Syllabus Support

It is reasonable to assume that the pandemic might again force the University into remote instruction, so instructors should inform students in the syllabus the alternatives planned to adapt the course for remote instruction. Here we provide language that should be included in the syllabus. This is meant to reinforce the communication on syllabus language that has already been sent by the Council of Undergraduate Education Deans (CUED).

The following should be included in syllabus materials and clearly communicated to students to ensure expectations are consistent:

  1. Office Hours: All office hours should be via computer or telephone. No matter what the modality of the course, instructors are required to hold the number of office hours specified by their college. Indicate the platform that office hours will be held on and how appointments can be made outside office hours. Be explicit about communication channels and expectations (e.g., if you'll need 24 hours to reply to student emails). Provide both a phone number and an email address for contact as appropriate. We suggest Zoom meetings and the use of a Zoom waiting room for office hours.
  2. Course Description: Instructors are responsible for ensuring that the content of the courses remains consistent with the course descriptions approved by the University Committee on Curriculum and the University Council. Please ensure that all class activities are clearly directed toward the fulfillment of course objectives and that student performance is evaluated in a manner consistent with these objectives. Please communicate that the mode of course instruction could change at any time given changes in public health guidance or changes in University operations.
  3. Required Textbooks and Course Materials: Required Textbooks and Course Materials: Include detail such as the full title of each textbook, author, edition, ISBN, and where it can be purchased. If a required text is available online, indicate where it can be accessed. Specify any additional materials, including software and hardware, that students must purchase for the course. Describe how students can access all technologies that will be used. Identify the hardware or software, if any, that is required for assessment (e.g. a webcam). In selecting and preparing materials abide by the MSU Accessibility Policies. For recommended texts and other readings and resources, state clearly how and where to access these materials, especially for online courses. You can find additional instructional support here.
  4. Course Schedule: This must include the date of the final examination and tentative dates of required assignments, quizzes, and tests, if applicable. Should be arranged in a list by date or week.
  5. Grading Policy: The syllabus must make clear how students will be evaluated and specifically how final grades will be determined. This can be in the form of a detailed and complete rubric or chart. Grade percentages must be provided so that students may understand how their final grade will be calculated. If a grading curve is used, this must be shared, and instructors must let students know how the curve will be calculated. Include any information about required proctoring, and particularly in an online course; this includes proctoring sites, lockdown browsers, and software requirements necessary for proctored exams or assignments. Please include a statement to the effect of that proctoring arrangements will be decided at the discretion of the instructor, or that all exams will be proctored using a specific method if that has been decided. Note as well that proctoring arrangements are subject to change in the event of an unanticipated circumstance.
  6. Staying Home or Self-Isolating when Appropriate: Include language that encourages students who need to quarantine themselves, have been sick with COVID-19 symptoms, tested positive for COVID-19, or have been potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 to follow CDC guidance to self-isolate or stay home. Include language that clearly states that you will make accommodations for those who must miss class due to illness that will not harm their performance or put them at a disadvantage in the class.
  7. Cloth Face Coverings On Campus: Cloth face coverings are required for everyone on campus. Please include the following language in your syllabus:
    • Face coverings must be worn by everyone (including all faculty, staff, students, vendors, and visitors) indoors and outdoors while on property owned or governed by MSU and while participating in MSU-related or MSU-sponsored activities. If you have a medical condition that may prevent you from safely wearing a face covering, you should contact MSU’s Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to begin the accommodation process.

    • Face coverings should (a) be non-medical grade to maintain supplies for health care use, (b) fit snugly against the side of your face, (c) cover your nose and mouth, (d) be secured with ties or ear loops, and (e) allow for breathing without restriction. Cloth face coverings should only be worn for one day at a time, and they must be properly hand washed or laundered before subsequent use. Face coverings may vary (for example, disposable non-medical face coverings or neck gaiters are acceptable).

    • Failure to wear a face covering for those without an accommodation will result in the following: (1) A reminder of the requirement, the reason for it (to minimize spread), and a request to comply. (2) A request to leave the classroom if no compliance. (3) If no face covering compliance and the student refuses to leave the classroom, class will be dismissed. (4) Should an emergency develop that you feel cannot be resolved by classroom dismissal, consider calling 911 for assistance. Note: Calling the police should be a last resort for genuine emergencies and not used as a way to handle non-emergency conduct issues.

  8. Recommendations for Attendance: Attendance policies and the repercussions for non-attendance are the purview of the class instructor. MSU suggests the following guidance related to COVID-related absences:

    • Clearly state the class expectations for attendance and consequences for non-attendance in the syllabus, including your policy for illness

      • Consider how you will accommodate students who might need to be absent for two or more weeks

      • Instructors are encouraged to give students the benefit of the doubt and not require medical evidence and make accommodations as best as possible.

    • Clearly state the class policies related to missing quizzes and submitting late work and the consequences for missing or late work.

    • Suggest to students that they reach out to their advisors, College Student Affairs offices, and instructors if they will need to miss class due to COVID.

    • Provide information about the grief absence process and consider being generous if students report they have experienced a loss; consider putting in links to CAPS and other support services listed on the Keep Learning Website.

Instructors with questions can consult with the Office of the University Ombudsperson or Dr. Jim Lucas ( as needed.

Additional Syllabus Language to Consider

If there is an incident related to face coverings in class, instructors should immediately file a report with the appropriate academic unit leader (e.g., department head, director of academic affairs, or director) and, as soon as possible, produce a written record of the facts. For students who initially violated the requirement, but who chose to comply when addressed, consider an email or other communication to remind the student of the requirement for future classes and to engage the student in a conversation about the situation. It will be helpful to allow the student to explain their actions in a way that might help in the future. Important information on the compact compliance can be found here. More detail on University directives, including processes for sanctions can be found here. Addressing issues of academic misconduct for faculty and staff can be found here.

Similarly, supervisors will use the regular processes outlined by Human Resources for any situation involving an employee. Academic Human Resources should be contacted for situations involving faculty and academic staff.

For more information on how to engage with students to support behaviors that help reduce exposure to COVID-19 and how to best disseminate and communicate updates, please reference this presentation.