Having an updated syllabus for online instruction will help to alleviate students’ understandable anxieties about learning remotely, as many may feel unprepared for this mode of course delivery. It will also guide them regarding your expectations, thus positioning them to succeed academically.

Please be sure to address the following points, as well as any others important for your course, by explaining:

  • Any changes in the type, number, timing, weight, and frequency of your learning assessments (from weekly quizzes or discussion board posts to major exams)
  • Your expectations for the nature, frequency, and quality of students’ participation
  • Any revisions to the course grading policy and/or weight of any graded component of the course
  • Any changes in other course policies (e.g., regarding make-up work or submission of late assignments)
  • Your expectations for etiquette in online (and other) interactions, e.g., when and how to email you about concerns; expressing respect for others’ views in discussion forums; and grounding rationales in evidence and logic, rather than in personal criticism or dismissal of a group’s experiences or perspectives
  • What steps you’re taking to create an online classroom climate designed to foster learning and inclusion (see overall list for all courses and online-specific list).

Defining your policies and expectations for your course in online mode will help clarify in advance what your response will be to various student circumstances that may arise. Doing so now will save you time (and probably stress) when you need to respond quickly to such situations as they emerge. Sharing these policies and expectations with students soon will provide them with guidance and a clear message that you’re taking a pro-active approach and care about their success.