Week 4: Syllabus

By July 28, 2020April 5th, 2024Smeal Academy Newsletter

Smeal Academy: Fall 2020 Readiness – Week 4

The goal of the Smeal Academy is to equip everyone with best practices and strategies for teaching, learning, and technology to ensure the Smeal community is prepared to respond to the unique challenges of Fall 2020. Between now and the end of July, we will be sending weekly emails with practical tips and information, providing live sessions, and holding virtual consultations.

This week, we share resources that can help you prepare your syllabus. First off, we recommend that you continue to check in with Penn State’s website dedicated to the return to teaching in fall, https://keepteaching.psu.edu/. An announcement has been posted there that states that, “The University will provide syllabus language for instructors on safety protocols and guidance for managing the classroom.” Currently, there is an evolving document available that shares syllabus policy guidance regarding enforcing mask-wearing in class. We will share additional information as it becomes available through the Smeal Academy emails.

Remember that the syllabus serves as a contract between the instructor and students, giving students information they need to understand in order to be successful in your class. In many cases, the syllabus is the first point of contact with students. A well-written syllabus provides a solid foundation for the entire semester. There are critical elements and policies that every syllabus should contain. eLDIG’s Canvas templates include an example syllabus that you can easily download and modify (email smealtlthelp@psu.edu if you can’t access).

Current News

Masking and social distancing classroom policies in effect for fallA July 2 PSU News story noted that, “To reduce the risk of widespread virus transmission, wearing face masks and social distancing will be required for all students and employees in classrooms, labs, offices and campus buildings. Students and employees also should practice social distancing, avoid large gatherings and wear face masks while on campus, as well as within their local communities in line with local and state requirements.” The University has purchased masks to help with compliance. Additionally, students (and faculty) who are sick are encouraged to stay home. The article further states that, “While high levels of compliance are expected based on feedback from recent student and employee University surveys, those who put others at risk by not following the University’s requirements will be held accountable in a manner consistent with how other violations of Penn State guidelines and policies are managed.

We encourage faculty to consider how this policy will be reflected in your course syllabi. As resources become available, we will add them to our shared Canvas course resources.

Helpful Websites

Upcoming Live Sessions: Boost Your Course Using Office 365

  • Office 365 isn’t just Office Suite: Get the most out of Office 365 with a deep dive into some new features from Microsoft. Join us Wednesday, July 8, from 10 to 11 a.m. via Zoom.
  • Strategies and Tools for Live and Pre-recorded Course Videos: Are you pre-recording your lectures for Fall, but aren’t sure where to begin? Do you have questions about Zoom settings for teaching and learning? Are you curious about best practices for sharing your recordings? This session will focus on tips and strategies for recording, hosting, and sharing recordings from an instructor’s perspective. Join us Wednesday, July 15, from 1 to 2 p.m. via Zoom.

NOTE:  Recordings and resources from previous sessions can be found on our eLDIG  Website.

Tips of the Week

Tip #1: Write your syllabus with your students in mind. You may find it helpful to ask a colleague or friend to read your syllabus and provide feedback.

Tip #2: The use of visual syllabi is on the rise. In many cases students find them more appealing than a strictly print-based one and thus tend to read them with more care. Creation of visual syllabi requires some ability to work with graphics and are harder to update, so they are not for everyone! If you are interested, here are some sites to investigate:


Ask eLDIG/RIIT – Open Consultations

Zoom Hours:

  • Thursday, July 9, 1 to 3 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 16, 10 to 11 a.m.
  • More to be announced


Check out the eLDIG website for more resources and support.

Contact Us

Email us at: course-support@smeal.psu.edu or fill out our Remote Teaching Support form.