Designing Course Templates

Designing Course Templates

The Syllabus Geeks understand that creating a course template can seem like a daunting task. Never fear, we are here to help!

We understand that you may have a lot of questions surrounding the creation of a syllabus template. This may be a completely new exercise for your school and the mere thought of standardizing your syllabus seems like a monumental feat. Or maybe you already have an idea in mind of what your template should look like but need to model it in Concourse. Regardless of where you now sit on the template scale this article will be beneficial. You will learn the steps to creating a Concourse syllabus template, as well as best practices that we have learned along the way.

Elsewhere in the Concourse Support Center there exist in-depth article about specific template functionality. This article however serves to introduce templates conceptually and the considerations that should be paid to them in terms of content, data, and permissions.

Finally, to simplify this article we make one assumption, that a two-level template hierarchy will be used as defined below. Concourse can support any number of said levels though we recommend not exceeding three for manageability purposes.

  • Institutional Template - Contains content that will be standard across all syllabi at the institution. Common examples include academic integrity and disability policies.
  • Course Template - Contains information specific to each offering, such as the course description and its outcomes. The course template will also inherit all content from the institutional template.


Step 1: Review Syllabi and Establish Commonalities

To get started with templates the first step involves a review of current syllabi. Collect a sample of the syllabi that are currently being distributed to students and examine them carefully. Consider the following questions as you go through this initial review:

  • Does your institution currently have established syllabus templates? If so what do they contain?
  • If there is no established syllabus template, what information is common among all or most syllabi at your institution?
  • Which of this content do you want to incorporate and manage in Concourse and which is better suited for other systems?
  • What do your current syllabus policies dictate regarding mandatory information on every syllabus?
  • Regarding any current policies regarding syllabi, do all of the syllabi you've collected and reviewed contain this information?

The following is a list of components we have found on syllabi at many schools:

  • Course title
  • Course dates, times, location
  • Instructor contact information
  • Course description
  • Course outcomes
  • Textbook information
  • Methods of evaluation
  • Grading criteria
  • Institutional Policies (ADA, attendance, residency requirements, etc.)
  • Schedule

The next part to this step is establishing how the information on your existing syllabi should map to a Concourse syllabus. 


Step 2: Determine Syllabus Content Source

Now that you've conducted a review of your current syllabi and have an understanding of what information you'll need to ensure is on every syllabus, it's helpful to determine where this information resides. The Syllabus Geeks have seen it all...from information being housed in home-grown student information systems to hard copy documents locked away in a file cabinet in the basement of an administration building. No matter the location, it's imperative to determine the authoritative source of all of the content that will ultimately be part of a Concourse syllabus.

It is important to understand what information you want to include on a Concourse syllabus and where the information will come from. If your institution maintains a listing or repository of things like descriptions and outcomes, you may be able to populate these syllabus items by processing corresponding feeds. Consider the following regarding the content of syllabi at your institution:

  1. Common content: What is common among your current syllabi? Does every syllabus include an official course description or student outcomes? Does every instructor list the methods of evaluation and the grade weighting information? How about meetings times and office hours? Similarly, is required information missing from several syllabi?
  2. Source of the content: Where and how did the instructor access the information that is displayed on the syllabus. Did it come from a course catalog, their department office, or an email from the Provost? Similarly, how will you transfer the information to your Concourse syllabus?


 *Note: The Syllabus Geeks understand that some institutions may be using a syllabus system from which they would like to migrate data to Concourse. Check out Points to Consider Regarding Migrating Data to Concourse for more information. 

Step 3: Apply Item Permissions

The final step in template design is deciding who should have access to view and edit the information contained therein. This step is very important as some permissions will be set on your Institutional Template and then this default inherited to course-level templates..

Within Concourse you have the ability to set access permission for each syllabus item category. The following table illustrates the various item categories found on a Concourse syllabus, as well as the set of groups that exist in Concourse.

For each item category you will need to decide upon the appropriate permissions for each group. Each item category can only be set to one of the three following options:

None = Users in this group cannot view this items' content (N).
View = Users in this group can view this items' content but cannot make any changes (V).
Edit = Users in this group can both view and edit this items' content (E).


Concourse Item CategoriesConcourse Groups
Meeting TimesManagers
Contact InformationDevelopers
Course PoliciesPublic
Institutional Policies 
Additional Items 

Finally, also attached to this article is an example workbook that outlines how Institution D (you may remember Institution D from our "Getting Started Survey" article) went through each of these three steps to arrive at their template structure.

Once you've completed your template design worksheets you will be ready to begin creating your Concourse syllabus templates!

    • Related Articles

    • Linked Course Templates

      This article provides more "technical" information regarding linked templates. If you are looking for a tutorial on how to link templates, consider visiting the Create a Link Between Templates article in the "How-To" section of our Knowledge Base. ...
    • Course Templates Explained

      A course template typically refers to a syllabus that contains boilerplate language for everyone throughout an institution to adhere to. Such a document can go by many names (master syllabus, course outline, course format, etc.). Despite the ...
    • Creating Syllabi from Course Templates

      Templates can be turned into course syllabi using manual creation or through the processing of feeds. While this process remains simple, an important difference should be pointed out that makes template cloning a bit more sophisticated. Going from a ...
    • Create a Link Between Templates

      Linked templates in Concourse can be created manually or automatically via feed processing. This How-To will only show you how to create a link between templates manually. If you are interested in utilizing feeds to link templates, consider referring ...
    • API - Course Listing

      FYI: All lines within code blocks are numbered, regardless of whether there is more than one line of code provided. An API is available to retrieve a listing of courses stored in Concourse. This is helpful for integrating Concourse with other systems ...