Current Syllabus Guidance

Dear Colleagues:

Welcome back! The Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning continues to collaborate with units across campus to support you in whatever modality your teaching occurs in Fall 2023.

Even if you are familiar with most of Mason’s start-of-semester policies and procedures, please take some time to check this page and related pages -- especially the policies and recommendations on our fully up-to-date Designing Your Syllabus page -- for new information and resources.

We are continuing to update our "Instructor's Guide to AI Text Generators (e.g. ChatGPT)" and our "Contingency Planning Guide" (strategies you can employ now to help you adapt to weather or illness in your class this semester).

For a quick look at the resources and technologies of your classroom(s), please see our updated Classroom Guide pages -- and do note that all in-room instructor computers have been upgraded to Windows 11.


Design Your Syllabus

All syllabi ought to be made available to students on or before the first day of class and ought to minimally include basic information about you and the course, grading and course requirements, course-specific policies, your course schedule, and information on academic integrity, Title IX reporting and resources, and accommodations through Disability Services.

As you’re finishing your syllabi, we hope you will review our updated page with resources for designing your syllabus that highlight critical components for your syllabus and provide links to relevant resources. You might want to use information here to help you

  • Inform students about any technological requirements they may need in order to access portions of your course via Blackboard, to use streaming applications such as Blackboard Collaborate or Zoom, or to complete an exam via Respondus Lockdown Browser
  • Adapt your syllabus schedule to specific holidays
  • Describe your commitment to, and course design elements that support, a welcoming, inclusive, and equitable learning environment
  • Articulate your policies regarding Generative AI tools so that students are aware of your expectations and reasons

Get Assistance Designing or Building Your Course

  • Our Teaching Information Landing Page  directs faculty to resources for teaching face-to-face, teaching via synchronous web-conferencing (e.g., Zoom/Collaborate), and/or teaching using asynchronous online materials (Blackboard)
  • Our New to Blackboard resource collection includes instructions for uploading the Stearns Center recommended course template or requesting a “sandbox” so you can practice your course design
  • Our Webinars and Trainings page gives information about how to contact us with questions or to arrange a consultation, as well as listings for upcoming and previously recorded events, including short workshops on specific tools like Zoom

Please know that we are working hard in collaboration with other offices at Mason to ensure that our resources meet your needs this semester.

Teach Inclusively and Support Student Needs

At Mason we remain committed to providing a safe learning, living, and working environment that embraces our diversity and is free from discrimination. Mason's Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Initiative is continuing to develop resources for faculty, students, and campus offices as they implement policies and provide learning opportunities to support anti-racist, inclusive, and equitable teaching approaches; watch for further announcements about resources coming this semester.

You may find the following resources helpful:

  • The Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC) can assist you in helping Mason students seek support services and explore healthy lifestyle choices. They offer educational programming, one-on-one consultations, and resources in the areas of interpersonal violence, personal wellness, and alcohol and drug use; they also assist students encountering barriers to personal success. If you are concerned about a student, please review the SSAC’s guide for faculty and consider making a referral (form available from their website).
  • The Stearns Center’s advice for faculty on “Creating Inclusive Classrooms” at Mason can assist you in creating a vibrant and dynamic learning community for your students, one that includes ample opportunities for exploration of self, identity and independence.
  • Mason’s Diversity Statement and Mason’s Non-Discrimination Policy affirm our belief that student diversity is an invaluable asset for enriching the learning that happens in our courses (whatever modalities we may use).
  • The calendar of religious holidays and observations can help you anticipate and minimize difficulties for students of different faiths. (It is the student's responsibility to speak to the instructor in advance should their religious observances affect their participation in class activities and assignments -- but we encourage all faculty to be proactive in limiting conflicts and reaching out to students to let them know how best to succeed in your course.)
  • You should be aware of how to report incidents of sexual misconduct to the University Title IX Coordinator. Mason is committed to creating a campus that is free of sexual misconduct and incidents of interpersonal violence in order to promote community well-being and student success. As a faculty member, you are required to report any such incidents you become aware of on campus. When you do so, you will be made aware of the range of options and resources available to you and your students.

We have identified a number of other student support resources to facilitate student success in and beyond the classroom; by including information or links regarding relevant resources for students in your course materials, you can help promote their learning and well-being.


Related Resources

Innovations Conference
Active Learning
Multilingual Students