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Course Proposal Sample Syllabus Requirements

Details on the course syllabus, including requirements for the sample syllabus to be included with all new Lumen course proposals.


This is a summary of the policy on the Course Syllabus Requirement for course proposals. Click here to view the official policy in its entirety in the UW-Madison Policy Library.


The syllabus included on a course proposal form must follow the requirements for course syllabi at UW-Madison. Some information that is specific to a given offering (e.g., instructor name, location, etc.) is not required on the sample syllabus, although it is recommended that it be included. All items listed below are required if they apply.

Note: several items listed below can be copied and pasted from the course proposal form.

Special accrediting bodies may have additional or different syllabus requirements.

The syllabus must include:

1. Institution Name

Syllabus can be placed on UW-Madison letterhead, or if letterhead is not used, be sure "University of Wisconsin-Madison" is at the top of the document.

2. Subject and Catalog Number

The subject should use the "subject short description", which can be found in the Academic Structure Tableau Dataviz. The subject short description should always be in all capital letters. Format as "[subject short description] [space] [catalog number]". Include all cross-listed subjects. For example, "MATH 101" or "BOTANY/BIOLOGY/ZOOLOGY 151".

See the Policy on Course Numbers for more information.

3. Course Title

See the Policy on Course Proposal Elements for more information.

4. Number of Credits

The sample syllabus should always use the maximum number of credits, if a variable credit course.

See the Policy on the Credit Hour for more information. 

5. Course designations and attributes (if applicable)

See the Course Proposal: Course Designations KnowledgeBase for all available options.

6. Instructional Mode

The instructional mode is not approved by the University Curriculum Committee. For the sample syllabus, include one of the available options for instructional modes (in-person/face-to-face, online, hybrid). The syllabus should reflect the meeting patterns associated with the listed instructional mode.

See the Policy on the Mode of Instruction Course Descriptors for more information.

7. Details on How Course Credit Hours are Met

The credit hour explanation should be written in a way that is easy for students to understand. Specify how often the course meets (including different course components, if applicable) and how much time should be spent outside of the class meeting times. Another way of writing this would be to articulate how many total hours are spent on the course. For examples on how this could be achieved, see the Teaching and Learning course credit information. If utilizing the template language, be sure to tailor the credit hour rationale to match the specific sample syllabus you are submitting with the course proposal. This helps the reviewer know what to look for in confirming the out-of-class work associated to the credit hour policy.

See the Policy on the Credit Hour for more information. 

8. Clear Indication of Regular and Substantive Student-Instructor Interaction

The sample syllabus must include a section that specifically addresses how the course will meet the federal requirement for regular and substantive student-instructor interaction in a way that is consistent with the modality (face-to-face, online, hybrid) used in the sample syllabus. Include at least two of the five (2/5) types substantive interaction and provide detail about they will be incorporated into the course. Consider also incorporating this information in the calendar/grid recommended in #14 below.

Examples of regular and substantive interaction will include who, what, where, and when. See the Regular and Substantive Interaction KnowledgeBase for guidance and examples.

This notion of regular and substantive interaction, as defined by the US Department of Education (34 C.F.R. §600.2), is emphasized as it is a requirement of UW-Madison for-credit learning activities.

9. Course Description

See the Policy on Course Proposal Elements for more information.

10. Requisites

See the Policy on Course Proposal Elements for more information.

11. Learning Outcomes

Course learning outcomes state what students are expected to know or be able to do upon completion of a course. Learning outcomes are approved by school/college and university governance and cannot change without formal approval from the school/college and University Curriculum Committee. Ensure learning outcomes listed on the syllabus match the learning outcomes listed on the Lumen Courses form for new course proposals. Additional learning outcomes may be included in the sample syllabus (usually for topics courses).

See the Policy on Course Proposal Elements and the Catalog-level Student learning Outcomes KnowledgeBase (Vesta) for more information.

12. Grading

Grading details should be provided, reflect the grading option selected on the course proposal, and include considerations such as: 

  • How the course is graded (assignments, papers, exams, etc.) and the relative weights of assessments.
  • Linkage between weights and letter scores (i.e., how the letter grades of A, AB, etc., will be assigned to final grade calculations). 
  • If some of the valid letter grades will not be used by the instructor (e.g., AB or BC), this should be noted on the syllabus.) 
  • Whether the final grades are curved or not, including the standards upon which a curve is set, if applicable. 
  • Whether attendance and/or participation is part of the grading. When a significant percentage (i.e., more than 10%) of the grade is tied to participation, attendance, and/or discussion, how this percentage is assessed must be clearly defined. For assistance, refer to these samples: Example 1 (pdf), Example 2 (pdf). The intention of the participation/attendance policy is to be student focused and provide students with clear information on how they are being evaluated in an area that is often highly subjective and not thoroughly explained.
  • For courses that enroll both undergraduate and graduate students, provide separate grading requirements for graduate students.

See the Policy on Course Proposal Elements for more information.


13. Required Textbook, Software, and Other Course Materials 

List any required materials such as text books, open educational resources, and eTexts. Include any required course or eText fees, and articulate required software tools even if they are available as part of UW-Madison licensing.

14. Indication of Time Expected to be Devoted to Individual Topics and Hours of Instructor-Student Instruction and/or Discussion

To provide this necessary detail, it is recommended that a calendar/grid be created that shows the topics covered in the course with time/interaction details provided relative to items 15-19 below. 

15. Representative List of Readings 

16. Exams, Quizzes, Papers, and Other Major Graded Work

17. Homework and Other Assignments

Provide rules and expectations concerning homework.

18. Discussion Sessions

If the course component includes discussion, provide information specific to the discussion portion of the course.

19. Laboratory Sessions

If the course component includes laboratory, provide information specific to the laboratory portion of the course.



Department Responsibility for Maintaining Course Syllabus Files

The Higher Learning Commission’s assumed practice states that instructors communicate course requirements to students, and the expectation is that this is through syllabi. In addition, the Higher Learning Commission has a role in reviewing institutional compliance with the U.S. Department of Education’s requirements related to credit hour definition. That compliance is conducted through the review of syllabi, thus a syllabus is to be available for each course taught. Criterion 2B in the HLC Criteria for Accreditation requires that clear and complete information be provided to students, a requirement that is also supported through the syllabus.

To meet these requirements and to support the learning experience of students, instructors of record are required to develop a course syllabus for each offering of a course and communicate the syllabus to students.  Students frequently seek copies of syllabi for past courses, for example to support application to graduate or professional programs, in the context of an employment search, or in relation to seeking transfer credit equivalency at another institution. 

Departments must also keep syllabus records of courses taught in their department. FPP 5.31(D) Departmental Chair: Duties states “The chair of the department has the following duties: Determines that all necessary records of teaching, research, and public service of the department are properly kept and are always accessible to the proper authorities.” Given that access to syllabi is a requirement for the university’s accreditation, departments are responsible for keeping syllabi on file.


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Keywords:course, proposal, syllabus, sample   Doc ID:110354
Owner:Karen M.Group:Academic Planning and Institutional Research
Created:2021-04-19 06:13 CDTUpdated:2021-09-07 09:17 CDT
Sites:Academic Planning and Institutional Research
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