The Course Syllabus: An Online Student’s Best Friend

By Marguerite Epps is an MBA candidate in Webster University’s Online MBA program

As an online student, did you know that the course syllabus is your best friend? Unfortunately, many students miss the value of reading their syllabus. Many think that it is just a summary of the instructor’s expectations and a long list of dreaded assignments. Actually, your course syllabus is a road map to your success. Let’s review a sample syllabus in order to uncover important information about your upcoming online class.

Below is an example of a syllabus for an online class. Let’s review each section:

Section 1: Course Identification


The first section of the syllabus identifies the university, course location, school of degree, and course category/department. In this example, the online course is provided by Webster University’s home campus which is located in Webster Groves, Missouri. The course is available through the George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology and is categorized as Management.

The next area of the syllabus provides students with the title of the course. Note that each online course will also have a prefix and four digit number assigned to it. In this case, “SECR-5080” is the shortened derivation for the online class “Information Systems Security”. Next, under the course’s title, information about the term (SU = Summer), section, credits, start and end dates are also listed. This is important information because it helps the student confirm whether he/she has registered for the correct course, and can assist the student in planning events, etc. around the course’s dates. Note: The “modified” date indicates the last time the syllabus was updated.

Section 2: Meeting Times & Instructor’s Contact Information


This next section indicates the “Meeting Times”. SECR 5080 is an online course. Keep in mind, Webster utilizes an asynchronous format, meaning there is typically no set day or time in which students need to log into their course.

Also in this section of the syllabus, the instructor’s contact information is provided. The instructor will provide a primary form of contact and often times a secondary form such as an email address, phone number, or specific instructions on how they would like to be contacted. I recommend highlighting this section of the syllabus to ensure that you know your instructor’s preferred method of contact.

Section 3: Course Description and Requisites


In the next section of the syllabus is a brief “Description” of the course.

The “Requisites” are additional requirements needed by the student in order to complete the course. In this example, there are no requisites required.

Section 4: Outcomes and Required Textbook & Materials



I recommend that students highlight the “Outcomes” area of this section because it provides specific and detailed information of what they can expect to learn from the course. It is also a great tool that identifies key concepts that will be covered by the instructor and course’s text.

Next, students are provided information about the required text for the course and materials such as software, online subscriptions, etc.  Pertinent information about the text such as the author’s name, publisher, and indicated edition are also provided. This information, and the ISBN, is also available prior to the beginning of the term by visiting Follett, Webster’s online bookstore. For more information regarding viewing textbook information or ordering your books through Follett, please visit this website.

Section 5: Deliverables and Evaluation


Course deliverables can include assignments, discussions, exams, quizzes, written papers, etc. They are used to determine how well a student has grasped the course’s subject matter. In other words, students are graded on their deliverables. Note that the instructor will determine which deliverables are required for the course.


In this “Evaluation” section of the syllabus, students are given insight on how the instructor will arrive at grades for each deliverable. She/he may also include the day and time deliverables are due for each week. Further, instructions on how to format deliverables may also be indicated. Students should especially pay close attention to this section. Note that some instructors will also reiterate or fine-tune information about the deliverables within the course’s “Announcement” or “Assignments” area. It is recommended that students compare the syllabus to the posts in these areas of the course.

Section 6: Course Policies


The instructor may revise the syllabus to include additional policies and requirements. Students should periodically review the syllabus to determine if additional updates have been made. Typically, if changes are made to the syllabus, the instructor will post an announcement within the online course.

Section 7: Institutional Policies


This section is very important and should be highlighted by students. Note that the instructor can vary the content of this section; however, below are examples of the main Webster University institutional policies that are typically included in an online course’s syllabus:

A student’s first online course can seem like the unknown, especially if one has not taken classes in a long time. But, don’t worry, the class syllabus can quickly familiarize students with the course’s lay-out and expectations.

You have already started down the path of success by choosing Webster University as your transport to success. Next, when your online course becomes accessible, immediately log in and download the syllabus.


Marguerite Epps is an MBA candidate in Webster University’s Online MBA program. She has completed several courses.