It is imperative that all course policies, schedules, etc., be clearly articulated in the course syllabus. If you have trouble with students or faculty, there is no substitute for being able to point to your well-thought-out syllabus and say “… as is clearly indicated right here,..!”. Further, if we ever do run into serious course issues (e.g., policy challenges by students), the first question that will be asked by the Provost’s Office is: “What does it say in the syllabus?”
You will avoid 95% of the common headaches with a comprehensive, clear syllabus. An example syllabus is provided, not because it is the best, but simply to show the headings that should be addressed and some sample wording. Specific areas you may want to pay special attention to are as follows:
- Textbooks, and web resources: Make sure you’re clear on what is optional vs. required. For example, if you state: “Canvas® is the official method for electronic communications in this course”, then you can hold students accountable for critical information you post there.[See suggested wording]
- Faculty Information: Contact information should be posted for the faculty involved in the course. Check with faculty about what they would (and would not) like included; clearly, if you post both the email address and phone number, students will assume both can be used for timely communication.
- Lecture Recording: Please make your policies clear as to the availability of recorded lectures (video/audio). While this is the prerogative of the course coordinator and his/her faculty, it is important to let the students know up front.
- Lecture Schedule: It is important to give a detailed schedule of lectures/dates/presenter, not just a general topics with a set of dates. Remember these syllabi are for multiple audiences, not just the students.
- Examinations: Please do not put a place and time for final exams; mark this “TBA”(as you already know, we work with you in setting that date/time rather than going with the University defaults). In addition, we ask that you consider Pharmacy Council’s request that regular exams be tentative until the Class Representatives have a chance to view the entire exam schedule for that semester and get back with you with any proposed changes. [See suggested wording] If you intend to change an exam time/date, please see the online essay on changing exams (PDF Format).
- Alternate Exam Times: Please be sure to enforce the College Policy on students requesting an alternate time for exams. We have the “Student Request for an Alternate Exam Time”form available to the students that they should submit to you, and that you should forward to the Deans Office once you have made your decision. [See suggested wording]. We frequently get inquiries from Faculty as to whether a particular student has a history of requesting early or postponed exams, and there is no way for us to respond unless faculty are diligent about using these forms. It also gives us an opportunity to intervene with students that show a pattern of abuse. Also, be careful of your policy wording if a student misses an exam without prior authorization. There is a big difference between “…will receive a grade of zero…”and “…may receive a grade of zero…” Each wording has its own merit, but substantially different implications in terms of what will (or can) be done. Finally, make sure that your policy/decisions on missed exams makes sense. For example, does it make sense that, if a student misses an exam, the score on the next exam will be counted for both exams (i.e., the current one and, again, for the one missed)? Such a policy is neither educatioinally sound nor defensible.
- Returning Exams and Posting Grades: FERPA demands that student grades are never posted publically. Now that CANVAS® is the course management standard, so it is best to post grades there (or on eGradebook). Both protect the student’s records behind their UTEID. Exams should be returned through the LRC since, again,this ensures that only the student has access to their exams. If it is your policy to not return exams to students, you must include in your syllabus the mechanism by which students can view their completed exams (it is a University requirement that students be allowed to view any work used to determine their grade).
- Regrades/Resubmissions: Make sure your policy is clear. In developing your policy, you may want to refer to the online Essay on Reconsideration Requests (PDF Format) and the Essay on Exam Stats (PDF Format). It is suggested that students be required to make resubmissions in writing since they have to think through their rationale rather than engage in a lengthy debate with the faculty member (an endurance test). Email works well for this purpose, but hold to the submission deadline set in your syllabus, and always have students copy their reconsideration requests (please don’t call them “challenges”) to you as Course Coordinator so you can track faculty responses/decisions and keep track of points. [See suggested wording] Also, make sure your faculty do not respond to any of these requests until the submission deadline passes. If points are awarded prematurely, it’s amazing how fast the message spreads that “they’ll give you the points if you simply argue the following…!”
- Re-Examination in the Final Exam: It is imperative that you think through what your course policy will be in this regard, and that it conform to the University and College Policies (PDF Format) based on this rationale (PDF Format). Even if the decision is that there will be no re-examination on the final, that is a proactive decision and should be put on the syllabus. [See suggested wording]
- Module Mastery: One of the potential frustration with student performance in courses that have segregated content, is that they can fail in one area, excel in another, and thus show an overall passing grade. The purpose of “module mastery” is to stipulate that a student must shown acceptable performance in each component of the course. The exactly wording of this policy (including consequences) is extremely important, since a student may do well “overall” (i.e., numerically), but still not pass the course. Sample wording for this type of policy used in our Pharmacotherapy course sequence is available [See suggested wording].
- Course Grading: The grading scale to be use calculating the final letter grade must be specified in the course and followed without deviation. Beginning in Fall-09, the College implemented the University-based +/- grading system (which has been in place for graduate courses for some time). The Curriculum Committee has addressed this issue for PharmD courses and approved the following policy:
- The default for all required and elective professional (PharmD) courses should include use of the +/- grading system, unless the course coordinator petitions the curriculum committee to use only full letter grades (basing the request on the nature of the student assessment(s) used in the course). If the +/- system is being used, the course coordinator should create a grading scale with approximate equal distribution of +/- intervals within a grade; faculty would be free to assign A,B,C, etc. ranges, but +/- point interval within the A range, B range, and C range, etc. should be approximately equivalent.
90-92 A- 80-82 B- 70-72 C- 93-100 A 83-86 B 73-76 C 87-89 B+ 77-79 C+
A scale for “D” has not suggested since this the range may be compressed. Thus, the scale could be (for example): 69-66 D+, 65-63 D, 62-60 D- (for a 10 point spread), or 69-68 D+, 67-66 D, 65 D- (for a 5 point spread).
- Academic Integrity: This is an opportunity to reinforce our College Honor Code and the University rules. Please be sure to include the approved Honor Code statement on all exams/assignments in your course, i.e., “I certify that I have neither participated in nor witnessed any form of academic dishonesty associated with this exam/assignment,” with a line for the student’s signature. All allegations of academic dishonesty are to be handled through the office of the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs [See suggested wording]..It is important that you instruct your exam proctors on what to do in cases of suspected academic dishonesty before they actually witness an incident and discover that they don’t know how to handle it. Please be sure you are familiar with the University’s expectations of faculty in terms of academic integrity. If you have questions or concerns, particularly if they relate to an incident, do not hesitate to contact Senior Assoc. Dean Davis.
- Students With Disabilities: Please make sure you follow the University requirements for students with disabilities, and insist that the students do as well. For example, these students are required to make any special arrangements with the faculty prior to each examination; i.e., that’s their responsibility; it is not your responsibility to track them down. [See suggested wording].In addition, recognize that the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSB) Office will provide a letter to you as course coordinator with the specific accommodations that must be addressed (nothing more, nothing less). In the absence of that letter, a disability to be accommodated does not exist and student-requested accommodations must not be made!
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