A course syllabus should convey to students the course topics and course outcomes, the location of course learning resources, the ways in which they will be evaluated and graded, expectations of students enrolled in the course, information about course content and depth, the textbooks being used, the number of credits awarded and how they can be achieved, and information about the course instructor(s). In essence, it conveys course expectations, serves as a durable record of the learning experience and is a tool to support student learning. The syllabus is in English. Every group instruction course should have a syllabus. Undergraduate independent/directed study courses should follow the Policy on Independent/Directed Study for Undergraduates.


Starting in spring 2018, three elements need to be included on all course syllabi that may not have been routinely included before now.

  • COURSE OUTCOMES – Course outcomes are statements about the knowledge and skills that students are expected to know, be able to do, or value by the end of the course. Include the course outcomes that have been previously approved in the course proposal. Please distinguish learning outcomes for undergraduate vs. graduate vs. variable credit activity.
  • NUMBER OF CREDITS ASSOCIATED WITH THE COURSE – The number of credits associated with each course can be found at
  • HOW CREDIT HOURS ARE MET BY THE COURSE – A course syllabus should show how the course offering and learning expectations are consistent with the course credits and the UW-Madison Credit Hour Policy. Follow these recommendations for how to describe course credit information. UW-Madison definitions of the credit hour are as follows:
    • TRADITIONAL CARNEGIE DEFINITION – One hour (i.e. 50 minutes) of classroom or direct faculty/instructor instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week over approximately 15 weeks, or an equivalent amount of engagement over a different number of weeks. This is the status quo and represents the traditional college credit format used for decades. Instructors who have regular classroom meetings and assign homework, reading, writing, and preparation for quizzes and exams should use this definition.
    • 45 HOURS PER CREDIT – One credit is the learning that takes place in at least 45 hours of learning activities, which include time in lectures or class meetings, in person or online, labs, exams, presentations, tutorials, reading, writing, studying, preparation for any of these activities, and any other learning activities. Regular and substantive instructor/student interaction is required, and the syllabus should be clear on how this happens. This option may be useful for nontraditional formats, “flipped” courses, lab courses, seminars, courses with substantial meeting time and little out-of-class work, or any time this is a better fit for learning activities than the Carnegie definition.


This information meets expectations for the 2019 HLC accreditation review. Providing this information to students on the syllabus is one way instructors fulfill their responsibility, not only for basic information conveyance to their students, but also to a successful accreditation outcome.


UW-Madison has modified the Canvas Syllabus tool to include an additional feature designed to capture and display the official, required UW-Madison syllabus information for the course. This tool is called the Official Syllabus, which can be found on the Canvas Syllabus page. When the course instructor enters the tool, the syllabus template is pre-filled with data from the official UW-Madison course offering. Instructors will simply need to provide the remaining information. Pre-filled data is not editable. Once instructors publish the Official Syllabus, it will be visible to students enrolled in the course.


The Official Syllabus tool is available from within the Canvas Syllabus. To create an Official Syllabus and make it available to students, you must be enrolled as the instructor of record, and you must enter the information into the fields and then publish the syllabus. Note that some fields are pre-filled with data from the official UW-Madison course offering. If the Official Syllabus has not yet been created and published, students will see a message stating that the syllabus will be available after it is published.

  1. Access your Canvas course
  2. Click the Syllabus link on the left navigation panel. The Canvas Course Syllabus page opens.
  3. Click the Official Syllabus (Beta) button. The syllabus page opens, showing the course title and some pre-populated course information. Notice when you first access the Official Syllabus tool, the status is Faculty Pending, which means the syllabus has not been published.
  4. To modify the syllabus, click the Edit button.
  5. Complete the fields on the screen. Required fields are marked with a red “Required” tag; optional fields are marked with a green “Optional” tag.
  6. When you’re finished making changes, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click the Save button. (If you’d like to close without saving changes, click the Exit Edit button near the top of the screen.)
  7. When you’re ready to publish the syllabus to students, click the Publish button at the top of the screen. You will notice your syllabus status change from Faculty Pending to Published. After a syllabus has been published, it can be viewed by students in the Canvas course and by Institutional Administration.

NOTE: You do not have the option to unpublish, so make sure the syllabus is final before you publish. After the third week of the academic term, all syllabi within the Official Syllabus tool are automatically published. However, students will be able to view only the syllabi that have been published by the instructor (that is, they will not be able to view syllabi that have been auto-published).