Updates for your syllabus (Fall 2021)
Fall 2021 marks our return to campus for students, faculty, and staff. Approximately 90% of listed undergraduate and graduate classes will be held in-person (In-Person Expected or IPE). However, we should keep in mind that this upcoming academic year is not fully back to our old “normal.”
As we adjust to the new realities of teaching on campus, we encourage you to think about places where you can be flexible with your students. Mental and physical health, technology, and other aspects of daily life may still be uncertain or unstable in the coming year. Thinking ahead to situations where a student may be unwell or (especially for remote-only courses) have unreliable technology will help you be more prepared and more confident about supporting your students this year.
To help you update your syllabus, we have prepared resources on a set of important issues that you will want to address. This page is divided in three sections:
- Syllabus updates and highlights for all course types
- Syllabus updates for in-person courses
- Syllabus updates for classes with remote students
For each syllabus element, you will find:
- a description of the issue and related considerations,
- questions to guide your thinking on new or revised policies that account for this semester’s circumstances, and
- sample language that you may adopt, adapt, or use as inspiration for your own statements.
In addition to the updated syllabus elements below, see our "regular" syllabus checklist page, and/or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss further. You may also be interested in this article from the Chronicle: 10 Course Policies to Rethink on Your Fall Syllabus.
Given the current context holds considerable uncertainty and students may still be experiencing effects of the pandemic, it is especially important to include a statement on Student Well-Being (see the sample statements available here ). You may also wish to include some personal language acknowledging the exceptional circumstances of our current context to further signal to students that you take a personal interest in their well-being.
Sample text to include before your “standard” text on student well-being:
This year is unlike any other. We are all under a lot of stress and uncertainty at this time. Make sure to move regularly, eat well, and reach out to your support system or me [add email] if you need to. We can all benefit from support in times of stress, and this semester is no exception.
[For language to continue your statement on student wellness see several samples here.]
Addendum to Student Well-Being
In addition to the Student Well-Being statement, we encourage you to consider adding a paragraph about resources for students experiencing food insecurity.
If you are worried about affording food or feeling insecure about food, there are resources on campus who can help. Email the CMU Food Pantry Coordinator to schedule an appointment:
412-268-8704 (SLICE office)
A diversity statement in your syllabus is an important way to help to set the stage for a supportive and inclusive classroom environment. Faculty Senate has endorsed incorporating a diversity statement in CMU syllabi. Please refer to this page for suggestions and sample language, as you create a statement that reflects your classroom practices.
Use of technology during class
This past year has involved technology in new ways in the classroom. Before using your past policies about use of technology during class, consider these questions:
- Are there activities from last year that were facilitated through technology that you would like to use?
- What equipment would students need to participate fully in such technology-enabled activities? Note: if your course requires any technology (e.g., laptop, additional software, unique course materials), this should be stated explicitly in the syllabus. It should also be disclosed in the course profile (which is visible to students via S3; ask your department administrator about updating the course profile).
- Would students need access to the technology sporadically throughout the semester? Or during all classes?
- How can students let you know if they do not have the necessary equipment to participate in online activity during in-person classes? (Note: you can direct students to contact their HUB liaison if they lack access to appropriate equipment to request emergency grants.)
Sample language (if you wish to use technology in class):
For some class sessions, we will be using <insert edtech tool> which can be accessed on a smartphone or laptop. For these sessions, I will ask you in advance to bring your mobile device, and we will review how to use the tool together in class. If you do not have the necessary equipment, please contact your HUB liaison who is available to help you tap into appropriate resources.
Consider mentioning resources from the Student Academic Success Center (SASC) in your syllabus.
Rather than including all samples found below, we recommend referencing the programs most relevant to your students. Ask yourself:
- Is the specific resource relevant to your students? For example, would targeted tutoring help your students, or would your students benefit from broader academic success support?
- Does the SASC target a central area of the course (e.g., communication skill development) such that you would want to highlight that SASC resource?
- Is your course a historically difficult course such that supplemental instruction is offered through SASC and could be highlighted on your syllabus?
SASC programs to support student learning include the following (program titles link to webpages):
- Academic Coaching – This program provides holistic, one-on-one peer support and group workshops to help undergraduate and graduate students implement habits for success. Academic Coaching assists students with time management, productive learning and study habits, organization, stress management, and other skills. Request an initial consultation here.
- Peer Tutoring – Peer Tutoring is offered in two formats for students seeking support related to their coursework. Drop-In tutoring targets our highest demand courses through regularly scheduled open tutoring sessions during the fall and spring semesters. Tutoring by appointment consists of ongoing individualized and small group sessions.You can utilize tutoring to discuss course related content, clarify and ask questions, and work through practice problems. Visit the webpage to see courses currently being supported by Peer Tutoring.
- Communication Support – Communication Support offers free one-on-one communication consulting as well as group workshops to support strong written, oral, and visual communication in texts including IMRaD and thesis-driven essays, data-driven reports, oral presentations, posters and visual design, advanced research, application materials, grant proposals, business and public policy documents, data visualisation, and team projects. Appointments are available to undergraduate and graduate students from any discipline at CMU. Schedule an appointment (in-person or video), attend a workshop, or consult handouts or videos to strengthen communication skills.
- Language and Cross-Cultural Support – This program supports students seeking help with language and cross-cultural skills for academic and professional success through individual and group sessions. Students can get assistance with writing academic emails, learning expectations and strategies for clear academic writing, pronunciation, grammar, fluency, and more. Make an appointment with a Language Development Specialist to get individualized coaching.
- Supplemental Instruction (SI) – This program offers a non-remedial approach to learning in historically difficult courses at CMU. It utilizes a peer-led group study approach to help students succeed and is facilitated by an SI leader, a CMU student who has successfully completed the course. SI offers a way to connect with other students studying the same course, a guaranteed weekly study time that reinforces learning and retention of information, as well as a place to learn and integrate study tools and exam techniques specific to a course. Visit the website to see courses with SI available here.
Use of third-party copyright material
If your course uses copyrighted material such as a course reader or online resources that students must purchase (and that are not accessible by other means for free), please incorporate the following statement in your syllabus. It is meant to notify students of the additional monetary charge they will have to spend to complete your course.
This course uses third-party course material that is not available for individual purchase from the publisher and, as a result, the third-party course material is secured and provided by the Tepper School to students enrolled in the course. Each student enrolled in the course is required to pay to the University the associated additional course materials fee for the third-party course material provided. The amount of the course materials fee is dependent on the University’s cost of the particular materials provided, and typically ranges from $___________ to $_______________.
Proposed language for courses that may use copyright material that students cannot otherwise access (undetermined because course content is still under development):
This course may use third-party course material that is not available for individual purchase from the publisher. If so, the third-party course material will be secured and provided by the Tepper School to students enrolled in the course, and students enrolled in the course will be required to pay to the University the associated additional course materials fee for the third-party course material provided. The amount of the course materials fee is dependent on the University’s cost of the particular materials provided, and typically ranges from $___________ to $_______________.
Accommodations for students with disabilities
Disability Resources recommends using the standard syllabus language, which can be found (with some additional information) here, and for convenience is reproduced below:
Accommodations for Students with Disabilities:
If you have a disability and have an accommodations letter from the Disability Resources office, I encourage you to discuss your accommodations and needs with me as early in the semester as possible. I will work with you to ensure that accommodations are provided as appropriate. If you suspect that you may have a disability and would benefit from accommodations but are not yet registered with the Office of Disability Resources, I encourage you to contact them at email@example.com.
Attendance and participation
We encourage you to think about your attendance and participation policies, given that it is possible more students will need to miss class due to illness or quarantine this semester. Consider the following questions to guide possible adjustments in how much you weight attendance and participation and how you provide flexibility when students cannot attend.
- Are attendance/participation part of the final grade?
- How much would/should absences impact students’ grades?
- How would students go about letting you know they are not able to attend class?
- How could students get participation points if they are not able to attend in person?
Class attendance and participation are important parts of the learning in this course. To account for this, a portion of the final grade is based on your regular attendance and active participation (see grading section). That said, I also recognize that students may need to miss class for a variety of reasons (religious observance, job interview, university-sanctioned event, or illness). For that reason, all students are permitted two class absences without any impact on the final grade. When you must miss class, please notify me (at least 24 hours in advance except for illness/emergency), so that we can discuss alternative arrangements for catching up on class and associated work. If you encounter extenuating circumstances and must miss more than two classes, please come and discuss the issue with me; I would like to find a way to support you.
Classroom Expectations related to COVID-19
Note that students have specific requirements for coming to campus (e.g., vaccination, A Tartan’s Responsibility), and some of these apply to classroom behaviors. Instructors may wish to highlight these classroom-related requirements by adding a section on classroom expectations to their syllabi. The sample language below is provided for you to copy/paste if you wish.
Note: Some instructors have asked what to do if a student does not wear a facial covering when it is required. Faculty should expect students to wear a facial covering in class whenever that is part of the CMU requirement (as it will be at the start of the upcoming semester). If a student enters class without a facial covering, the instructor is encouraged to start with a "please, ... thank you" approach to get the student to don a mask. If the student does not comply, the instructor may ask the student to leave class. And if there is a problem after that, the instructor may reach out to the Office of Community Standards and Integrity for assistance (see https://www.cmu.edu/student-affairs/ocsi/ and the link under “ATR Reporting” on the right hand side if you wish to make a report). Note: If you would like to keep a supply of facial coverings on hand, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a supply.
In order to attend class meetings in person, all students are expected to abide by all behaviors indicated in A Tartan’s Responsibility, including any timely updates based on the current conditions.
In terms of specific classroom expectations, whenever the requirement to wear a facial covering is in effect on campus, students are expected to wear a facial covering throughout class. Note: the requirement to wear a facial covering is in effect for the start of the Fall 2021 semester. If you do not wear a facial covering to class, I will ask you to put one on (and if you don’t have one with you, I will direct you to a distribution location on campus, see https://www.cmu.edu/coronavirus/health-and-wellness/facial-covering.html). If you do not comply, you will be referred to the Office of Community Standards and Integrity for follow up, which could include student conduct action. Finally, please note that sanitizing wipes should be available in our classroom for those who wish to use them.
Recording of in-person class sessions
Classrooms will have camera and microphone equipment (e.g., the standard A/V equipment installed for Fall 2020). This allows instructors to recording class sessions (e.g., in concert with Zoom for capturing and storing the recordings). Faculty are encouraged but not required to record their class sessions for Fall 2021. One notable benefit of class recordings is that they provide resources to students who cannot attend class for temporary reasons.
See here for information and instructions on the equipment in individual Registrar classrooms.
IMPORTANT! If you decide to record your class session(s) and make the recordings available to the class, please include the syllabus language below that explains to students that they may only use the recordings for their personal, educational use. That is, class recordings may not be distributed – by students or the instructor – to anyone outside of the class. Note: This means that class recordings from previous semesters may not be shared with current students, unless those recordings do not have any student images, voices, etc. Please see the guidance on this page under “May I, should I record my live class sessions”.
In addition to instructor-provided class recordings, if you would like to highlight in your syllabus what individual students can/cannot do related to making their own recordings of class sessions, please see the Recording Policy section of our “regular” syllabus recommendations page for detailed information and sample language.
For this course, I will be recording class sessions and making them available to you for your personal, educational use. Recordings of class sessions are covered under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and must not be shared with anyone outside your course-section. The purpose of these recording is so students in this course (and only students in this course) can watch or re-watch past class sessions. Feel free to use the recordings if you would like to review something we discussed in class or if you are temporarily unable to attend class.
If you are teaching a remote-only (REO) or an in-person/remote (IPR) class this year, you can refer to the following for considerations on creating your syllabus. In particular, we’d like to highlight the technology requirement policy that now emphasizes specific requirements for completing assessments remotely.
Regular and Substantive Interaction
All courses being taught in REO (Remote Only), IPR (In-Person+Remote), and IRR (In-person with Rotation + Remote) modalities are considered “distance education” and must meet new US Department of Education regulatory requirements (effective July, 2021). Specifically, CMU must ensure and document that all such courses include “regular and substantive interaction” by incorporating at least two items from the list below in each distance education course. Please make sure that your syllabus describes at least two of the following interactions as part of your course, or simply add a new section to your syllabus, drawing from the suggested language (i.e., including deleting items from the list provided based on whether they are included in your course). For more information on this new regulatory requirement and CMU’s procedures, see https://www.cmu.edu/es/course-modality/index.html#distanceed.
In this course, there are multiple avenues for regular and substantive interaction between instructor(s) and students. Specifically, this course includes: [keep all items from the list below that are included in your course and remove any items that are not included]
- Regularly scheduled synchronous classes with opportunities for student interaction
- Regularly scheduled office hours with the instructor
- Emails sent to the class from instructor on a regular basis [insert the frequency/regularity of emails that you anticipate]
- Instructor feedback on assignments and exams
- Regularly scheduled instructor-led discussions
- Regularly scheduled instructional activities (e.g. labs)
- [If there are other regularly scheduled and substantive interactions between instructor(s) and students in your course, feel welcome to add them here.]
Updates to Technology Requirements
In addition to listing required books and other materials for your course, explain what technology tools will be needed both in and out of class (e.g., Zoom, Canvas, Google Docs, Respondus, etc.) and, if relevant, how students should access those resources and technologies.
- What technology/applications will you use during the semester? Are those free? How do students access them?
- Do students need special materials (for instance, for fabrication)? Are remote students responsible to source those materials or are you sending them kits? Who should they contact if they have problems with those materials?
- Do students typically use on-campus resources like the library? What is the process for accessing those in-person resources this semester?
- What technology/applications will students need to complete remote assessments?
Use of Technology in the Classroom
In the current circumstances, your policy on the use of technology in the classroom may need to be updated. Indeed, whereas in past years your syllabus statements might have restricted students’ use of technology in the classroom, your students (whether they are remote or in-person) may need the use of a computer or a phone to participate in class this semester. For example, activities in your class may require in-person students to use a laptop or phone to interact with remote students.
- Will in-person students need to have their own laptop or phone in the classroom? If so, what are your guidelines for responsible use of technology in the classroom?
- How can students let you know if they do not have the necessary equipment to participate in online activity during in-person classes? (Note: you can direct students to contact their HUB liaison if they lack access to appropriate equipment to request emergency grants.)
- What guidelines would you give to remote students regarding technology?
This semester involves regular use of technology during class – both for in-person and remote students. Research has shown that divided attention is detrimental to learning, so I encourage you to close any windows not directly related to what we are doing while you are in class. Please turn off your phone notifications and limit other likely sources of technology disruption, so you can fully engage with the material, each other, and me. This will create a better learning environment for everyone. [If appropriate for your class needs: A laptop will be required for our in-person classes, so If you do not have access to one, please email me [insert your email] as soon as possible so we can find a solution.]
How to Succeed in This Class
Consider adding a section to explain to students how to succeed in this class. This section will benefit students who are not used to this new mode of course delivery. This can serve as a good summary of how your class will work, including both in and out of class activities. This is an opportunity to explain your rationale for how you organized the materials and activities in your class.
- Should students access pre-recorded lectures or readings before class?
- What should they do during class to succeed?
- How can they ask for help in and out of class? How might you explain the benefits of and “normalize” help seeking?
- Would you encourage students to work with other students (i.e. in study groups) and, if so, how would they do that while physical distancing?
For more information on what to include from our “regular” Study Tips page, click here.
Academic integrity is paramount to CMU’s mission of educating students. To emphasize academic integrity and highlight what that means for your course in this semester, reviewing and editing your syllabus statement is warranted.
- What does academic integrity look like for remote components of your course (e.g. remote assessments)?
- When do you expect collaboration to be acceptable and when would it not be? What does appropriate collaboration look like when students are remote/online?
- Do you plan on providing additional measures to promote academic integrity (e.g. signed statement before each exam, academic integrity OLI module, use of monitoring/proctoring software during assessments, etc.)? Even though additional measures may not eliminate cheating, research shows that adding an academic integrity reminder/signed statement at the beginning of an exam helps reduce the likelihood of cheating. Whichever additional measure(s) you are using should be described and explained in the syllabus. In particular, if your measures require the use of particular equipment (e.g., webcam) or software, this should be mentioned explicitly in the syllabus.
Academic Integrity is a core CMU value, and as a member of the CMU community, it is important that the work you turn in for this class is wholly your own. As your instructor, I will strive to ensure that you develop the necessary knowledge and skills to meet the learning objectives for this class, just as it is your task to put in the effort to complete the work and ask for help if you need it. In this hybrid/remote environment, you might have questions about what is and is not acceptable. [Insert statement or paragraph about what cheating/plagiarism/unauthorized assistance or collaboration looks like for your specific course. Add the consequences of not abiding by those conditions]
For each major assessment, you will be asked to sign a statement affirming that you will not cheat, plagiarize, or receive unpermitted assistance on the work that you turn in. As a reminder all students should follow CMU’s Academic Integrity Policy.
Attendance and Participation Policies
For students who live in timezones that would make synchronous participation difficult (i.e. in the middle of the night), consider allowing them to participate asynchronously (for at least a portion of class meetings).
Here are some considerations for developing attendance and participation policies:
- Are you interested in measuring “attendance” (e.g., a student was present for a Zoom session or in-class session) or “participation” (e.g., a student is demonstrating engagement with course material)?
- Will you have different attendance and participation expectations for asynchronous and synchronous students? What will those be?
- If your course modality is In-Person+Remote, will you have different participation expectations for remote students and in-person students? What will those be? And if a student switches to remote learning during the semester, where can they find more information about the new expectations?
- If students experience technical difficulties while attending synchronous classes remotely (i.e. unstable Internet connection, unstable computer, etc.), how can they still get participation credit?
- Synchronous attendance and participation might be quite challenging for students in distant time zones. Here are a few ideas to create asynchronous as well as synchronous opportunities for student participation:
- Zoom Polls - synchronous students can participate in these anonymously during a Zoom session, and instructors can track who recorded each response in the transcript they receive. Asynchronous participation could involve watching the class session’s recording and then answering similar questions via a Canvas or other online assignment. (Note: Canvas activities can be assigned to a subset of your students.)
- Google Docs - if you ask synchronous and asynchronous students to produce something (e.g., a worked solution, a brainstorm list, etc.) individually or in small groups, have them record the deliverable and their names in a Google Doc. Then share the google doc link in the chat box during class. This type of participation could happen outside of class (e.g., as prep work for a session or for asynchronous students) or during the class (e.g., in breakout rooms).
- Discussion board - have both synchronous and asynchronous students respond to an instructor-posed question or have students post a question/comment of their own on a weekly (or daily) basis. This discussion board could be leveraged as prep work for class (e.g., post one question that you have about the assigned reading) or as post-class work (e.g., what is one takeaway from today’s class session).
Use of Zoom in Class Sessions
Though many students had experience with Zoom in past semesters, it is best to assume everyone needs a refresher or to learn the basic functions you will use in your class. Additionally, the Zoom features that you use and etiquette that you expect in your classroom may differ from other instructors. Take the time to explain how your remote or hybrid classroom will proceed.
- Do you want students to keep their mics muted?
- Can they answer questions in the chat?
- Can they use reactions (clapping and thumbs up) to react to peers’ contributions?
- Do you want students to use the raise hand feature to take turns speaking?
- What do you expect students to do in breakout rooms, if applicable, including turning on their video?
- Should students include their pronouns in the names appearing in the participant list? (and how would they go about that)?
- If you are teaching a hybrid class, how will remote students interact with the rest of the class (e.g. ask questions, answer prompts)?
- Will you request that students use their video (and how should students proceed if their network cannot handle it or they are uncomfortable sharing their video)? Can students use backgrounds (particularly if they share their space with others, knowing that it takes more bandwidth)? Can you explain why video is important in your class? Are there specific times in your class where video is more encouraged than others (i.e. breakout rooms, etc.)?
In our class, we will be using Zoom for synchronous (same time) sessions. The link is available on Canvas [copy link here too].
Please make sure that your Internet connection and equipment are set up to use Zoom and able to share audio and video during class meetings. (See this page from Computing Services for information on the technology you are likely to need.) Let me know if there is a gap in your technology set-up [insert email address] as soon as possible, and we can see about finding solutions.
Sharing video: In this course, being able to see one another helps to facilitate a better learning environment and promote more engaging discussions. Therefore, our default will be to expect students to have their cameras on during lectures and discussions. However, I also completely understand there may be reasons students would not want to have their cameras on. If you have any concerns about sharing your video, please email me as soon as possible [insert email] and we can discuss possible adjustments. Note: You may use a background image in your video if you wish; just check in advance that this works with your device(s) and internet bandwidth.
[Options/alternatives to consider based on your class size/format/activities:]
- During our class meetings, please keep your mic muted unless you are sharing with the class or your breakout group.
- If you have a question or want to answer a question, please use the chat or the “raise hand” feature (available when the participant list is pulled up). I [or a TA or a rotating student who serves as the “voice of the chat”] will be monitoring these channels in order to call on students to contribute.
- Our synchronous meetings will involve breakout room discussions, and those will work better if everyone in your small group has their camera turned on. During large group debriefs, you may keep your video off.
Recording of Class
As an instructor of a remote/hybrid course, you are encouraged to record class sessions to share with students who cannot attend class synchronously. For more information on recording of classes, please see this link (in particular, the second question “May I … record”).
It is important to let students know that you will be recording class sessions and where the recordings will be available. Additionally, students should be told that they are not allowed to share the recording anywhere to protect the FERPA rights of all students in the classroom.
- Will synchronous class recordings be made available to students?
- Where will students access recordings?
- How long after class can students expect the recordings to be posted?
- Since breakout rooms cannot be recorded, is there relevant information generated during breakout rooms that students who missed class need to access? How would they access it?
In addition to the sample language below, you may want to draw on standard syllabus language related to whether you permit or restrict students’ recording of class sessions.
All synchronous classes will be recorded via Zoom so that students in this course (and only students in this course) can watch or re-watch past class sessions. Please note that breakout rooms will not be recorded. I will make the recordings available on Canvas as soon as possible after each class session (usually within 3 hours of the class meeting). Recordings will live in our Canvas website [insert link]. Please note that you are not allowed to share these recordings. This is to protect your FERPA rights and those of your fellow students.
We encourage you to consider granting more flexibility than you would be normally inclined to do.
- If you have in-class graded work (i.e. quizzes, activities with deliverables, etc.), how can students make up the work, especially if they are remote?
- If students have to submit late, what is the process for submitting late (and is it the same for in-person and remote students)?
- If students experience technical difficulties during a timed exam, how can they notify the instructional team?
- What assignments are more crucial to be submitted on time? If some assignment due dates are more crucial than others, indicate which ones and why (for instance, students require feedback within a week in order to produce the final product, peers rely on their assignment to complete a peer review, etc.) and then specify any late penalties. For less time-sensitive assignments, consider greater flexibility and/or reduced consequences for late submissions.
For more information, see the “regular” syllabus suggestions on late/make-up work.
All assignments have due dates indicated on the syllabus. In general, submitting assignments on time lets the instructional team provide feedback in a more timely and efficient manner. Assignments build on each other, so timely submissions are crucial to your progress in the class. However, sometimes life happens. If you cannot submit an assignment on time, the default will be that you will be eligible for 90% of the grade the first 48 hours that the assignment is late. If you have to submit beyond 48 hours past the due date, please contact me [insert email] as soon as possible so we can make arrangements.
[Optional language:] There will be two peer review assignments during the semester in which you submit a draft and then get reviews of the work from a set of peers before submitting your final draft. For these assignments, timely submission of your draft is critical so your peers can do their part on time (and so you can use their reviews in time for your final version). Please contact me as soon as possible if you are not able to submit any draft or peer review on time [insert email].
When conducting office hours via Zoom, bear in mind that “waiting in line” via Zoom (in a waiting room) can be more disconcerting than in person. So when you decide on and describe your office hours plan, be mindful of how you will handle students who are waiting (ideally giving them some updates on wait-time or indicating their number in line) and/or how you can support multiple students (simultaneously or in sequence via multi-tasking).
- Will you ask students to schedule a meeting with you? (Using Google Calendar appointment settings or Canvas)
- If you have set hours for Office Hours, how will you support students in the waiting room?
- Can you invite students to join targeted breakout rooms (e.g., labeled by problem #) to work in peer groups (for instance, asking students to share their questions via chat and creating breakout rooms for similar questions/topics). Then you can rotate around the rooms to help these students and/or invite them to the main room for general help.
Syllabus consultation? Contact email@example.com and an Eberly Colleague will be happy to assist.