instructor and students. Changes will be reviewed by the Associate Dean for consistency with College policies.” Donald School of Business Course Outline Template
“Changes to the course outline will be made with the consent of the course instructor and students. Changes will be reviewed by the Department Chairperson for consistency with College policies.” School of Trades and Technologies Course Outline Template
“Any changes to this Course Outline will be made in consultation with students. A majority vote (51% of the students in attendance) is sufficient for a change, provided it is reviewed by the Associate Dean for completeness and consistency with all college policies.” (Used with permission from Edie Heavin, EDIT 302 Fall 2016 Course Outline, School of Education).
“Changes to the Course Outline may be made after the first class, providing this is done during a regular class, by class consensus with all the students who are in attendance on that day. These changes are then reviewed by the Associate Dean or designate for completeness and consistency with all college policies and school standards.” (Used with permission from Jane Proudlove, ELCC 211A, Fall 2016, Course Outline, School of Education).
“The above schedule, policies, procedures, and assignments in this course are subject to change in the event of extenuating circumstances, by mutual agreement, and/.or to ensure better student learning.” (Nilson, Teaching at Its Best, 37).
Changes to the above schedule, class policies, class procedures, and assignments in this course are subject to change providing they do not academically disadvantage students or conflict with another RDC Policy. Changes to the Course Outline will be enacted in order to enhance student learning and success and to harmonize with the flow of the class and student learning. (Created for the RDC Course Outline Guidebook as a Sample Statement).
Assignments in this course will be submitted through SafeAssign on Blackboard. SafeAssign compares your work to a global repository of student work at RDC and to published work located online. Students are able to access the Originality Report in Blackboard. If you have concerns with your Originality Report, please come and see me to discuss what it means.
All assignments in this course must be submitted in order to pass the course. Late penalties will be assessed at 1/3 letter grade per day late without an instructor granted extension. I recognize that life can conflict with your studies at times and, in the event that something happens, communication is key. Please come and see me as soon as possible to discuss any interruptions to your learning in this course so that we can discuss options.
This course has a Final Exam scheduled by the Registrar. Students must be available for entire Final Exam Period and deferrals will not be granted without serious cause. Following the Final Examinations Policy, exams written in the last 7 days of classes are weighted at less than 20% of the final mark and scheduled final exams have a weighting of at least 20% and no more than 50% of the final grade. If you have questions or concerns, please talk to me as soon as possible.
Sample Assessment Table 1
This sample (used with permission from Edie Heavin, EDIT 302 Fall 2016, School of Education) informs students of the assessment type, the weighting, the due date, and gives a brief description.
|Learning Task||% of Grade||Brief Description|
|Participation and Professionalism (ongoing)||10||Based on participation is class discussions and learning activities, contributions to discussion boards as assigned, and professional collaboration.|
|Individual Portfolio (due Dec 7)||30||The portfolio will consist of assignments completed as part of the lab portion of the course.|
|Group Presentation (Nov 1, 8, 15)||15||Groups will prepare a 45 minute activity exploring all sides of an issue/trend in educational technology.|
|Online Lesson Submissions (ongoing)||15||Students will engage in individual, small group, and full class discussions related to educational technology.|
|Technology-enhanced Lesson Plan (Dec 16)||30||Students will prepare a lesson plan/project to address a discipline specific outcome(s) as well as an ICT outcome(s). Assessment criteria is to be included.|
Sample Assessment Table 2
This sample (used with permission from Jane Proudlove, ELCC 325A, Winter 2016, School of Education) gives students an overview of the Learning Outcomes and the associated Topics and Assessments. Later in the same Course Outline, another table informs students of the weighting and deadlines associated with each Assessment followed by a brief description of each Assessment.
|At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:||Topics to be covered||Assignments|
|1. Discuss the impact of historical perspectives, personal attitudes, government policies, and program models on current programming for children with special needs.||
|2. Choose and demonstrate appropriate methods for recording the developmental progress of children with special needs.||
|3. Compare the characteristics of \ programs that support inclusion with those that support integration or segregation for children with special needs.||
|4. Demonstrate written program planning that supports the inclusion of children with special needs in homes, programs, and communities.||
|5. Describe the roles and responsibilities of various professionals who support children with special needs and their families.||
|6. Develop and write short term objectives and appropriate strategies in order to achieve pre- determined long term goals.||
|7. Recognize when adaptations and modifications are required to accommodate children with special needs and know where to access this additional support.||
|8. Identify healthy strategies for developing relationships with and supporting families of children with special needs including the use of advocacy.||
|9. Identify, consult and synthesize references in order to locate and utilize appropriate information on a topic connected to working with children with special needs.||All of the above topics||
Audio or video recording, digital or otherwise, of lectures, labs, seminars or any other teaching environment by students is allowed only with the prior written consent of the instructor or as a part of an approved accommodation plan. Student or instructor content, digital or otherwise, created and/or used within the context of the course is to be used solely for personal study, and is not to be used or distributed for any other purpose without prior written consent from the content author(s).
Source: University of Alberta, Building a Course Outline (page 9): https://d1pbog36rugm0t.cloudfront.net/-/media/ualberta/centre-for-teaching-and-learning/instructional-resources/build-course-outline/wmbuilding-course-outline.pdf
Content Warnings: Some courses deal with topics and readings that are controversial or disturbing. There is debate in post-secondary about the use of Content Warnings (also referred to as Trigger Warnings). Faculty should consider their course content and the use of content warnings based on their expertise in the field of study. Content Warnings inform students of material that may be disturbing; they do not negate the necessity of examining that material. An example of an RDC Course Outline Content Warning is:
- A word of caution: It is inevitable that certain topics or examples may upset or offend some persons. Each student will undoubtedly find topics and theories that are appealing as well as appalling to them. Given the subject matter, this is unavoidable. Life experiences may mirror, overlap with, challenge or otherwise be foreign to the course material. It is hoped that you will integrate, evaluate and critique the material rather than judge or criticize it. Please keep this sensitivity in mind when making contributions to our discussions by treating each other – and those we are studying – with respect, dignity, and compassion. Please feel free to contact me without hesitation or embarrassment if you anticipate problems or experience difficulties with the subject matter. I will try my best to assist you. If you feel that something about the classroom atmosphere is interfering with your ability to actively participate in this class, please bring it to my attention as soon as possible outside of class. One crucial aspect of a supportive learning environment is not disrupting the class, which includes (but is not limited to): arriving late/leaving early, chattering with your neighbors/friends, making noise, sleeping, texting, using computers for uses other than note taking, or otherwise distracting others. During the first week of class, we will establish some guidelines & expectations (consequences for violations) for some of our classroom interactions.
Used with permission from Dr. Krista Robson, Sociology 260 Fall 2016 Course Outline, School of Arts and Sciences.
This Sample Statement is from the Arts and Sciences Course Outline Winter 2017 Template. Please consult the School of Arts and Sciences for an updated version of this Statement each term. Used with the permission of the Associate Deans of Arts and Sciences.
- Academic Misconduct: Academic misconduct in all its forms is a serious offence. Academic misconduct is the giving, taking, or presenting of information or material that unethically or dishonestly aids oneself or another on any work which, under normal circumstances, is to be considered in the determination of a grade or the compilation of academic requirements or the enhancement of that student’s record or academic career. The two key areas of academic misconduct are plagiarism and cheating. Please read the definitions that follow.
- Plagiarism: The use or close imitation of language, paintings, films, prototypes and ideas of another author and representation of them as one’s own original work. The most common forms of plagiarism are copying or paraphrasing another author’s work without proper acknowledgement, using the ideas or lines of reasoning of another author’s work without proper acknowledgement, submitting work to which someone else has made substantial improvements to the content, and submitting the same work for multiple courses without approval.
Plagiarism can be judged to have occurred if the instructor has both the submitted material and original source that was copied, or if the student is unable to explain the terminology or ideas of a submission.
- Cheating: Any attempt to give or obtain unsanctioned assistance in a formal academic exercise (e.g., examination). Some examples of cheating are unauthorized cheat sheets in a test or exams, the unauthorized use of electronic devices during an exam, and copying from an adjacent student.
Appendix and Additional Resources
The following Syllabus Assessment Matrix is provided for faculty as a self-assessment and reflective tool. Depending on the level and context of a specific course, the applicability of certain levels and criteria may vary.
|Highly Instructional (1)||Instructional (2)||Learner-Centered (3)||Highly Learner-Centered (4)|
|Accessibility of teacher||Available only for prescribed number of office hours||Available for prescribed number of office hours; provides phone and
||Multiple means of access; encourages interaction||Multiple means of access; requires interaction|
|Learning rationale||No rationale provided for assignments or activities||Explanation of assignments and activities but not tied directly to learning outcomes||Rationale provided for assignments and activities; tied to learning outcomes||Rationale provided for assignments, activities, methods, policies, and procedures; tied to learning outcomes|
|Collaboration||Collaboration prohibited||Collaboration discouraged||Collaboration incorporated; use of groups for work and study||Collaboration required; use of groups for class work, team projects|
|Power and Control|
|Teacher role||Rules are written as directives; numerous penalties||Numerous rules with no explanation of relevance; not tied to learning outcomes||Students offered some choice; relevance of rules offered||Students participate in developing policies; rules tied to learning outcomes|
|Outside resources||No outside resources other than required text||Reference to outside resources provided, but not required||Outside resources encouraged; students responsible for their own learning||Independent investigation required; outside learning required and shared with class|
|Syllabus focus||Policies and procedures; no discussion of learning or outcomes||Weighted toward policy and procedures with some reference to content covered||Includes course objectives; balance between policies and procedures and focus on learning||Weighted toward learning outcomes and means of assessment; policies are minimal or left to class negotiation|
|Evaluation and Assessment|
|Grades||Focus on point deduction; grades used to penalize||Emphasizes accumulation of points disassociated from learning performance||Tied directly to learning outcomes; students have some options for achieving points||Tied to learning outcomes; options for achieving points; not all work is graded|
|Feedback mechanisms||Mid-term and final test grades only; students not allowed to see or to retain copies of tests||Mid-term and final test grades with minimal other graded work; tests not cumulative; students may see but not retain tests||Grades and other feedback in the form of non-graded assignments, activities, opportunities to conference with teacher||Periodic feedback mechanisms employed for the purpose of monitoring learning|
|Tests, quizzes, and other summative evaluation||Multiple means of demonstrating outcomes; some ungraded peer assessment||Multiple means of demonstrating outcomes; self-evaluation and peer evaluation|
|Learning Outcomes||No outcomes stated||Goals stated but not in the form of learning outcomes||Learning outcomes clearly stated||Learning outcomes stated and tied to specific assessments.|
Source: This matrix is a modified version of the matrix in Roxanne Cullen and Michael Harris, Assessing Learning-Centeredness,” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(1), 2009, DOI:
The Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Virginia created a Syllabus Rubric based on Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning. This information and the link to the Guide and Scoring Sheet are provided for faculty as a self-assessment and reflective tool.
The goal of this Rubric is to:
- assess the degree to which a syllabus achieves a learning orientation. The rubric provides qualitative descriptions of components that distinguish learning-focused syllabi and uses a quantitative scoring system that places syllabi on a spectrum from content-focused to learning-focused. It is flexible enough to accommodate a diverse range of levels, disciplines, institutions, and learning environments yet nuanced enough to provide summative information to developers using the tool for assessment purposes and formative feedback to instructors interested in gauging the focus of their syllabi. (http://cte.virginia.edu/resources/syllabus-rubric/).
With a Guide and Scoring Sheet (in Excel), this Rubric is provided here as a method for faculty to self-assess. The source of this Rubric is the following article.
Palmer, M. S., Bach, D. J., & Streifer, A. C. (2014). Measuring the promise: A learning‐focused syllabus rubric. To improve the academy: A journal of educational development, 33 (1), 14-36.
- Bart, Mary. “A learner-centered syllabus helps set the tone for learning.” Faculty Focus. 29 July 2015. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-classroom-management/a-learner-centered-syllabus-helps-set-the-tone-for-learning/
- “Course Outline Manual: A Publication of the Senate Subcommittee on Course Curriculum.” Kwantlen Polytechnic University. 2009. https://www.kpu.ca/sites/default/files/downloads/comanual11185.pdf
- Gannon, Kevin. “DIY Syllabus: What Is a Syllabus Really For, Anyway?” Chronicle Vitae. 15 September 2016. https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1545-diy-syllabus-what-is-a-syllabus-really-for-anyway
- Gannon, Kevin. “DIY Syllabus: What Goes Into a Syllabus?” Chronicle Vitae. 13 October 2016. https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1575-diy-syllabus-what-goes-into-a-syllabus
- Gannon, Kevin (28 Nov 2016). “DIY Syllabus: How to Move Beyond the Transactional.” Chronicle Vitae. 28 November 2016. https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1624-diy-syllabus-how-to-move-beyond-the-transactional
- Knaack, Liesel. “Preparing Your Useful Syllabus. In A Practical Handbook for Educators: Designing Learning Opportunities, 73-90. Whitby, ON: De Sitter Publications, 2011.
- Nilson, Linda. B. The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007.
- Nilson, Linda B. “The Complete Syllabus.” In Teaching at Its Best: a Research-Based Resource for College Instructors, 4th Edition, 61-70. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2016.
- Rotenberg, R. (2010). “Constructing the Syllabus.” In The Art & Craft of College Teaching: A Guide for New Professors and Graduate Students. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast. 88-122.
- Weimer, Maryellen. Learner-centered teaching: five key changes to practice. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2013.
- Weimer, Maryellen (2011). “What does your syllabus say about you and your course?” Faculty Focus. 24 August 2011. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/what-does-your-syllabus-say-about-you-and-your-course/