Designing Your Syllabus

Syllabi (in any form) should be available on or before the first day of class to all students. There are several options available when choosing the format in which you will present your syllabus. Some faculty choose traditional paper formats, while most others choose to embed course information in Blackboard (see the faculty guide to Blackboard for more information).

Regardless of your modality, please take time during the first week to ensure that all students know how to access basic course and contact information and that they have clear instructions on how to access the schedule, important policies, and other course information. Please do not assume that all students, even "digital natives," will automatically know where to look and what to pay specific attention to.

At one level, a course syllabus is a contract between the instructor and the student and is a vital tool for communicating expectations between students and faculty. A well-constructed syllabus provides a road map for the course, answers frequently asked questions, can help to lessen student anxiety, and allows the faculty member to concentrate on instruction.

At another level, though, a syllabus is the embodiment of your philosophy of teaching and learning, and sets the tone for the course. Implicit in every policy, every assignment, every choice of textbook, every discussion topic should be an indication of what you want your students to learn from your course and why you want them to learn it. Because critical thinking is at the heart of academic work, you should emphasize how your course will help students develop the kinds of skills with inquiry and problem solving that will benefit them throughout their time in college and into their lives as professionals.

Finally, you may want to use your syllabus to alert students, particularly new and transfer students, to resources that can help them be successful on campus and in their coursework at Mason.

Stearns Center does not provide a "template" for all syllabi, because these choices are left to the colleges, schools, and local academic units. Please contact your course lead or department/program head to find out about all other local expectations and policies.

However, the following checklists can assist you in determining whether your syllabus includes all of the components considered essential. The Registrar's calendars are the gold standard for semester schedules: Note that in Fall semester, typical Mason courses follow a unique "Monday classes meet on Tuesday" Fall Break pattern in October. A generic tool such as the schedule generator from Rice University can help you start your plan, but be sure to update it with local dates and guidelines.

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Basic Information

About you (and your TA):

  • Name
  • Title
  • Office location and/or phone number if available
  • Mason e-mail address
  • Website or course management system
  • Office Hours or Student Hours: All faculty are expected to be available to meet with and respond to students as appropriate, whether in person or virtually. All syllabi should inform students how and when faculty are available. Faculty teaching online courses should make clear how and when students can connect with them in the online environment.
  • Optional: Communication Policy. How quickly will you plan to respond to student queries, by email and/or via an "Ask the Instructor" discussion forum in Blackboard? For instance, will you respond on weekends or after 10 pm?

Note about Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Teams: Mason students have full access to Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Teams, just as faculty do. Even if you do not plan to use these applications with your students, you should be aware that students can

  • Use Outlook to send a calendar invitation to a faculty member for a meeting (though only you can confirm a meeting)
  • Use MS Teams to send a direct chat message to a faculty member (or student)
  • Use MS Teams to create a group discussion, related or unrelated to a course

If you prefer that students not contact you using MS Teams or MS Outlook, you may want to include information on your syllabus (and announce in class) that clearly identifies your preferred pathways for communicating and scheduling with students.


About Your Course

  • Course number and section
  • Title
  • Meeting days and times
  • Building and room (if applicable)
  • Course modality/ies: How will your course utilize face-to-face, asynchronous online learning via Blackboard, and/or synchronous web-conferencing environments (Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate) to inform and engage students? (See note below about Course Modalities.)
  • Any course prerequisites
  • Any required course books, materials, or other resources

Note about Course Modalities: Provost Mark Ginsberg asks that all faculty deliver, and students attend, each course in the modality listed officially in Banner. For instance, a face-to-face course should be taught as face-to-face for all students, on all or most days. Students who prefer or need to study using a different modality should see their advisor about enrolling in a different section or course.

  • Stearns Center Recommends: Limit your "HyFlex" or concurrent modalities time.  During the remote teaching emergency of 2020-2021, faculty teaching on-campus were often asked to provide concurrent/simultaneous multimodal teaching--that is, to teach to some students in a classroom while streaming video to remote students simultaneously, and/or recording video for students to watch remotely at another time.
       Stearns Center does not recommend this "concurrent" or "HyFlex" teaching approach as a typical approach, though it can be helpful for emergency situations. Unless significant technology and personnel resources are deployed, and unless instructors have carefully designed separate approaches for each modality, we find that extensive dual-modality instruction generally

    • provides unequal and inequitable access to remote students
    • interferes with department- or unit-level decisions about balancing course offerings
    • limits active and interactive learning experiences, and
    • places undue burdens on faculty.
  • Stearns Center Recommends: Design for each modality and ask students to attend in the modality as advertised. When faculty design engaging face-to-face learning for scheduled in-room courses, and/or engaging learning that is well-adapted to online modalities, they provide students with the best possible opportunities to learn. If a course is designated as a hybrid (with officially scheduled time in the classroom and online) or uses a "flipped" or "blended" approach in which some assignments or activities occur in the classroom and other events are designed for asynchronous or web-conferencing, faculty should be clear with students about what their responsibilities are for each kind of task.
  • Stearns Center Recommends: Provide limited emergency access as needed. If individual students need some additional materials or modality access to make-up an assignment on a limited basis, faculty should consider providing materials that assist them, in accordance with their unit or course's policies. These adjustments may (but do not need to) include dual-modality instruction.

Faculty who cannot present a face-to-face or synchronous course meeting due to illness, campus closure, or other emergency should follow the emergency cancelation/adjustment policy they have set up, and abide by the expectations of their department or program.

Recommended: Campus Closure or Emergency Class Cancelation/Adjustment Policy (See additional information on our Contingency Planning Guide for faculty)

    • If the campus closes, or if a class meeting needs to be canceled or adjusted due to weather or other concern, students should check Blackboard [or other instruction as appropriate] for updates on how to continue learning and for information about any changes to events or assignments.

About the Course

Description of the course.

  • Why do people study this area of knowledge?
  • How will instruction be handled: presentations, discussions, group work, labs, etc.?
  • What is the value of the course to the student?
  • How does this particular course fit into the student’s discipline or general education requirement?
  • Why is the course content arranged in this order?

Course goals and objectives. What factual material, characteristics, qualities, abilities, or competencies do you expect the student to have mastered at the end of the course?

Mason Core requirements fulfilled by this course (if applicable).

Recommended: Basic Course Technology Requirements (Two options)

    • Activities and assignments in this course will regularly use the Blackboard learning system, available at Students are required to have regular, reliable access to a computer with an updated operating system (recommended: Windows 10 or Mac OSX 10.13 or higher) and a stable broadband Internet connection (cable modem, DSL, satellite broadband, etc., with a consistent 1.5 Mbps [megabits per second] download speed or higher. You can check your speed settings using the speed test on this website.)
    • Activities and assignments in this course will regularly use web-conferencing software (Blackboard Collaborate / Zoom). In addition to the requirements above, students are required to have a device with a functional camera and microphone. In an emergency, students can connect through a telephone call, but video connection is the expected norm.

Grading and Course Requirements

Grading standards, weight, and criteria for each graded component to be included in the final grade. This may include points for class participation. See more detailed information on grading tips and policies.

Course assignments, exams, and projects:

  • An explanation of the purpose of each assignment and project
  • Due dates for each major project/exam
  • Level/type of research expected
  • Format suggestions/requirements
  • Key criteria for grading, including content, scope or length, structure, and presentation

Policies About Student Engagement (Including Participation, Names & Pronouns, and Use of Electronic Devices)

The University Catalog is the central resource for university policies affecting student, faculty, and staff conduct in university academic affairs. However, faculty have the authority to set additional policies for their class.

Student Participation and Assignments

  • Regarding attendance and participation. If participation is included in the grade, how do you define and measure participation? Remember that you should not grade solely based on attendance at Mason; attendance can, however, be factored into the grade for participation.
  • Regarding video-class participation (Collaborate or Zoom): What will be your expectation of student visibility / video use in a synchronous web-conferencing class meeting -- and why do you have that policy?
    • Mason's legal office has indicated that requiring students to turn their cameras on during a required synchronous class meeting (e.g., on Zoom or Collaborate) does not violate any known statute.
    • Given the ongoing privacy and/or technology challenges that students learning from home may face, Stearns Center recommends that faculty use a cameras-on policy only where it is necessary to support interactivity among students (especially in smaller classes or breakout rooms) or to adequately judge student mastery of key concepts (not just for "increasing engagement"). Stearns Center supports faculty who work with students to build community norms for class participation and/or who use alternate strategies (chat, polls, shared documents) to enable students to demonstrate their attention and comprehension during class.
  • Regarding late assignments, make-up exams, and extra credit: Your expectations for each of these should be noted clearly on your syllabus.
    • Mason and the Stearns Center to recommend that faculty be considerate of student needs, as students continue to experience high levels of anxiety and other mental health concerns, and as we continue to feel the long-term effects of pandemic-era education. Your college, school, department, or unit may have guidance for you; in other areas, we invite you to see our advice sheet about building reasonable flexibility into your course design and policies.


Student and Faculty Names and Pronouns

Having a name and pronouns statement helps foster a community of learners of all genders and gender expressions. It promotes gender inclusivity and supports an understanding of a student’s name and pronouns that originates with the learner. In addition, it discourages incorrect assumptions and harmful misgendering, encourages dialogue as befits the learner’s comfort, demonstrates respect, and fosters an LGBTQIA+ inclusive environment at Mason.

This name and pronouns statement was co-authored in 2014 by students in TQ Mason (Mason’s trans-inclusive student support / action group) and Film and Video Studies faculty, and has been well received by students and faculty. You are welcome to use or adapt this statement.

  • Name and pronoun use: If you wish, please share your name and gender pronouns with me and indicate how best to address you in class and via email. I use [faculty insert your specific pronouns here] for myself and you may address me as “[YOUR NAME]”, “Dr./Prof. [NAME]” or “Mr./Ms./Mx. [NAME]” in email and verbally.

For a PDF of this policy, please click here; for an editable document with this statement, please click here;

You may also encourage students to use the tools Mason provides to change their name and pronouns on Mason records.

Finally, to support all members of our community, faculty and staff are encouraged to include their pronouns in their email signatures, on name tags, and/or in videoconference names, and to edit documents and language on websites to avoid “he/she” or “male/female” sentence construction.


Student Use of Electronic Devices

How do you envision electronic devices being used for teaching and learning in your class? Your policy on electronic devices (laptops, cell phones, tablets, etc.) should align with your goals. Mason does not currently have a central policy for the use of electronic devices in the classroom. Considerations as you construct your own policy include:

    • Are electronic devices required for your class?
    • What are your expectations for student learning?
    • Will the use of electronic devices enhance or impede student learning?
    • What qualifies as a misuse of electronic devices?
    • What happens if students misuse their devices?

The following are four sample statements regarding electronic devices. Please feel free to use these statements in your syllabi or to adapt them as needed for your course. Please note that best practices for policies on electronic devices would include an exception for emergencies involving family or illness, as well as for students with documented disabilities.

For courses in which technology is required:

  • The use of laptop computers is required in this class. You will only be permitted to work on material related to the class, however. Engaging in activities not related to the course (e.g., gaming, email, chat, etc.) will result in a significant deduction in your participation grade.
  • We will frequently be using the internet as a means to enhance our discussions. We will also be using computers for our in-class writing assignments. Please be respectful of your peers and your instructor and do not engage in activities that are unrelated to the class. Such disruptions show a lack of professionalism and may affect your participation grade.

For courses in which technology is NOT required:

  • Cell phones and other communicative devices are not to be used during class. Please keep them stowed away and out of sight. Laptops or tablets may be permitted for the purpose of taking notes only, but you must submit a request in writing to do so. Engaging in activities not related to the course (e.g., gaming, email, chat, etc.) will result in a significant deduction in your participation grade.
  • Regarding electronic devices (such as laptops, cell phones, etc.), please be respectful of your peers and your instructor and do not engage in activities that are unrelated to class. Such disruptions show a lack of professionalism and may affect your participation grade.


University Policies (Including Academic Integrity, Disability Accommodations, Diversity, Title IX, and Student Privacy)

Requirements: All syllabi must include

  • A statement on academic integrity (see below)
  • A statement on disability accommodations (see below)

Recommendations: Stearns Center recommends that you include more information related to key policies; examples are provided below.

  • A specific addendum to your academic integrity statement that addresses Generative AI tool use
  • Clear information about any online exam proctoring tools you will require students to use
  • One or more statements that document your commitment to inclusive learning
  • Notice of your status (all instructors of record) as a mandatory-reporter of sexual violence or misconduct
  • Notice of FERPA-related expectation to use GMU email addresses for all formal course communication
  • Notice of policies related to student or instructor privacy
  • Notice of policies related to student repetition of the course


Academic Integrity

Required: Include a statement about academic integrity within the context of your class, and include a link to the Honor Code. The University Honor Code is upheld and supported by the Office for Academic Integrity.

The following are sample statements about Academic Integrity shared by Mason faculty.  Your goal should be to create a policy statement that is direct, specific, consistent, and equitable. If you are not sure about a policy, please contact the Office of Academic Integrity for advice.

  • The integrity of the University community is affected by the individual choices made by each of us. As a Mason student, you should follow these fundamental principles at all times, as noted by the Honor Code: (1) All work submitted should be your own, without the use inappropriate assistance or resources, as defined by the assignment or faculty member; (2) When you use the work, the words, the images, or the ideas of others--including fellow students, online sites or tools, or your own prior creations--you must give full credit through accurate citations;  (3) In creating your work, you should not take materials you are not authorized to use, or falsely represent ideas or processes regarding your work. If you are uncertain about the ground rules or ethical expectations regarding the integrity of your work on a particular assignment or exam, you should ask your instructor for clarification. Support for you to complete your work is available; no grade is important enough to justify academic misconduct.
  • As in many classes, a number of projects in this class are designed to be completed within your study group. With collaborative work, names of all the participants should appear on the work. Collaborative projects may be divided up so that individual group members complete portions of the whole, provided that group members take sufficient steps to ensure that the pieces conceptually fit together in the end product. Other projects are designed to be undertaken independently. In the latter case, you may discuss your ideas with others and conference with peers on drafts of the work; however, it is not appropriate to give your paper to someone else to revise. You are responsible for making certain that there is no question that the work you hand in is your own, and that you follow the expectations of the Honor Code. If only your name appears on an assignment, your professor has the right to expect that you have done the work yourself, fully and independently.
  • Mason is an Honor Code university; please see the Office for Academic Integrity for a full description of the code and the honor committee process. The principle of academic integrity is taken very seriously and violations are treated gravely. What does academic integrity mean in this course? Essentially this: when you are responsible for a task, you will perform that task. When you rely on someone else’s work in an aspect of the performance of that task, you will give full credit in the proper, accepted form. Another aspect of academic integrity is the free play of ideas. Vigorous discussion and debate are encouraged in this course, with the firm expectation that all aspects of the class will be conducted with civility and respect for differing ideas, perspectives, and traditions. When in doubt (of any kind) please ask for guidance and clarification.

Recommended: Include additional information that is relevant to your course, assignments, modality, and/or profession:

  • Strongly recommendedStatement regarding use of Generative AI tools.
    • Minimum statement: Any student use of Generative-AI tools should follow the fundamental principles of the Honor Code. 
    • Additional information: Please see recommendations on our Generative AI Support page.
  • Recommended as appropriateStatement regarding online proctoring (see sample language below)
  • Recommended as appropriate: Additional language regarding the use of "study sites"
    • Some kinds of participation in online study sites violate the Mason Honor code: these include accessing exam or quiz questions for this class; accessing exam, quiz, or assignment answers for this class; uploading of any of the instructor's materials or exams; and uploading any of your own answers or finished work.  Always consult your syllabus and your professor before using these sites.

Proctoring a Course with Honorlock

Honorlock will be used to proctor exams this semester. Honorlock is an online proctoring service that allows students to take exams online without creating an account or scheduling an appointment in advance. Students are required to have a computer, a working webcam/microphone, a valid ID (e.g., driver’s license, passport, or GMU Student ID), and a stable internet connection. Please review the Honorlock Getting Started page to learn more about expectations, notices, and privacy statements.

To get started, students will need to download Google Chrome and the Honorlock Chrome Extension.

When ready to complete the exam, log onto Blackboard, navigate to the course, and click on the exam link. Clicking "Launch Proctoring" will begin the Honorlock authentication process, where students will complete ID verification and a room scan. Honorlock has live proctors monitoring sessions and the exam sessions are recorded through an AI-based algorithm that works to detect search-engine use, so please do not attempt to search for answers. Honorlock support is available 24/7/365. If any issues come up, contact Honorlock through live chat on the support page or within the exam itself. Some guides you should review are Honorlock MSRs, Student FAQ, Honorlock Knowledge Base, and How to Use Honorlock.

Testing with Respondus LockDown Browser

This language is suggested; please adapt as necessary to meet the expectations of your course.

This course requires the use of LockDown Browser and a webcam for online exams. The webcam can be built into your computer (internal webcam) or can be the type of webcam that plugs in with a USB cable (external webcam). See instructions for Installing and Using LockDown Browser, or watch this short video to get a basic understanding of LockDown Browser and the webcam feature. 

  • You will need the following system requirements for online exams:
    • Windows: 10, 8, 7
    • Mac: OS X 10.10 or higher
    • iOS: 10.0+ (iPad only). Must have a compatible LMS integration.
    • Web camera (internal or external) & microphone
    • A reliable internet connection
    • Prior to your first exam, you must install LockDown Browser following the step-by-step instructions.
  • To ensure LockDown Browser and the webcam are set up properly, do the following:
    • Start LockDown Browser, log into Blackboard and select this course.
    • Locate and select the Help Center button on the LockDown Browser toolbar.
    • Run the Webcam Check and, if necessary, resolve any issues or permissions your computer prompts.
    • Run the System & Network Check. If a problem is indicated, see if a solution is provided in the Knowledge Base. Further troubleshooting is available through the ITS Support Center.
    • Exit the Help Center and locate the practice quiz named [NOTE TO INSTRUCTOR: Create a brief practice quiz and insert name/location of quiz].
    • Upon completing and submitting the practice quiz, exit LockDown Browser.
  • When taking an online exam that requires LockDown Browser and a webcam, remember the following guidelines:
    • Ensure you're in a location where you won't be interrupted
    • Turn off all other devices (e.g. tablets, phones, second computers) and place them outside of your reach
    • Clear your desk of all external materials not permitted — books, papers, phones, other devices
    • Before starting the test, know how much time is available for it, and that you’ve allotted sufficient time to complete it
    • Remain at your computer for the duration of the test.
    • Make sure that your computer is plugged into a power source, or that battery is fully-charged.
    • If the computer or networking environment is different than what was used previously with the Webcam Check and System & Network Check in LockDown Browser, run the checks again prior to starting the test
  • To produce a good webcam video, do the following:
    • Do not wear a baseball cap or hat with a brim that obscures your face
    • Ensure your computer or tablet is on a firm surface (a desk or table). Do NOT have the computer on your lap, a bed, or any other surface where the device (or you) are likely to move
    • If using a built-in (internal) webcam, avoid tilting the screen after the webcam setup is complete
    • Take the exam in a well-lit room and avoid backlighting, such as sitting with your back to a window
    • Remember that LockDown Browser will prevent you from accessing other websites or applications; you will be unable to exit the test until all questions are completed and submitted

Disability Accommodations

Required: All syllabi should include a statement about accommodations for disabilities. For more information about accommodations and other information related to students with disabilities, please contact Mason's Disability Services. Disability Services also offers a faculty guide. The following statements are recommended by DS and the Stearns Center. Please note that faculty are not expected to provide accommodations unless the student presents a letter from DS--but also that students can request approved accommodations from faculty at any point in the semester (going forward, not retroactively). Please feel free to use these statements in your syllabi.

  • Disability Services at George Mason University is committed to upholding the letter and spirit of the laws that ensure equal treatment of people with disabilities. Under the administration of University Life, Disability Services implements and coordinates reasonable accommodations and disability-related services that afford equal access to university programs and activities. Students can begin the registration process with Disability Services at any time during their enrollment at George Mason University. If you are seeking accommodations, please visit for detailed information about the Disability Services registration process. Disability Services is located in Student Union Building I (SUB I), Suite 2500. | Phone: (703) 993-2474
  • Disability Services at George Mason University is committed to providing equitable access to learning opportunities for all students by upholding the laws that ensure equal treatment of people with disabilities. If you are seeking accommodations for this class, please first visit for detailed information about the Disability Services registration process. Then please discuss your approved accommodations with me. Disability Services is located in Student Union Building I (SUB I), Suite 2500. | Phone: (703) 993-2474

Covid-19 Note: Students who have a Covid-related disability should contact the Disability Services office; DS will contact faculty using standard protocols about any students who require accommodations. Faculty are not expected to create accommodations for students outside of the Disability Services official guidelines.


Diversity and Inclusion

Recommended: As a Mason faculty member, you are asked to keep diversity, one of the university's core values, in mind throughout the semester. See our tips and strategies for Creating Inclusive Classrooms for more information.

You may wish to include a statement on your syllabus that acknowledges your and the university's commitment to this value. You and students may want to be aware of support provided by the Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment and LBGTQ+. You can include (or link to) the Mason Non-Discrimination Policy or the Mason Diversity Statement, or include a statement like one of these:

  • Women and Gender Studies seeks to create a learning environment that fosters respect for people across identities. We welcome and value individuals and their differences, including gender expression and identity, race, economic status, sex, sexuality, ethnicity, national origin, first language, religion, age and ability. We encourage all members of the learning environment to engage with the material personally, but to also be open to exploring and learning from experiences different than their own.
  • The School of Integrative Studies, an intentionally inclusive community, promotes and maintains an equitable and just work and learning environment. We welcome and value individuals and their differences including race, economic status, gender expression and identity, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, first language, religion, age, and disability.

For some course design suggestions and some additional examples of language specifically designed to highlight anti-racist pedagogical approaches, please see this handout created by Mason faculty Dr. Lauren Cattaneo and Dr. Alison Melley.

If you wish to include a Land Acknowledgement statement, to identify and credit the indigenous peoples who originally inhabited the lands GMU now occupies, please see sample language here.


Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, and Interpersonal Violence

George Mason University is committed to providing a learning, living and working environment that is free from discrimination and a campus that is free of sexual misconduct and other acts of interpersonal violence in order to promote community well-being and student success. We encourage students and employees who believe that they have been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted or subjected to sexual or interpersonal misconduct to seek assistance and support. University Policy 1202: Sexual Harassment and Misconduct speaks to the specifics of Mason’s process, the resources, and the options available to students and employees.

Recommended: As a faculty member, you may wish to include information about this on your syllabus. In addition to using any of the above language, consider including the following:

Notice of mandatory reporting of sexual or interpersonal misconduct: As a faculty member, I am designated as a “Non-Confidential Employee,” and must report all disclosures of sexual assault, sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, stalking, sexual exploitation, complicity, and retaliation to Mason’s Title IX Coordinator per University Policy 1202. If you wish to speak with someone confidentially, please contact one of Mason’s confidential resources, such as Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC) at 703-993-3686 or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 703-993-2380. You may also seek assistance or support measures from Mason’s Title IX Coordinator by calling 703-993-8730, or emailing



Student privacy is governed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and is an essential aspect of any course. Instructor responsibilities with respect to student privacy are an important consideration when designing your syllabus, especially--though certainly not exclusively--when it comes to faculty and student digital communication.

For that reason, please require students to use their Mason email. As an employee of the state of Virginia, it is also required that you use your Mason email when communicating with students.

Recommended: Sample syllabus language for email usage:

  • Students must use their Mason email account to receive important University information, including communications related to this class. I will not respond to messages sent from or send messages to a non-Mason email address.


Recording and/or sharing class materials

  • Recording: Some student recording of class lectures or materials for personal use, especially those that include only the faculty member's information (e.g., no identifiable names, voices, or images of other students), is generally permitted. Even sharing of some of this material may be allowable (conversations nationally about FERPA often identify how this falls within student freedom of speech).
  • Sharing of materials may be limited by what those materials contain and where they are shared:
    • Sharing of class materials that contain identifiable student information is limited by FERPA .
    • Sharing of instructor-created materials, particularly materials relevant to assignments or exams, to public online "study" sites is considered a violation of Mason's Honor Code. For more information, see the Office of Academic Integrity's summary of information about online study sites. They also have a short video you can share with students or embed in your Blackboard course.

    Recommended: Course Materials and Student Privacy

    Videorecordings of class meetings that are shared only with the instructors and students officially enrolled in a class do not violate FERPA or any other privacy expectation. Videorecordings that only include the instructor (no student names, images, voices, or identifiable texts) may be shared without violating FERPA (but see below, University Policies: Privacy, for some qualifications and recommendations)

    All course materials posted to Blackboard or other course site are private to this class; by federal law, any materials that identify specific students (via their name, voice, or image) must not be shared with anyone not enrolled in this class.

    • Videorecordings -- whether made by instructors or students -- of class meetings that include audio, visual, or textual information from other students are private and must not be shared outside the class
    • Live video conference meetings (e.g. Collaborate or Zoom) that include audio, textual, or visual information from other students must be viewed privately and not shared with others in your household or recorded and shared outside the class


    Optional: Course Recordings

    If you are recording class meetings via classroom webcam or web-conferencing software, you should alert students to that. Since only class members who ordinarily have the right to access this information will be present, recording and private storage does not violate student privacy; it's just an informational note.

    • Some/All of our synchronous meetings in this class will be recorded to provide necessary information for students in this class. Recordings will be stored on Blackboard [or other secure site] and will only be accessible to students taking this course during this semester.

As a faculty member creating unique content and developing a classroom community, you may certainly also make the case why unauthorized sharing of any of your materials outside the class would violate important ethical standards. Finally, if you suspect or discover that materials are being hosted on a site such as Chegg, you may contact OAI for their recommended steps and a template letter for reaching out to the site and requesting that materials be deleted.


Undergraduate Course Repetition

Recommended if relevant: Students should be aware of their options for repeating an undergraduate class for credit; these policies changed in 2018. Faculty teaching high-volume undergraduate courses (such as those required for Mason Core or the major) are especially encouraged to inform students of the course repetition policy through a statement on the syllabus:

  • There is a limit of three graded attempts for this course. A W does not count as a graded attempt. Please see AP. 1.3.4 in the University Catalog and consult with your academic advisor if you have any questions.

Course Schedule (including academic and religious calendars)

  • It is important to give students sense of the course schedule for the semester. You may reserve the right to make adjustments, of course, but be aware that many of our students actively use the course schedule as they plan their semesters.
  • Please use Mason’s Semester Calendar and Final Exam Schedule to set due dates for your assignments, projects, and final exams.
  • In your course planning, be aware of the demographics of our diverse student body. For example, to minimize difficulties for students of different faith traditions, be aware of the calendar of religious holidays and observations. The course catalog states, "Mason encourages its faculty to make a reasonable effort to allow students to observe their religious holidays.... Students who miss classes, exams, or other assignments as a consequence of their religious observance...will be provided a reasonable alternative opportunity, consistent with class attendance policies stated in the syllabus, to make up the missed work." Where possible, then,
    • Check the holidays calendar at the start of the semester, and consider whether/how you might avoid scheduling major due dates or exams especially on holidays observed by a large community of Mason students. These include but are not limited to the fall-term holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Hanukkah, as well as the spring-term holidays of Passover, Good Friday, and Ramadan.
    • The catalog asks students to inform you in advance about their planned observances to enable you to work together to create a pathway to success. You can help by indicating your willingness and expectations about how you will help students who will be observing a holiday to adapt their schedule to complete key course assignments.
  • Mason also has a number of students who have served our country in the military. When planning your fall semester, we ask that you practice sensitivity and flexibility for those students who wish to observe Veterans Day without penalizing their success in your courses.

Using Your Syllabus to Set the Tone for Your Class

In addition to identifying policies and providing information, you can use your syllabus to help build relationships and set a tone that support the community of intellectual and collaborative inquiry that you want to establish in your course.

  1. Build intellectual relationships: Use your syllabus to convey the key questions, purposes, and achievements that people in your field pursue when they study this material, even—perhaps especially!—at the introductory level. What are the particular issues and angles your course will explore, and how do they fit into larger contexts of your program, the major, and the life of an educated person on the planet right now? When you include a few sentences about the intellectual value of your course, you set the stage for building a community of inquirers and thinkers.


  1. Build learning relationships: Use your syllabus to explain how learning will work in your course. You aren’t assigning “busy work” or automatically tossing in chapters to read just because they’re included in the textbook; you believe that people will learn X best by doing Y first and then Z. Add some language to explain your assignment choices and identify how small assignments support larger, vital learning goals, as part of your care and respect for the learners in your course. This way, students can see themselves as partners in learning rather than just recipients of random (and difficult!) tasks.


  1. Build empowered relationships: Use your syllabus to indicate how you will grant your students options, choices, and elements of control in their learning in your course, even—perhaps especially!—at the introductory level. Research shows that adult and near-adult learners benefit from greater access to decision-making in their learning: ownership leads to increased enthusiasm, focus, and retention. Add some language about students’ opportunities to decide… on project topics, on whether to drop a low quiz grade, on what the class electronics policy will be, on whether to revise Essay #1, on bonus-credit options, or something else.


  1. Build optimistic relationships: If your syllabus leans too much on boldfaced “Thou shalt not” language, you might imply a more pessimistic view of students than you actually feel. All faculty need to set boundaries and make expectations clear, but it’s not entirely true that you “shouldn’t smile until October.” Give your syllabus language a review from the point of view of someone who doesn’t already know you as the engaged, enthusiastic, supportive person you are, and see if there’s at least one place where you can dial some negative language back to better showcase that person. Maybe there’s a policy that’s more stringent than you really need, or one that you could phrase in less dire language, or perhaps just one where you could take out the boldface.

Using Your Syllabus to Identify Resources for Students

In addition to identifying policies and providing information, you can use your syllabus to help students navigate their learning opportunities and their general university experience. While many students know that these resources exist, new, transfer, and first-generation students often don't have a sense of what they can access. In addition, when faculty members suggest both how and why to ask for assistance, we model and support important coping skills. Among the resources you may want to describe and recommend are the following:

  • Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC)
  • Counseling and Psychological Services
  • The Learning Services Office or field-specific tutoring
  • The Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment
  • LBGTQ+ Resources
  • University Career Services
  • University Writing Center

Information and links regarding these and other student support offices are available on our Student Support Resources on Campus page.


Related Resources

Innovations Conference
Active Learning
Multilingual Students