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Creating a Syllabus and Rubrics

Syllabus and Welcome Letter

It is in the syllabusEvery successful course begins with a clear syllabus, which contains the course description, objectives, requirements, deadlines and assessment methods. Having a clear syllabus is even more essential in an online or web-assisted course when students may be unclear about expectations. We encourage faculty to move beyond a basic outline of weekly assignments to create a comprehensive document, which will inform and guide students throughout the entire semester. The course syllabus works as a contract between you and the student; therefore it should provide more than just due dates. The student should gain a clear understanding of the course by reading the syllabus during the first week and should be encouraged to review this document frequently throughout the semester.

Please note that this syllabus template (DOCX) has been developed and approved by Pace University. The course policies language is intended as recommended guidelines in helping you to develop your own syllabus. You are encouraged to edit and customize the document to your own needs and preferences. A video walk through has also been made to review the different parts in the syllabus.

Specific Sample Syllabi

Pace University has also developed a Welcome Letter (DOCX) that faculty can edit and customize to communicate to their students before the semester begins. Here is a Sample Welcome Letter (DOCX) from a faculty member who is teaching a web-assisted course that is maintaining social distancing this Fall.

The welcome letter is an opportunity to say hello to students and let them know you are excited to see them and work with them during the semester. Students need to feel welcome right from the start of your course. Without a welcome letter, they’re less likely to want to engage with you or the course, they will not tell you about themselves and your relationship starts off on the wrong foot. Having a positive welcome:

  • Helps students become familiar with both you and the course.
  • Helps students understand the modality (synchronous, asynchronous, web-assisted, hyflex, etc.) before the semester begins.
  • Can ease any anxiety about taking the course.
  • Shows students you are accessible and approachable.


A tool commonly used to grade, but also to provide feedback, is known as a Rubric. A rubric is a scoring scale consisting of a set of criteria that describe what expectations are being assessed and/or evaluated. They also include descriptions of levels of quality used to evaluate student’s work or to guide them to desired performance levels. Rubrics can be attached to assignments that specifically detail what is asked of them and the corresponding grades, large papers, or projects. Establishing grading standards for the Discussion Board can best be done through a rubric. Rubrics come in many shapes and sizes, and all dependent on your needs and expectations.

Blackboard has a built-in tool for creating custom rubrics. Below is a video tutorial that guides you through the process.

Samples of Rubrics

Example 1: Title – Changing Communities in Our City Oral Presentation Rubric (DOCX)

Task Description: Each student will make a 5-minute presentation on the changes in one Portland community over the past thirty years. The students may focus the presentation in any way he or she wishes, but there needs to be a thesis of some sort, not just a chronological exposition. The presentation should include appropriate photographs, maps, graphs and other visual aids for the audience.

Example 2: Title – Research Foundations Research Paper Rubric (DOCX)

Task Description: You are to find at least 10 research articles related to your project topic. You will write a 10- page review of these articles that shows how they relate to and contribute to your understanding of your topic.

Example 3: Title – Film Presentation Group Project Rubric (DOCX)

Task Description: Working in groups of four or five, students will develop an analysis of a Japanese or American movie about World War II. This analysis should go beyond a simple synopsis of the movie to discuss how well or poorly the film reflects a particular point of view about the war. All group members are expected to participate.

Example 4: Title – Online/Blackboard Discussion Forum Discussion Board Rubric (DOCX)

Task Description: Each student is expected to participate weekly in the online discussion forum. Participation means: address the weekly question on the discussion forum submitted by the instructor, and respond to at least two other discussion forum posts that other students have made.

A Rubric for Rubrics by Dr. Mullinix (PDF)

Great resource of samples of rubrics from University of Idaho