Course and Syllabus Design

Whether you are designing a new course or adapting course material, taking the time to think through your expectations of students and the learning outcomes of your course will help you be a more effective instructor. Below are some guidelines and resources for course design and planning that may help you in this process.

Yale-NUS College Suggested Syllabus Template

For some faculty, the syllabus is an agreement among professor and students. For others, a broad statement of intellectual aspiration. According to our Academic Regulations, all Yale-NUS syllabi must include certain kinds of information (i.e. attendance policies). Please look at this syllabus template to see what information should be included, and customise to your own needs. For some faculty, the syllabus is an agreement among the faculty and the students for your course. For others, the syllabus is a more general statement of intellectual purpose and aspiration. The CTL recommends that syllabi take on the personality of individual instructors, while explicitly informing students what you expect them to learn, why you want they learn, and how they will demonstrate what they have learned through assessment. The syllabus should also include language on core policies on academic integrity, late assignments, discipline-specific issues and a section on Intellectual Property and Privacy. However you conceptualise the syllabus, we recommend that faculty read through the syllabus during the first instructional week or impress upon your students the importance of reading it thoroughly on their own time and raising questions or concerns they may have. If you are teaching online this semester, the CTL highly recommends that you also include a section on netiquette and online interaction. See these Suggested Netiquette Guidelines for some recommendations.

For a different approach, see this advice on “Three Things to Leave Off Your Syllabus”:

On the importance of maintaining and communicating boundaries in your syllabus see:

Consultations on Course Design and Course Planning

Course Planning — We are available to help faculty design new courses or revise existing ones. Consultations may cover any issue related to planning the semester, including:

  • Clarifying goals for student learning
  • Effective course organization
  • Developing new approaches to subject matter that was previously taught
  • Methods for assessing student learning
  • Designing learner-centred syllabi
  • Innovative teaching strategies
  • Creating engaging assignments, projects, and activities

Course Design — If  you are teaching a course for the first time or inventing an entirely new course, we would like to help! We can help you with literature to design the best possible syllabus, using “assessable learning outcomes” and research-validated techniques. By designing your class from the first with these principles in mind, your students will learn better, and your experience teaching will be better! We can also help you design assessments within your course to assure student learning, document shifts in attitude, and create results from your course that will inform modifications in the course. This could even enable possible publication of your results in teaching in educational journals. Please contact us at for more information!

It is the policy of the Yale-NUS Centre for Teaching and Learning to respect the confidentiality of the consultation process. All correspondence and information associated with these consultations are confidential. The Centre’s feedback process has no bearing on promotion or tenure decisions and is in no way associated with division-based evaluative reports.

Proposed Module‐Level Distinctions

Numerical module codes indicate the progressive levels at which the content, methods, aims and outcomes are presented in a module. This document offers general guidelines for module structure, organization and degree of difficulty or sophistication at each of the levels, 1000, 2000, 3000, and 4000. Since these are general criteria across all majors, specific module pre‐requisites, co‐requisites, or necessary skills, if any, should still be clearly stated in each module description. Individual majors may wish to supplement these guidelines by specifying particular learning objectives, skills and intellectual priorities for their own modules on their websites.

Common Curriculum (CC) Modules

Year 1 CC modules are taught at the 1000‐level, second-year CC modules are taught at the 2000‐level. Historical Immersion is at the 3000‐level and all capstone modules are taught at the 4000‐level.

Non‐Common Curriculum Modules

1000‐level modules are presented at an introductory level without prerequisites or expectations of previous experience. They can be surveyed modules or modules defining basic concepts and/or presenting the terminology of a discipline.

2000‐level modules may have 1000‐level modules as prerequisites or require some specific skills. They may be inter‐disciplinary or survey modules devoted to particular areas or fields within a discipline or topic area and related majors. 2000‐level modules help students understand material – through summarizing, classifying, and clarifying basic content, concepts, and procedures in and related to the discipline. Assignments should correspond to these learning objectives.

3000‐level modules, including Research Seminars required by some majors, will require more complex and sophisticated deployment of intellectual competences exercised in 2000‐ and 1000‐level courses. They will often be more specialised in their content, and expect a familiarity with a broader background than is treated in the course directly. Students enrolled in a 3000‐level module should be prepared to produce some substantial independently‐conceived work (such as a term paper, a creative work, or experimental project) in anticipation of 4000 level modules and Capstone research.

4000‐level modules are advanced modules usually to be taken in Year 3 or Year 4, most likely by students who are pursuing a particular (or a closely allied) major in which the module is listed. These are advanced modules involving specialised and independent work which presumes experience dealing with areas of the discipline: final projects should demonstrate a student’s independent intellectual interests and capacities within the field.

Books on Course Design and Planning

Below are some books and readings that you may consult as you think about designing your courses.

Author(s) Title Publisher ISBN
Stavredes, Tina; Herder, Tiffany A Guide to Online Course Design: Strategies for Student Success Jossey-Bass 9781118462669
Smith, Robin M. Conquering the Content: A Step-by-Step Guide to Online Course Design Jossey-Bass 9780787994426
Klaus, Carl H., Jones, Nancy Courses for Change in Writing: A Selection from the NEH/Iowa Institute Boynton/Cook Publishers 867091215
Fink, L. Dee Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An integrated Approach to Designing College Courses Jossey-Bass 9780787960551
Fink, L. Dee Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An integrated Approach to Designing College Courses (Revised & Updated) Jossey-Bass 9781118124253
Caulfield, Jay How to Design and Teach a Hybrid Course Stylus Publishing 9781579224233
O’Brien, Judith Grunert; Millis, Barbara J.; Cohen, Margaret W. The Course Syllabus: A Learning-Centered Approach – Second Edition Jossey-Bass 9780470197615
Wiggins, Grant; McTighe, Jay Understanding by Design, Expanded Edition Pearson 9780131950849