Syllabus Policy

Month/Year Posted: 
May, 2023
Policy Number: 

Syllabus Policy


Academic Policies Committee

Applies to: Faculty, Staff, Students

Supersedes: P18-01 Course Syllabus Policy, P16-03 Syllabi Policy, and VPAA 07-02 HSU Policy on Content of Syllabi

Purpose of the policy:

Syllabi at Cal Poly Humboldt are the anchor for intellectual work in the classroom and must showcase learning outcomes, clearly communicate course expectations, and help students to successfully navigate the courses in which they enroll. This policy provides guidelines for required and recommended aspects of syllabi for all credit-bearing courses.

Policy Details

I. Introduction

A. A syllabus must exist for every credit-bearing course. Typically, it shall be the responsibility of faculty to create a full syllabus for each course that they teach. However, at the discretion of department chairs, some courses (e.g., supervision, independent study, and peer-taught courses with classifications S or C-77) may have a blanket syllabus developed at the department level and applied across multiple offerings. When using a blanket syllabus, instructors shall notify students in writing of any components that differ for the particular offering.

B. Each syllabus must comply with and include, but is not limited to, the information included in this policy.

C. Colleges, schools, departments, or programs may specify additional syllabus requirements for their courses beyond what is included in this policy.

D. Faculty should be cognizant that syllabi are publicly available documents.

II. Resources

A. The Office of Academic Programs shall maintain a Syllabus Resources website with updated information about syllabus requirements, accessible templates, a link to the syllabus policy and the Syllabus Addendum website, and other relevant information. Current URL:

B. The Center for Teaching and Learning, in consultation with the Accessibility Resource Center, shall provide accessibility guidelines and an accessible syllabus template on the center's website, in Canvas, and on the Syllabus Resources website. The template and guidelines shall be designed to help faculty meet pertinent requirements of the Accessible Technologies Initiative, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

C. The Office of Academic Programs shall maintain a Syllabus Addendum website to house information about relevant campus policies, commitments, procedures, and resources for students in one central location. The site shall include links to information pertinent to syllabi across all courses, such as: institutional and program learning outcomes; registration forms and policies; academic honesty policy; attendance and disruptive behavior policy; emergency procedures; Title 5 standards for student conduct; Title IX and discrimination, harassment, and retaliation prevention; procedures for reporting complaints; animals on campus policy; resources for students with disabilities; Learning Center; Academic & Career Advising Center; Counseling and Psychological Services; Office of the Dean of Students; Financial Aid; IT help; Cal Poly Humboldt institutional commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility statement; and a university land acknowledgement. Current URL:


III. Information that must be included in the course syllabus:

All items listed below shall be included in each syllabus, except where not applicable such as in the case of blanket syllabi for courses with classifications of S and C-77 (see Section IA).

A. Course information:

1. Number, title, and section if applicable

2. Semester and year

3. Mode of instruction (e.g., face-to-face, online asynchronous, online synchronous, hybrid, hyflex)

4. Meeting days, times and location (e.g. rooms or online platform)

5. Final exam day, time and location (this information can be found at the Office of the Registrar website and in Faculty Center)

6. A note directing students to the official course learning management system, currently Canvas

7. A note directing students to regularly check their Cal Poly Humboldt email for course updates and announcements

B. Instructor Information:

1. Name
2. Cal Poly Humboldt email address and office telephone number
3. Office hours and location, or a website link to where this information is available

C. Course Description:

1. Course description from the university catalog, identified as the catalog description
2. Pre-requisite and corequisite courses, if applicable (also found in the catalog)

D. Course materials and fees (e.g., textbooks, supplies, technology), including:

1. If they will be provided or if students are expected to acquire them

2. Any university facilities/platforms available to support these requirements for students who cannot purchase materials

3. How to access instructor-provided materials such as PDFs, linked resources, etc., for example “Additional readings/materials will be provided on Canvas”

4. Information on any fees required other than for typical stateside tuition/registration, for example for field trips or labs

E. Learning outcomes & competencies:

1. Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs): These are specific to the course and are the primary outcomes that the course aims to help students meet. All courses must have and list CLOs—there is no minimum or maximum number, though 4-8 is generally considered a best practice.

2. Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) and Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs):

a. At minimum, include the following or an equivalent statement, removing the GEAR reference if not a GEAR course: “If this course is a requirement for a program, it contributes to the achievement of Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) and Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs). This course counts as [insert GEAR area(s)*]. Review learning outcomes and competencies at the syllabus addendum website.”

b. Optionally, also list PLOs and/or ILOs that are particularly relevant, and/or describe the GEAR area.

c. *Regarding GEAR, be sure to search for the course in the catalog to confirm if it has any current GEAR designations. Be specific when listing the GEAR areas. For example, rather than just  “Area B”, specify “Lower Division GE Area B4: Mathematical Reasoning” or “Upper Division GE Area B: Math & Science”. For DCG, specify “Diversity and Common Ground: Non-Domestic” or “Diversity and Common Ground: Domestic.”

F. Course topics & schedule:

1. Include at least a list of topics in the general order of expected coverage, approximate dates of major exams or assignments, final exam date and time, and the deadline add/drop classes without a serious and compelling reason (this information may be found on the university calendars).

2. If a more detailed schedule is located elsewhere (e.g., on the learning management system) indicate so and provide a link.

G. Course structure & modality:

1. A description of the general course structure and modality (e.g., lecture, discussion, lab, virtual, asynchronous, synchronous…).

2. A statement about the minimum hours of student work expected as per the number of units and the official C-classification, as per the Credit Hour Policy. C-classification can be found using the Catalog Search Tool. See the Credit Hour Tool for help. One example statement is below - additional examples shall be provided/linked on the Syllabus Resources website and/or syllabus template.

a. Example statement for a 3-unit course: “This is a 3-unit course, and thus students should expect at least 135 hours of work during the semester, which equates to an average of at least 9 hours per week between in-class/instructional activities and out-of-class work.

H. Assignments:

1. Include at least a general description of assignment types/categories and how assignments are typically to be submitted.

2. As relevant, also include either further details that students need to complete assignments or a note that indicates how detailed assignment information will be provided.

3. If students will be required to post course assignments on the internet, outside the university learning management system, this should be included in the syllabus with possible alternative arrangements or assignments. Publicly viewable faculty review of student work may constitute a FERPA violation and should not be undertaken without careful consultation with the registrar.

I. Attendance/participation policy that includes, at minimum, whether/how attendance and participation will be tracked and/or graded. This information should be integrated with assignments/grading information if it will affect the course grade.

J. Grading information:

1. Basis for assigning a course grade, including at least the portion of course grade attributed to various assignment types and the relationship between percent/points earned and final course grades (i.e. grading scale).
2. Grade mode: Indicate whether a course is offered for a letter grade only, mandatory credit/no credit, or optional (letter grade or credit/no credit)--this information is available in the catalog for each course. For optional grade mode, include a statement specifying that “to count towards fulfilling major requirements, this course must be taken for a letter grade.”
3. If applicable, a reminder that to count for GE Area A / Area B: Math or the GWAR writing requirement (for W courses), the course must be passed with a C- or higher.

K. Late/make-up policy - include general or detailed information. For any course that uses a partially or fully online format, also include expectations for situations such as personal or large-scale technology breakdowns.

L. Policies, Procedures & Resources:

1. A statement that students are responsible for knowing information on the campus Syllabus Addendum website and include the link to the website. A concise statement with the link is recommended in lieu of links to the individual policies; however, as relevant, faculty may choose to also elaborate/discuss particular aspects. 

a. Suggested statement: “Students are responsible for knowing the information about campus policies, procedures, and resources on the Syllabus Addendum website linked below. The site includes topics such as learning outcomes; registration policies; academic honesty policy; attendance and disruptive behavior policy; standards for student conduct; prevention and reporting of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation; animals on campus policy; emergency procedures; resources for students with disabilities; learning and advising resources; counseling and psychological services; financial aid; IT Help; and more.

2. A reminder that it is the student's responsibility to notify the instructor in advance of the need for accommodations and to provide university (SDRC or Dean of Students) documentation.

3. For courses that include any online communication, a statement reminding students that university regulations regarding disruptive behavior extend to the online environment, and that appropriate online behavior (i.e., netiquette) is expected.

M. Other information essential to the course, for example safety information, classroom expectations, technology use guidelines, and information about assignments that must be accomplished at off-campus locations (e. g., field trips or service learning).

N. Any additional items required, for example by University Senate Policy or for programs with external accreditation.

O. A note that information on the syllabus is subject to change with notice, and how changes will be communicated. 

IV. Co-listed Undergraduate and Graduate Courses

Syllabi for courses listed for both undergraduate and graduate credit must have separate syllabi for both the undergraduate and graduate course numbers. Students receiving graduate credit for the course are expected to perform at a higher level than their undergraduate colleagues, and the graduate syllabus must demonstrate the higher expectations for such students in compliance with the campus co-listing policy.

V. Syllabus Format, Use, and Dissemination to Students

A. The syllabus must meet pertinent requirements for the Accessible Technology Initiative, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. An accessible syllabus template shall be available on the Syllabus Resources website.

B. The syllabus must be available to students through the course’s site on the university learning management system (LMS), currently Canvas, by the first day of instruction (first course meeting or, for online/hybrid courses, the first day that the course opens).

1. The syllabus must be in a standard file type (e.g. Word Doc, Google Doc, website, PDF, or LMS page). All file types must be accessible.

2. The syllabus shall be prominently labeled/linked on the course landing page and/or the syllabus link in the main course navigation, ideally in both locations.

3. The syllabus may also be provided to students in other ways (e.g., email or print), but not in lieu of providing on the LMS. If a printed and/or partial syllabus is given to students, it should include a prominent note at the beginning directing students to view the full version on the LMS to review important course information and linked sites such as the syllabus addendum website. 

4. Faculty planning to co-create elements of the syllabus with their students must still provide a syllabus on the first day - on the syllabus, faculty shall indicate which elements will be co-created.

C. By the first day of instruction, faculty shall notify students how to locate the syllabus on the LMS. The announcement shall be in some manner that will be seen by students who are not yet aware of the LMS, ideally via email and in-class announcements.

D. During the term, changes to the information in the syllabus are only permitted if they do not inadvertently penalize/disadvantage students or require students to purchase materials not disclosed at the beginning of the term. If there are any substantive changes, the instructor shall:

1. Place a revised syllabus on the LMS, with the changed components clearly identified (e.g., highlighted and a note included), and

2. Notify students in writing, at minimum via an email or an announcement through the LMS.


VI. Shared Course Outline

A. A shared course outline is a document that is separate from a syllabus itself—it is not provided to students. A shared course outline is used to inform the creation of a syllabus for a specific course. The purpose of a shared course outline is to support reasonable consistency in topical coverage and learning outcomes across offerings of a course, which is important for multiple reasons, such as to ensure that students are prepared for subsequent courses in a sequence, to ensure that students achieve program learning outcomes, and to support course transfer articulation/equivalency.

B. Departments shall develop a shared course outline for each course that is a program requirement and/or a prerequisite to another course. At their discretion, departments may but are not obligated to develop shared course outlines for other courses, such as elective courses regularly taught by different faculty.

C. A shared course outline shall include all information that should not change between offerings of a course, such as the course information (e.g., number, description, units, pre/co-requisites, GEAR designations), grade mode, grade requirements for students to count the course for program credit and/or to qualify to take any subsequent courses in a sequence, course classification and associated credit hour expectations, and minimum expectations for coverage of content (i.e., list of essential course learning outcomes and topics). The extent to which the minimum expectations are general or specific shall be at the discretion of the department; however, departments are advised not to specify more than is necessary to ensure reasonable curricular consistency. Expectations are for minimum coverage, meaning that faculty may cover applicable outcomes and topics in addition to those specified on the outline.

D. Shared course outlines shall be developed and updated as needed by faculty subject matter experts. Approval will be at the level determined by the department, for example a department curriculum committee, program leader, or chair.  

E. Shared course outlines shall be kept on file by departments, and department chairs should ensure that faculty are aware of and abide by them.

F. Departments that feel that shared course outlines are not appropriate for their programs/courses should discuss this with their college dean, who shall maintain authority to modify this requirement per department/program for just cause. The dean shall inform the Academic Policies Committee chair of exceptions made, including the extent and duration.

G. A recommended shared course outline template shall be made available on the Syllabus Resources website.


VII. Documentation & Compliance

A. Prior to the start of each term, the Office of Academic Programs shall remind all faculty of this syllabus policy and provide a link to the Syllabus Resources website and the accessible syllabus template. 

B. At the beginning of each term, department chairs shall remind faculty to post a syllabus (following the syllabus policy) to the learning management system (LMS) site for each course and to ensure that the LMS and syllabus are published (live) and available to students. 

1. Chairs may request that faculty submit syllabi to the department prior to the start of instruction (as early as the first green day) for review of compliance with the syllabus policy.

C. By the first Friday of instruction for the term, faculty shall provide a copy of the syllabus to the office of the department in which the course is taught.

1. Faculty should be cognizant that syllabi shall be publicly available. 

2. The format must be a standard file type that can be stored and shared (e.g., a Word Doc or PDF, not a Google Doc or website), and the document needs to be accessible.

3. Departments shall post collected syllabi to a shared repository maintained by Academic Programs, where syllabi shall be retained for the length of time determined by WSCUC and CSU Policy (currently permanently).


D. Syllabus information shall be incorporated into new faculty orientation and added to the faculty, administrative, and department chair handbooks.

E. The Integrated Curriculum Committee shall review syllabi and, if applicable, shared course outlines provided for new and revised courses.

F. As part of the program review process, all departments and programs will be required to provide evidence of compliance with the syllabus policy.

G. On an ongoing basis, if students, faculty, or staff have questions, concerns, or feedback about a syllabus for a particular course, the first place to direct inquiries should typically be the course instructor, and then, as need be, the chair of the department that offers the course. 


Related Policies:

  • X

Expiration Date:  n/a


Academic Policies Committee: 4/21/2023

Reviewed: University Senate: 5/9/2023

Reviewed: Provost: 5/12/2023