Course Outlines

To assist instructors in creating a complete course outline for their course(s) and to provide students with a consistent presentation of course information, the College of Biological Science is asking all instructors to adopt the following minimum requirements for course outlines.

The university will adopt an electronic course outline template in the very near future. This CBS template has similar content and is designed to make the transition to the institutional template straightforward.

Please direct any questions to Brian Husband, Associate Dean Academic

You can download the course outline instructions, along with the Course Outline Template and a Sample course outline from this site.

The purpose of a course outline (or syllabus) is to provide students with a description of the course goals, desired learning outcomes, specific content, modes of learning, resources to support content, assessment methods and due dates, and any relevant course policies of which students need to be aware.

The outline should be considered a contract between instructors and students. Changes to the structure of a course during a course offering should be avoided, and modifying the methods and timing of evaluation can be made only with unanimous consent of the students.

At a minimum, course outlines should include the content for the following seven categories of information (use of category names not required). Basic instructions regarding the content and suggested order of each category is provided. A blank template, which may be useful for implementing this format, is given at the end of the instructions.

General Information

  1. Title - this section contains the University, College, and Departmental names, course name, course code and semester of offering. Typically these are listed at the top of the outline.
  2. Course description (from undergraduate calendar), credit weighting, pre-requisites/co-requisites, and restrictions (limits as to which students can register)
  3. Teaching team (names, contact information and office hours for instructors, coordinators, GTAs)
  4. Course schedule (location and times of all face-to-face meetings) (N.B. for Fall semester courses, include a note regarding the extra class day at end of semester to replace Thanksgiving Monday)

Course Goals

  1. (optional, if 1b is not sufficient) Describe the overall goals of the course in 1-4 sentences.
  2. List the specific learning outcomes for the course.  Between five and ten outcomes would generally be appropriate for a 0.5 credit course. Learning outcomes should refer to what students should know or be able to do following successful completion of the course (i.e. attainment of a passing grade) that can be assessed.  Outcomes are usually culminating competencies that involve combinations of knowledge, skills and attitudes, and should be expressed using active verbs (i.e., the student should be able to demonstrate, compare, synthesize, apply, analyze, etc) that reflect the extent of mastery by the student. (For example: By the end of this course, successful students will be able to critically evaluate a scientific claim in the public media by locating relevant research from the primary literature, identifying the major elements of that research and critically assessing its methods, results and conclusions). Learning outcomes for a particular course should address at least some of the learning outcomes established for the degree (e.g. BSc ) and the University.
  3. Resources are available to help craft learning outcomes, through Open Learning and Educational Support and the Associate Vice President Academic. A series of short workshops will also be offered by OpenEd (TBA) to provide assistance for distance education courses.

Course Content

  1. List the specific course content, activities or broad topics that will be covered throughout the semester. Where appropriate, use a table to provide a tentative schedule of the semester content by week (or some other meaningful time interval) as this may help to link the content to forms of assessment in section V. If applicable, list the content themes by mode of interaction (i.e. lecture, tutorial, seminar, lab) either in a single or separate table(s).
    E.g. Single table or Separate table for lectures
  2. Method of Presentation (optional) –include any additional information regarding how students are expected to engage with course material during student contact times (lectures, labs, seminars, tutorials) and non-contact times, and how the students are to use the various resources available.
    e.g. “Lectures will be used to discuss readings and introduce new concepts”, or “assigned readings will complement what is taught in lecture”, or “readings should be reviewed in advance of lecture as class time will be used for case studies or discussions”

Course Resources

  1. List all required resources, along with any other resources available to support the student in achieving the stated learning outcomes. Describe the use and availability of resources as appropriate (e.g. hours and location of SLGs). E.g. Required textbook, Recommended textbook, Lab manual, i-Clickers, Journal Articles, Reserve at library, Suggested readings, D2L on Courselink, Supported Learning Groups, Field trips, Eligible additional costs (lab coats, safety boots, dissecting tools). If there is a Courselink site associated with the course, instructors should include details to guide the student on how to access the materials, specifically for first and second year courses.
    Please note that, according to the provincial guidelines, students cannot be charged for online resources or other ancillary fees that are required to complete the assignments or tests.
    Please note that students can not be asked to purchase a required textbook, though it can be strongly recommended. As a result, copies must be made available on reserve in the library.

Methods of Assessment

  1. In a table, list the forms of assessment (assignments, tests etc) and show how they align with specific learning outcomes and course content. By numbering the learning outcomes and content in sections II and III, instructors need only list the corresponding number here. Learning outcomes and content can be assessed multiple times.  

The table should include the following headings:

  • Assessment, form and weight of the assessment as a % of final grade
  • Due date of the assessment
  • Course content/activity
  • Learning Outcome addressed

Please note: If assignments and tests do not explicitly align with the learning outcomes, the instructor should review and revise the outcomes or assessments or both.

Please Note, According to University Policy:

  • Meaningful and constructive feedback (assessment) must be provided to students prior to the 40th class day, which is the last day to drop a course.
  • Evaluation criteria should measure quality of performance and not merely activity (or attendance for particular activities).
  • Unannounced evaluations (e.g. pop quizzes) can not be used for course assessment purposes or to determine course grades.


Provide any additional descriptions about the forms of assessment that you require. e.g. Midterm exam – 40 multiple choice and 6 short answer questions; Research proposal - instructor needs to provide guidance regarding, length, style, topics, assessment etc.
Important dates: In a separate location, list the date and time of midterm and final exams and any other important dates or deadlines.

NOTE. Once released any changes to the grading scheme can only be approved under strict policies as approved by Senate. The policy can be found under Resolution 5.

Course and University Policies

There are a number of policies that the institution recommends to be included on all course outlines. We have listed the statements which are required and optional, on the course statements webpage. Please feel free to copy and past the text directly into your course outline.

If you would like to include a direct link to the core statements, please feel free to do so by including the course statements link in your course outline.