Curriculum Planning : Course Syllabus

What does this mean:

The course syllabus is often the first document a learner comes into contact with after having registered for a course. It functions as a roadmap for learners throughout the course and it is an effective tool to clearly communicate the specific learning goals and objectives, as well as required core skills and competencies. This section will provide course instructors with resources and information about how to create an accessible syllabus aligned with the principles of UDL.

Why is this important: 

A well-designed syllabus establishes clear communication between instructor and students and provides the necessary information and resources to promote active, purposeful, and effective learning. Students often refer to the syllabus to identify barriers and address any concerns with the course instructor at the beginning of the course related to accessibility. 

How is this achieved:

A course syllabus, as a document, should be created with accessibility in mind. A course syllabus aligned with the principles of UDL should be comprehensive, accessible and easy to use for a wide variety of students.

Practical Tools

Here are some practical tips and easy to implement tools course instructors can use to create a universally designed syllabus.  Consider including the following on your syllabus:

  • Clearly defined course requirements, expectations and deadlines
  • Key learning objectives
  • Required course materials, such as reading materials and whether they are available in alternative formats, for example, audiobooks or digital formats
  • Instructional methods, for example, lecture, group work, conferences with participation
  • Methods of evaluation
  • Course schedule
  • Clearly indicate instructor availability (office hours)
  • Offer different methods of communication (in person during office hours, skype, phone, email)
  • Cleary indicate responsibilities of Teaching Assistants including office hours, email, etc.
  • Provide different options to access the syllabus, e.g., offer a paper copy of the syllabus as well as an accessible word or pdf document posted via the institutional learning management system, e.g., MyCourses, Blackboard, etc.

Many colleges and universities have standard statements that course instructors are required to include in their syllabus. In order to make all students feel welcomed, and create a classroom environment which values diversity and inclusion, it is recommended that an additional statement, such as the following example, be included on your syllabus:

“As your course instructor, I endeavour to provide a learning environment that offers flexible opportunities for your learning using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework.  However, if you experience any barriers to your learning during this course, do not hesitate to discuss this with me.  Please contact me using the format that is most accessible to you.”


UDL Universe: How to create an accessible course syllabus  (Online PDF)

See practical examples of UDL implementation: UDL in Action.