Syllabus Language

Syllabus Language

These sections contain guiding questions for instructors to consider as they prepare for the upcoming semester, as well as language that instructors may add to course syllabi. Instructors are free to copy and modify any of this language to fit their context. Click on “Sample Language” under each topic to see specific language suggestions.

Communicating Care | Instructional Mode | Flexibility and Contingency Plans | Communication and Office Hours | Class Meetings and Activities | Class Recordings | Physical Health and Space | Technology and Accessibility | Student Support Services

For specific guidance related to overall course design, please consult with the Center for Teaching Excellence, A&S Learning Design and Technology, or your school’s instructional designers. The guidance below does not and is not intended to constitute formal UVA policy. For the most up-to-date policies, please visit the Return to Grounds website.

Communicating Care

What beliefs about teaching, learning, and humanity do you bring to the course? Consider what aspects of the past year have influenced your teaching plans and philosophy, and if they warrant a standalone section in the syllabus or distribution throughout.

Sample Language for Inclusive Teaching Philosophy

I recognize and value the many perspectives my students bring to the classroom. Many factors—social identities, visible and invisible disabilities, family circumstances, physical location, mental health, access to the internet—all influence the experiences that every individual can have in my courses this and every semester. I am committed to building an environment to support your learning, one in which you will be supported and rewarded for going out on a limb to communicate and defend your ideas.

Sample Language for Supporting Black Lives

I acknowledge that racism and white supremacy are baked into both the history of UVA as an institution and the history of higher education as a whole. I believe that my pedagogical philosophies and practices can either reinforce inequities or work to eliminate them. I am committed and actively working to be a better, more careful listener; continuing to learn about the ways systemic injustices disadvantage my Black students and colleagues and other students and colleagues of color in and out of the classroom; and advocating for and implementing anti-racist educational practices. I will hold myself accountable, encourage you to help me do so, and invite you to join me in this work.

Sample Language for Welcoming Immigrants

Students of all immigration statuses are welcomed and valued in this classroom, including undocumented students, students from mixed-status families, and students with Temporary Protected Status. As an educator, I aim to create a learning environment that respects and affirms the diversity of students’ experiences and perspectives. If your status is impacting your success in the course, please come see me to discuss things I can do to accommodate you (assignments, attendance, etc.). I pledge to keep your status confidential unless required by judicial warrant.

Instructional Mode

1. How will your course be delivered? Refer to the official SIS course instruction mode descriptions.

Sample Language
  • Hybrid. This is a hybrid course, which means we will meet on Grounds at times, and will otherwise work online. We’ll meet on Grounds on [DAY] during our scheduled class time, and remote students will join us via Zoom. The online components of this course will include live ‘group work time’ on [DAY] during our regularly-scheduled class time, as well as ‘asynchronous’ activities that aren’t tied to class time. Asynchronous activities might include written exchanges via UVACollab Discussions, watching pre-recorded lecture material, or responding to lecture material.
  • Online Synchronous. This is an online synchronous course, which means we will meet for regular class sessions online on [DAY] at [TIME], via Zoom (Collab “Online Meetings”). Your presence and active participation are required and important to creating the most effective and engaging learning experience. You are not expected to be on Grounds for exams or class meetings.
  • Online Asynchronous. This is an online asynchronous course, which means we will not meet for regular class sessions. Instead, you will complete activities on your own, such as written exchanges via UVACollab Discussions, watching pre-recorded lecture material, and responding to lecture material. Although we won’t meet at regularly scheduled times, assignment and exam due dates will follow a set schedule.
  • In-Person (with remote students). This is an in-person course, which means we will meet on Grounds for class sessions. Remote students will also be members of our class community, joining the class via Zoom. We’ll be navigating this new course structure together and adjusting as needed as we move through the semester. Class meetings will include lecture, group work, and discussion activities in which in-person students and remote students will all actively participate.

2. For instructional modes that involve both in-person and remote students, how will students understand their different options for being active members of the course community?

Sample Language

A message to remote students: You are as central to the community of this course as students who can attend class in-person. Online activities such as discussion forums, as well as our live class sessions, depend on your participation in order for this community to develop and thrive. Having a combination of remote and in-person students in class is going to be a new experience for all of us. In the first few weeks of class, we will all be adjusting to this new situation. I encourage you to reach out to me/to your TA to let us know what you are experiencing, especially if you are having trouble accessing or participating in the course. I further ask that you buddy up with a student (or group) who regularly attend live sessions, in case you lose contact with a class session. We’ll work on creating this buddy system via a Google Doc that I’ll share on UVACollab.

Flexibility and Contingency Plans

  1. How will your course and course policies adapt to sudden changes in instructional mode or other disruptions? Policies about flexibility should be closely tailored to the specific circumstances of the course.
  2. What will your students do in the event that you, they, or a loved one becomes ill? What is the backup plan for when you, a co-instructor, or TA fall ill?
  3. Will travel-related delays, such as quarantine requirements, prevent some of your students from attending the first several days of class?
  4. How will your course address absences and makeup activities especially due to coronavirus exposure or illness? Are there comparable virtual activities available? Flexible assessment and grading practices? Consider the ‘hot spot’ nature of outbreaks and the possibility that entire groups of students may be missing.
Sample Language

There are many unknowns this semester that could impact our course and university. We have already seen a delay of in-person classes to protect the health and safety of our community, and additional delays and disruptions may occur. Live classes will be held via Zoom (UVACollab “Online Meetings”), and it is possible that we will move to pre-recorded lecture material and more asynchronous activities that you’ll complete on your own with regular feedback from me. We will, as a community, need to be flexible and take things one step at a time. I’ll use email and post an announcement on our UVACollab site if such a shift suddenly occurs.

In our course, flexibility includes... {specific policies here, such as a limited number of free requests/tokens for deadline extensions, flexibility in the number of items contributing to an overall grade, how much advance notice is required for requesting assignment modifications, etc.}

Flexibility also includes communication. I encourage you to have a plan for communicating with instructors in case you become ill. In the event that I become ill, I will contact a colleague and/or my department chair to communicate with you about how our course will proceed. Please pay close attention to email communications and/or UVACollab announcements throughout this semester.

Communication and Office Hours

  1. What are the email and communication norms for your course? How can students best reach you, and how long should they expect it to take to hear back from you? Note that  students in different time zones may find themselves working on assignments at quite different hours than you are available.
  2. How will you hold office hours this semester? Do you plan to hold a recurring Zoom meeting where students can pop in, or will you use the Zoom personal meeting space (which relies on a waiting room that you will then have to monitor)? Will your students need to sign up in advance? Consider including a link to a digital signup tool, such as UVACollab’s Sign Up tool.
Sample Language

I am available for questions and discussion via email and during office hours. My office hours will be virtual and by appointment; the Zoom office hours link and signup are available on our UVACollab site’s front page. 

For questions related to completing course assignments, I encourage you to first review the course syllabus {LINK}, and then post questions to classmates via {email, Collab Piazza, etc.}. Questions posted to the class will often get a response more quickly than an email to me. I will try my best to reply to your email within 24 hours during the regular work week.

Class Meetings and Activities

  1. What are the synchronous attendance expectations for your class? If a student is in a different time zone, or is simply not available during your scheduled class meeting time, to what extent is watching the recordings an acceptable alternative? If your course includes asynchronous components, what is the equivalent of “attendance”? Consider that student engagement with course activities and content may be a more useful indicator than attendance. 
  2. How can students act responsibly and contribute positively to learning in the online setting, both in asynchronous and synchronous discussions? Develop guidelines for classroom etiquette and respect and/or acknowledging emotional or challenging topics that may arise in class meetings.

Sample Language

I will have my camera on during Zoom sessions, and invite you to keep your camera on if you are comfortable doing so. Whether or not your camera is on, your active participation in the course is essential. Please show initiative, active listening, and courtesy through the following: 

  • Use a headset or earbuds to be sure you can hear and be heard easily when speaking
  • Use the chat to ask questions, report problems, or whenever directed as part of a class activity. Keep chat messages respectful, concise, and relevant. I’m not judging your grammar, but remember you’re writing in an academic environment, even in the chat box. If our meeting is recorded, the public chat is included. 
  • Use the ‘reactions’ buttons (clapping, thumbs up) if appropriate!
  • Keep your mic muted when you aren’t speaking, to lessen distractions (and forgive me if I occasionally have to mute you if you forget).
  • Use the ‘raise hand’ button whenever you need to ask a question during lecture. 
  • Know that when two people talk at the same time in Zoom, neither can be easily heard. It takes a while, but we’ll get into a rhythm of leaving time between speakers.
  • In this online environment, I will probably ‘cold call’ students more often than I would in the classroom. It can be hard for me to know who is ready to speak, so I may call on you when you’re not expecting it. If you need to ‘pass’ on a question once or twice, that’s OK.

In our course, there will be many opportunities to discuss ideas in large and small groups. To support a productive, respectful, and learning-focused discussion, I ask that you participate with the following classroom norms, which we will review and add to together as a class:

  1. Listen respectfully. Comments that you make (whether asking for clarification, sharing critiques, or expanding on a point) should reflect that you have paid attention to the previous speakers’ comments.
  2. Be open to changing your perspectives based on what you learn from others. Understand that we are bound to make mistakes in this space, as anyone does when approaching complex tasks or learning new skills. Strive to see your mistakes and others’ as valuable elements of the learning process.
  3. Understand that your words have effects on others. Speak with care.
  4. Understand that others will come to these discussions with different experiences from yours. Be careful about assumptions and generalizations you make based only on your own experience.
  5. Understand that there are different approaches to solving problems. If you are uncertain about someone else’s approach, ask a question to explore areas of uncertainty.
  6. Differentiate between opinion--which everyone has--and informed knowledge, which comes from sustained experience, study, and practice. Hold your opinions lightly and with humility.
  7. … more TBD when we meet together as a group.

Class Recordings

Will you make recordings of live sessions available to students? How will you and the students access and use class recordings in a respectful and productive manner? Consider remote and quarantined/isolated students’ need to access course content via recordings of live sessions. You may want to discuss with students the role of recordings in your particular course. Review these tips for recording class sessions. Additional guidance on the recording of class session and distribution of course materials is provided by UVA policy.

Sample Language

I intend to record our live sessions for the sake of students who are unable to attend. Recordings will be available in Collab Online Meetings under “Cloud Recordings.” Recordings cannot be shared or moved, and will always be password protected. The default settings in Zoom only record the face of the active speaker. During class, I may pause recording at times to allow for everyone to feel comfortable discussing sensitive topics. I encourage you to contact me directly with any concerns about recordings. 

Physical Health and Space

  1. If in-person, how are students expected to interact? Will students enter and exit the room in a particular way? Will they have responsibilities for cleaning their spaces?
  2. What will be your protocol for reminding students to comply with behavioral expectations?
Sample Language

During this time, your personal and academic lives may look different than they did prior to March 2020. We will face challenges as a learning community, but I am hopeful that we can also continue to learn, connect, and grow together. I am committed to maintaining a healthy and equitable learning environment for all students, faculty, and staff.

Your health and well-being are a priority; please take care of yourself and monitor your health daily in the HOOS Health Check app. If you are ill or expect that you have been exposed to COVID-19, please stay home, notify me, and contact the Student Health and Wellness Center (434-924-5362) so that you can receive appropriate care. I recognize the need for some time off may also arise if someone close to you is sick or passes away. For any of these situations, we will work together and with your Association Dean to develop a plan to make sure you’re looked after and can continue to make progress in the course. 

To care for our community, we will follow UVA’s policies in place for health and safety. Actions like observing social distancing, washing and sanitizing our hands frequently, wiping down our desks and seats when possible, and properly wearing face coverings are critical for our environment to be one where you all can engage and learn. I will do my best to help you comply with these protective measures, which may include gentle reminders about keeping your mask on and cleaning your work space.

The University and I will be carefully monitoring our situation, and we may need to adjust our course and policies as necessary in response to what’s working and what isn’t to protect the safety and well-being of our learning community.

Technology and Accessibility

  1. What technology is required for your course, and how will you ensure your students have access? Consider hardware and software, memory and performance (i.e., can the software actually run on the computer that the student has?), and internet connectivity.
  2. Where can students acquire assistance getting equipment if they need it?
  3. How can students access support for the tools used in the course?
  4. What should students do if technology fails them (e.g., they lose their Zoom connection)? Consider having a written backup plan for students to follow.
  5. How will you make your online lectures and digital materials accessible? (resources)
  6. What do students need to know about the accessibility of your course? Do you rely more on particular modalities (e.g., reading) that may present barriers for some students?

Sample Language

To effectively engage in this course, you will need regular use of a computer and higher-speed (not dial-up) Internet. If you require assistance, please see Additional Student Support resources below. For Collab tools, the following browsers are recommended: Google Chrome (no reported issues), Mozilla Firefox (no reported issues), Microsoft Edge (few reported issues), and Mac Safari (few reported issues). 

For information on the American Rescue Plan Act, Bridge Scholarships, and Emergency Loans, please visit Student Financial Services Operational Updates.

Online, we’ll use our textbook website to complete some activities. For all other online activities, including tests, we will use UVACollab. All the tools we use will be linked in our course Collab site. Please log in and have a look around, to locate the syllabus and the weekly activity schedule. Collab has help resources and assistance via email during regular business hours. It is my goal to create a learning experience that is as accessible as possible—{insert accessibility measures specific to your course, e.g.,  all videos will be captioned, and synchronous meetings will have multiple ways for you to engage (voice, chat, video)}. Please meet with me to explore your options if you anticipate any challenges meeting course requirements or interacting with the course materials.

If you need assistance using any of the tools for our class, I am happy to work with you. You can also find resources for each below:

Live sessions will be held via Zoom, which you access via Collab’s Online Meetings tool. While this platform is generally stable, problems might arise. If you have trouble accessing class or lose your connection, please take these steps:

Try again to reconnect to class, using the Zoom link OR the phone number that you can access when you view the course meeting invitation in Collab Online Meetings. If you get stuck in the waiting room, text a classmate so they can let me know that you are trying to reconnect.  If you’re still unable to access class, plan to watch the class recording instead. Recordings are usually available within 3 hours of the end of class time, in the Online Meetings “Cloud Recordings” section.

Student Support Services

What on-Grounds support resources are available to students, and which of these will you want to include in your syllabus? Review this document for a sampling of commonly used student support resources.

Academic Support for Students
  1. How can you help students develop into successful remote learners? What particular skills will they need to rely on or develop (e.g., communication, organization, time management, camera presence)? 
  2. How can students access further academic support? Consider including links to the Writing Center or drop-in TA office hours if your department offers them.
Sample Language

Online learning differs from classroom learning in important ways. It’s a good idea to gauge your preparation for online learning before the semester begins, so that you can identify areas where you may need more support. 

Additional academic support is available to you: COVID-19: Student Resources.

Mental Health and Well-being
  1. Where can students access mental health resources?
  2. Where can students access financial resources?
  3. Where can students access resources related to food insecurity?
Sample Language

If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or isolated, there are many individuals here to help. The Student Health and Wellness Center offers Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for its students; call 434-243-5150 to speak with an on-call counselor and/or schedule an appointment. If you prefer to speak anonymously, you can call Madison House’s HELP Line at any hour of any day: 434-295-TALK. Alternatively, you can call or text the Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746) to connect with a trained crisis counselor; this is toll free, multilingual, and confidential, available to all residents in the US and its territories.

For information on CARES Act Student Emergency Funding, Bridge Scholarships, and Emergency Loans, please visit Student Financial Services Operational Updates. You might also be eligible for an Honor Loan.

Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or lacks a safe, stable place to live and believes this may affect their performance in the course is urged to contact the Dean of Students for support. Furthermore, please notify me if you are comfortable in doing so.

Page Categories