Sections 1-3

 

SECTION 1. COURSE SYLLABUS

This section is intended to offer you guidance as you create a syllabus for your course. It contains 3 sorts of items that are relevant to syllabi:

  1. those specifically required by University or Faculty policy,
  2. those that your students will consider necessary or helpful, and
  3. many you may find useful in shaping your students’ expectations and behaviour.

What follows is a sample set of syllabus headings, sorted into broad clusters for your convenience, with the required headings marked as such with (*R*). Following each is a brief discussion and sometimes bits of suggested or required text, with links to spots later in the Handbook where the topic receives a fuller discussion. In the online version we have included a few sample syllabi for illustration. The topics to be included – other than the required ones – and their order are of course yours to decide, as the Faculty recognizes that individual syllabi vary widely by instructor and course. You might also find helpful a CTSI resource on the designing the syllabus.

The course syllabus has two dimensions: (i) it is essentially your “contract” with your students for the requirements in your course; (ii) it is the best place to put useful course-related information as the syllabus must be distributed in class and/or posted on your course website.

You are required to include in your syllabus anything that contributes to the student’s mark, e.g. the marking scheme, and any policy or rule that affects the mark, such as late penalties. A great deal is left to your academic judgement. A few Faculty policies define limits to what you can require of students, as will be explained below, but students generally know they must abide by what you put in your syllabus, and so you are advised to make full use of the syllabus as part of course management. Note that strict policies specify the rules for making changes to certain syllabus elements after the course begins (see Section 5.2).

A copy of your marking scheme must be deposited with the UG Administrator of your academic unit by the first day of classes. Your marking scheme must include all major assessments, their percentage weight in the course mark, their method (test, essay, etc.) and their timing in the course. You must make your syllabus readily available to students, either by posting it on your course website, or by distributing a copy to students in the first or second class in the course. You should also draw attention to its major elements as you introduce your course. 

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SECTION 2. DESIGNING YOUR SYLLABUS

High-level Course Overview

2.1 Calendar Course Information
It may seem too obvious to mention but you should include the Calendar and Timetable basics on your syllabus, including your name. You would be surprised how many students cannot remember the course number or instructor’s name to write on their final exam script.

2.2 Course Objectives
Best practice recommends that you articulate the pedagogical objectives you have for your course, e.g. what learning outcomes you expect from your students by the end. Your objectives may seem quite clear to you or be seen as patently obvious by those in your discipline, but students are often very unclear about these things. Explicitly stated learning objectives may serve as a reference point throughout the course, allowing students to track their progress toward your destination.

2.3 Tutorial Objectives
Tutorials are worthy of separate mention in this regard. If tutorials are a part of your course, best practice recommends you be specific about their pedagogical purpose within the course. Both students and TAs have mentioned this as often lacking in their experience. Tutorials are discussed in more detail below in Section 5.3 but you should consider articulating:

  • the overall purpose of tutorials in the course,
  • your expectations about student attendance, preparation, participation, etc.,
  • the intended role of the TA in the course.

Basic Logistical Information

2.4 Course Contact Information (*R*)

Your contact information should be given in conjunction with an explanation in class about your expectations regarding communicating with you. If you do not want to receive phone calls about late assignments etc., you should not include your number. If you expect communication to be done through TAs or only through email, make that clear.

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2.5 Office Hours (*R*)
All instructors are required to hold office hours throughout the term. The number and distribution of these hours are not specified in policy; however, they should be arranged to facilitate interaction with students. Best practices point to a minimum of 2-3 hours per week. You should keep in mind that many students have work or family obligations off-campus and so may be most available in hours adjacent to the class hours.

2.6 Blackboard Information
Students are generally used to using Blackboard in courses, and so you should make your course page available if you are using one and explain what they should expect to find there and what use you expect them to make of it.

2.7 Relevant Dates
You will find the Faculty’s sessional dates in the Calendar and you would be well advised to include on your syllabus those that impinge on your course.

Assignments & Assessment

2.8 Marking Scheme (*R*)
You must provide your course marking scheme to your department by completing the Course Marking Scheme Form and submitting it to the UG Administrator in your unit at the start of your course. On this form, you must itemize:

  1. each assignment or test that is to be marked
  2. its weight in the final course grade,
  3.  its due date or the timing of each assessment,
  4. as well as whether the course will have a final exam in the Final Examination Period.

You must communicate this to students in your course at the start of the course, preferably no later than the end of the first week of classes and absolutely no later than the last date to add courses. Once the last date to add courses passes, strict policies govern when and how you may change this marking scheme (see Section 5.2).

2.9 Modes & Number of Assessments
University policy states, and good pedagogy suggests, that student performance “be assessed on more than one occasion. No one essay, test, examination, etc. should have a value of more than 80% of the grade.” This refers to what you indicate as the “normal” marking scheme for all students in the course; it does not restrict accommodations you may make for individual students who have circumstances that in your judgement justify an exception. (More about that in Sections 7 & 8.) Note that independent study or project courses are included under this rule: some piece of work other than the main project must be marked and returned by the deadline (see below Section 2.11).

2.10 Assignment Due Dates (*R*)
Term work deadlines should be within term and not normally extended into the Final Examination Period. A clear separation of term work from exam preparation allows students to best manage their time and their work. You are permitted to grant informal extensions into the Final Examination Period (see Section 8.3), but you should set your initial or published deadlines within the term.

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2.11 Assignment Weights & Return Dates – Faculty Rules (*R*)

University policy dictates that instructors must return “at least one piece of marked term work before the last date to drop the course,” normally about 3/4 of the way through the course. F courses, in early November; Y courses, in February before Reading Week; S courses, in early March.

  • Faculty policy makes this requirement more specific:
    • Instructors shall return by the deadline one or more marked assignments worth a combined total of at least 10% of the total course mark for H courses and 20% for Y courses.
    • The deadline for returning such marked work shall be the last regularly-scheduled class meeting prior to the Drop Date, with one exception: for courses that run the entire Fall/Winter Session (Y1Y or H1Y courses), the deadline shall be the last regularly-scheduled class meeting of the first week of classes in January.

This is a very strict requirement with no exceptions. If some extraordinary circumstance prevents you from meeting this deadline for your whole class or a significant part of it, you should notify your UG Administrator immediately. In such cases, the students are normally allowed to drop the course after they have received back the marked work, even if it is beyond the deadline. This is not the case, however, for an extension beyond the deadline you grant to a individual student based on the student’s request or exceptional circumstances. In such cases you are not obliged to meet the deadline.

2.12 Term Test Dates – Faculty Rules (*R*)
Term tests must be scheduled within the term, between the first and last day of classes. No term test (i.e. constituting an element of the term mark and administered by the instructor or TAs) may be scheduled in the Final Examination Period, nor in the November Break, Reading Week or the Study Period after the end of classes and before the beginning of the Examination Period.

The one exception to this rule is for Y courses in the Fall/Winter session: such courses may schedule a term test in the December Examination Period. UG Administrators should contact the Faculty Registrar’s Exams Office to have such a test included in the December Exam Schedule.

No term test or combination of term tests having a value greater than 25% of the final mark may be held in the final two weeks of classes at the end of any session - Fall, Winter, or Summer. This includes "take-home tests" and assignments where the topics or questions are both assigned and due within the last two weeks of classes. Note this regulation is a strict rule and is not negotiable with your class

It is certainly permissible –even normal– to collect an assignment worth more than 25% in the last 2 weeks of term, provided it was assigned before the final 2 weeks. This allows the student to manage his or her time in that intense period. However, a test, take-home test or essay that is due in that 2-week period where the question or topic is assigned or revealed to students within the last 2 weeks is unfair to the student and to other instructors, since it necessarily commandeers an unacceptable amount of the student’s time in that critical period with no possibility for the student to manage in advance the competing elements of his or her workload.

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2.13 Final Examinations (*R*)
The Grading Practices Policy states that normally “in all courses that meet regularly as a class there shall be a final examination held under divisional auspices.” The policy allows for divisional implementation, and the Faculty implements it as follows:

  • All 100-series courses (except 199Y courses) must have a Faculty-run final examination, and that examination must carry a weight of at least 1/3 and not more than 2/3 of the final mark.
  • Courses at the 200 level normally have final examinations.
  • Courses at the 300/400 level often have final examinations, but many units have decided that this is not necessary or appropriate for some of these courses.

Requests for 100-series exemptions are made through the academic unit to the Dean’s Office via the Faculty Registrar; requests for exemptions in 200-level courses are made in the academic unit; normally decisions about 300/400-series courses are left to the instructor. Consult your UG Coordinator on local practices and expectations for exams in courses beyond the 100 level.

The weighting of final exams in 200+series courses is a pedagogical matter for the instructor to decide; however, instructors are asked to consider whether a Faculty final exam with a very small weight is worth the cost of administering it.

For scheduling reasons, all Faculty final exams must be either 2 or 3 hours in duration.

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2.14 Assignment Submission Policy
If you have specific directives for your class about how they should submit assignments (e.g. electronically, in person, at the departmental office), you should spell those out clearly in your syllabus. Many departments have a protocol for students submitting assignments at the departmental office, and you should take those into account.

2.15 turnitin.com
If you intend to use turnitin.com as your method for receiving written assignments, you must inform students of this at the beginning of your course. You must also inform them that use of turnitin.com is voluntary, and provide alternate means of submitting assignments should a student not wish to use turnitin.com. If you use this tool, you must include the following text in your syllabus along with your instructions: (*R*)

Turnitin.com “Normally, students will be required to submit their course essays to Turnitin.com for a review of textual similarity and detection of possible plagiarism. In doing so, students will allow their essays to be included as source documents in the Turnitin.com reference database, where they will be used solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. The terms that apply to the University’s use of the Turnitin.com service are described on the Turnitin.com web site”.

For more on turnitin.com, see Section 5.8.

2.16 Late Penalty Policy
If you intend to accept and apply penalties to late assignments, you must spell out the rules in your syllabus, such as: whether or not you require prior notification of impending lateness; the penalty that will be applied per unit of time; maximum possible penalty; ultimate deadline when work will no longer be accepted; documentation required, if relevant; etc. Late penalty policies vary widely among instructors, given the diversity of subjects and modes of assessment. Your UG Coordinator can offer advice if you have questions. In general, you are advised not to be overly generous or vague at the outset, as it is more difficult to tighten up later than to grow more generous. (Also see Section 8.1 regarding legitimate absence or lateness and Section 7.3 on documentation.)

2.17 Missed Test Policy
Rules and guidelines surrounding this issue are treated more extensively below under Section 7. Again, you have great latitude in designing a policy that will work in the context of your course (within the limits specified below), but any policy works best if it is stated clearly from the outset and applied fairly and consistently.

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2.18 Re-Marking Policy
The Faculty makes available to you helpful limits on requests for re-marking (see Section 5.14). With these in mind, you may wish to lay down your re-marking procedures and set the expectations for your students in order to head off frivolous or blanket requests that you or your TAs re-mark assignments that have presumably already received your best attention.

2.19 Accommodations for Disability
A full section below is given over to accommodations for students with disabilities (Section 13).  In your syllabus, you can signal that you recognize the need for such accommodations and point out the University’s requirement that students register with Accessibility Services in order to receive such accommodations. You may wish to include this text, provided by Accessibility Services:

Students with diverse learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. In particular, if you have a disability/health consideration that may require accommodations, please feel free to approach me and/or Accessibility Services at (416) 978 8060; accessibility.utoronto.ca

If approached, you should definitely refer the student to Accessibility Services and indicate that you will work with the Service on any needed accommodation.

Course Management & Expectations

2.20 Online Communication Policy

 If you are using Blackboard or a course website as your primary “official” vehicle to communicate with your students, you should specify that students are responsible for checking it regularly. For students, the University has a policy requiring that they have a UofT email address and check it regularly, as it is the only address to which official University business will be sent.

The Faculty does not specify that instructors have any particular email policy for their courses. However, if you do have a policy, you should communicate it clearly. It is also wise to set expectations for students at the outset so they can govern their communication with you or your TAs accordingly. For example, you should indicate when you will and will not respond to email (on weekends, just before class, etc.), how long students should expect to wait for a response (24 hours, 2 days, etc.), what you will and will not discuss by email (subject content reserved for office hours and lecture, non-course business, marking appeals to be sent to TAs, etc.), and any protocols that will help you sort your email (course number in subject line, e.g. CSC323H).

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2.21 Academic Integrity Message
You are advised to put text into your syllabus regarding plagiarism and inappropriate collaboration, giving enough detail to guide students’ behaviour rather than simply alluding to the terms on the assumption students will know what they mean in the context of your course. Students often plead ignorance, which is more easily countered if the rules and expectations are clearly spelled out in your syllabus. (See section 12 for more on this, and Appendix A for sample syllabus language.)

Detailed Course Business

2.22 Course Business, Required Texts, Weekly Readings etc.
Needless to say, the syllabus is the appropriate place to outline in as much detail as you think useful what students should be doing each week to prepare for or follow up from class.

SECTION 3. ENROLMENT IN COURSES


3.1 Enrolment in Your Course
Enrolment in FAS courses is a registrarial matter and not generally within the control of instructors. It is handled electronically via ROSI/ACORN through a system of priorities and Wait Lists. Eligibility, checking of pre-requisites, required permissions, etc. are handled electronically and by staff in academic units. Students are not enrolled in a course unless they are enrolled on ROSI/ACORN, so you should not tell students they are enrolled in your course if they are not enrolled in ROSI/ACORN

After the enrollment deadline, late enrollment in courses may be granted on a case-by-case basis at the department/instructor's discretion.  If space permits, you may request late enrollment on behalf of a student through the UG Administrator in your department.

You must not mark assignments or tests for students who are not officially enrolled in your course. Your best response to inquiries or questions is to direct the student to ROSI, to your UG Administrator, or to their College Registrar.

Note: A student may have enrolled on ROSI in your course after your copy of your class list was printed; your Blackboard class list does not have a live connection to ROSI and so a lag may occur before your list is updated. Note also that adding students to your Blackboard class list does not enrol them or guarantee enrolment. Have the student enrol through ROSI and have ROSI update your Blackboard class list.

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3.2 Pre-requisite/Co-requisite/Exclusion Waivers
Departments have differing practices regarding enforcing pre- or co-requisites. Unless your unit has explicitly given you permission to deal with these for your course, you should not do anything that would appear to be a waiver. If relevant, you can make a recommendation to your UG Administrator about an individual student, but leave the waiver to the department. This also applies to participation in a course when the student has an outstanding deferred exam in the pre-requisite course. Refer the student to your UG Administrator.

Exclusions are a different matter, and are completely outside an instructor’s jurisdiction. (One course is an “exclusion” for another if the two overlap in content such that the second would be “repeated work,” and hence the excluded course is ineligible for degree credit.) Exclusions are identified by an academic unit but enforced by the Faculty Registrar, and so they are out of an instructor’s jurisdiction. Erroneous information to a student on this issue could result in a completed course later being denied degree credit, even well after it was completed. Refer the student to your UG Administrator.

3.3 Changing Courses
Students have a brief interval at the beginning of the course when they may still add a course that is underway, provided there is space available. The Faculty’s processes are set up to allow you to begin teaching in earnest right from the beginning of the course, and you should expect students who join the course in that brief interval to catch up on what they have missed.

Should a student petition and be granted late entry into your course for legitimate reasons, it is the student’s responsibility to discuss arrangements for catching up on missed material or assignments. You will likely have been consulted about the advisability of such a late add by your UG Administrator.

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3.4 Dropping Courses
This section is for your general information, to explain some student behaviour you may observe. Students may cancel their enrolment in a course “without academic penalty” in a number of ways, depending on the timing. This is normal practice in the Faculty and should cause you no special concern.

  • Cancel: Students may cancel a course on ROSI and have it disappear from their academic history up to the “Drop Date,” a deadline that is roughly 3/4 of the way through the course. The Drop Dates are listed in the Calendar.
  • LWD (Late Withdrawal): Students may withdraw from a course after the normal drop date under certain circumstances. The Faculty has a policy that allows students to LWD up to 3.0 credits in their degree, provided they do so by the last day of term. Their enrolment in the course ends, but a notation of LWD goes on their academic record showing they were enrolled at one point. In order to drop a course this way, students must consult their College Registrar and explain their situation. LWD is meant to allow students to re-group, learn from their mistakes, and proceed immediately to salvage what is left of a term. You may find that some students disappear from your final marks sheet or your Blackboard class list when you are trying to enter their final mark. This may be the explanation.
  • WDR (Petitioned Withdrawal): After the LWD deadline, or after the Drop Date if they have used up their 3.0 LWDs, students must petition to have a course dropped from their record. If they have legitimate reasons and the petition is granted, a WDR will appear on their record. You may be consulted about their term work as the Faculty responds to the petition, and so it is best to keep your marks records clear and up-to-date so the information will be easily available to your UG Administrator.

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Students have advising staff available to them with whom they can discuss these decisions. Each student belongs to a college, and the College Registrarial staff provide them with holistic advising that looks at their entire situation. If students have questions or are undecided about whether or not they should drop your course, feel free to advise them about their situation in your specific course. But a student’s College Registrar is his or her “first stop for reliable advice,” especially if their circumstances affect more than just your course.

3.5 Repeating Courses
Although there are some specific exceptions, the general rule in the Faculty is that students may not repeat courses in which they have already achieved a passing mark. If a student approaches you about this, refer them to their College Registrar.

3.6 Auditing Courses
The University and the Faculty have delegated rules and restrictions about auditing courses to the academic units. Some departments have strict policies about this; others leave it to the instructor’s discretion. If a student asks to audit, i.e. sit through the course without enrolling for credit and a final mark, you should not agree to this before clarifying your department’s policy on this. Some units forbid it entirely; others charge a fee if the student wants some documentation of a completed audit.

To be clear, there will be no notation on a transcript to recognize auditing. If the auditor wants documentation of a completed audit, then the student must speak to the UG Administrator in the academic unit sponsoring the course: the department may issue a letter and collect a fee equivalent to tuition for the privilege of a documented audit. In general, if you agree to allow an auditor, you should make clear what the expectations and limits are: Are they permitted to sit in and listen only? Allowed or expected to participate in discussion? to submit assignments and write tests that will be marked? Some instructors do not mind an additional listener in a lecture course if there is space, but few allow more participation than that.

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