Office of the Academic Ombud -- A neutral, independent and confidential resource for UK students and faculty

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Professor talking with student in a laboratory

Course Descriptions

The syllabus should offer a reasonably detailed overview of the course. This should include an accurate outline of the content to be covered in the course, and the content described must conform to the course description published in the University Bulletin. The course description must also include at least a summary description of the components that contribute to the determination of the student's course grade, and a tentative course schedule should clarify topics, specify assignment due dates, examination date(s) and the date, time, and location of the final examination. It is also recommended that students be advised of the date, time, and length of the final examination.

Providing an outline of course content by major topical areas or units by class session and tying course assignments (readings, papers, activities, etc.) to those topical areas will help students understand the logic and structure of the material to be learned in the course.

Finally, the syllabus should specify the general grading criteria by which student performance will be assessed and these criteria should be specified separately for each type of assignment as well as for the course as a whole. The numerical scales to be used in grading and their relationship to letter grades should also be provided. Further, the syllabus should state explicitly the relative value given to each activity in the calculation of course grades, e.g., Midterm = 30%; Term Project = 20%; Quizzes = 10%; Comprehensive Final Examination = 40%. If factors affecting evaluation of the not yet realized part of the course must be revised during the semester, students must be given reasonable warning. There should be no question or ambiguity about what a student must accomplish to earn a particular grade. Any vagueness can and will be challenged by students. This is particularly the case with "class participation" grades. The ultimate goal is to give all students a "fair and just evaluation" based on the "standards announced at the 1st or 2nd class meeting." (S.R. 6.1.3)

1. Letter Grades: Occasionally, students question the calculation of their final letter grade when only letter grades were assigned to coursework. Assigning numerical grades may prevent complaints at the end of the semester. The syllabus presents the best opportunity to explain as specifically as possible how final grades will be calculated.

2. Curving Grades: If a grading curve applies, specify how the curve will be created and indicate in broad terms how the curve may affect the final grade. If grade distributions tend to be consistent, it would be helpful to include in the syllabus examples of grade distributions from previous semesters. It is important to remind students if your curve is not finalized until the end of the semester.

3. Midterm Evaluation: (S.R. 6.1.3) All teachers must inform the undergraduate students in their courses of their current progress based on the criteria in the syllabus before the following dates:

    1. the end of the ninth week for the fall or spring semester;
    2. the third day of the fifth week for the eight-week summer term;
    3. the second day of the third week for the four-week summer term.