Course Design & Syllabus

Course Design & Syllabus

Syllabus Design

Syllabus Templates & Checklist

Hybrid and Online Syllabus Templates & Checklist

Teaching Online

  • Teaching Online – Toolkit, Best Practices, Grading, Group Work, Organizing, TBL, Training Videos, and DRC Accommodations

Tips for Syllabus Construction


Syllabus Examples


Course Design

The following resources will help you think through and plan your course:


Academic Honesty

Point Loma Nazarene University holds students and faculty to the highest standards of academic honesty. Please review the helpful guidance below.

18 Ways to Prevent Plagiarism in Student Papers

  1. Hand out explanation of what constitutes plagiarism in its various forms.
  2. Teach students how to paraphrase and how to cite sources.
  3. Give students a set of topics from which to choose and change topics frequently.
  4. Do not allow last-minute topic changes.
  5. Require students to submit copies of research notes.
  6. Require students to submit bibliographies, outlines, and drafts.
  7. Require precise formatting for papers and do not allow even slight deviations.
  8. Give pop quiz on paper contents.
  9. Require oral report in addition to paper.
  10. Warn students against storing work on multiple user computer devices such as shared computers.
  11. Assign narrowly focused topics, rather than broad, general ones.
  12. Use very current topics to lessen chance of papers being available on the Internet.
  13. Structure the writing assignment as a series of steps with checkpoints.
  14. Require copies of at least two drafts.
  15. Check the working bibliography early in the assignment.
  16. Require all resources to be current, from the last 2-3 years.
  17. Require an annotated bibliography with 1-2 sentences describing each source.
  18. Do not leave graded papers lying around

Common Forms of Academic Dishonesty

Dishonesty on exams

1. Using crib notes on a test.
2. Copying from another student on a test, with or without his or her knowledge.
3. Using unfair methods to find out in advance what will be on a test.
4. Cheating on a test in some other way.
5. Helping someone else cheat on a test.
6. Taking an exam for someone else or having someone take an exam for you.
7. Changing an answer after an exam was graded and reporting it as a scoring error.
8. Giving a false excuse for missing an exam or a deadline.

Dishonesty on written papers

9. Copying a few sentences (or paragraphs) of material from a published source (including the Internet) without footnoting.
10. Falsifying quotations.
11. Fabricating or falsifying a bibliography.
12. Listing real but unread sources in a bibliography.
13. Having a paper corrected for spelling, grammar and mechanics when those items will be graded.
14. Using a paper for more than one class without professor approval.

Dishonesty on papers or class work

15. Copying material and turning it in as one’s own.
16. Turning in someone else’s work as one’s own.
17. Collaborating on an assignment when the instructor has asked for individual work.
18. Receiving substantial, unauthorized help on an assignment.
19. Allowing someone to copy your work.
20. Writing lab report without doing the experiment.
21. Falsifying lab data.
22. Falsely claim to have handed in a paper or class work.
23. Reading Cliff’s notes or some other condensed material rather than the assigned text.
24. Reading an assignment in English when it is assigned in a foreign language.
25. Not doing one’s fair share of group work.
26. Removing items from a reserved reading file so that others cannot use them.
27. Signing an attendance sheet and then immediately leaving the class.
28. Signing an attendance sheet for an absent student.

Detection of Plagiarism in Student Papers

Paper Seems to Be Too Good

  • Reads like an encyclopedia article
    • Ask librarian for help: check written and electronic encyclopedias
    • Pick unusual string of 4-6 words or a proper name from the paper and do an Internet search
    • Ask student to explain choice of certain phrases or to identify location of some specific fact
  • Paper seems above student’s research or writing ability
    • Have him read a few paragraphs from the paper and check for fluency of reading (especially if you can compare to his reading of something you know he has written)
    • Have him read a few paragraphs from the paper and check for understanding
    • Have him rewrite a paragraph or two from the paper in his own words in the classroom while you observe
    • Select 5 or 10 big words from the paper and have him explain them
    • Copy a section of the paper. Cut into paragraphs. Have him reassemble them. (If he wrote it, he’ll be able to do this.)
    • Ask him to bring outline and drafts to the interview; this works only if students have been told that you may ask for these at any time and that failure to produce them will be considered proof of dishonesty
  • A critical review of a play or film seems to be very professional in style and vocabulary
    • Check a few unique words strings on the Internet
    • Discuss the play or film in some detail with the student, asking her to explain and justify several of her opinions as expressed in the review
  • A paper contains words you wouldn’t expect the student to know (unusual words, archaic expressions, highly technical terms, abstruse cultural references)
    • Have the student read aloud a paragraph with unusual vocabulary or scholarly terms and note the fluency of his reading; students usually don’t use unfamiliar sentence constructions or write words they don’t know
    • Have him explain or paraphrase the paragraph
  • A student’s paper has marked shifts in style and organization (some poorly written paragraphs and others that are very polished in style)
    • A good clue is whether the writing in the middle sounds too advanced
    • Check for consistency of sentence length (or of grammatical correctness) throughout the paper
    • Check the bibliography for books and journal articles that actually exist; many book chapters do not have separate bibliographies
    • Ask the librarian to identify books in the school library on a slightly broader topic than the paper—where the paper could be a chapter
    • Ask the student to read one or two difficult paragraphs from the paper and explain them
    • Ask where several items in the bibliography were located
  • A paper has a journalistic sound (short sentences, frequent quotes from experts in the filed, snappy writing)
    • Pick an unusual phrase or two and do an Internet search
    • Ask librarian’s help to check CD-ROM and online sources of current news articles (ProQuest, SIRS, NewsBank)
    • Ask the student to discuss the paper with you and explain why s/he chose the experts s/he quoted

Paper Sounds Familiar

  • A student hands in a copy of a friend’s paper from a previous semester, or one from a file of old papers (your class or a closely related class) that are available on campus
    • Keep papers filed in the department by topic; return grade and topic to student but not the paper (or make a Xerox copy or ask for 2 copies to be handed in)
    • Be sure to check the middle section of the paper; many students change the beginning, the end, and the title, while copying the middle.
    • Avoid using the same assignment year after year; do not give students the choice of topics used in previous years
  • Students in different sections/periods of the same class appear to have worked together on their papers and turned in very similar final versions
    • Check all papers on the same topic for conclusions that are too similar or for same paragraphs in the middle of the paper
    • Check the papers for bibliographies that are identical or vary only slightly
    • Be sure you have made it clear to the students how much collaboration you consider fair
    • Ask the students, separately, for an explanation of the close similarity. Check their understanding of permissible collaboration on the assignment.

Paper Appears to be Just “A Little Bit Off”

  • The paper has an odd appearance
    • The title page is in a different font or typeface from the paper body or printed on a different style of paper
    • Gray or faded test in areas that were in color on the screen indicates a paper printed directly from the Internet
    • The layout seems strange or may be the combination of two of more different format styles
    • Links to Internet sites are embedded in the paper, there are strange headers or footers, or a web address from the Internet has been left on the paper
    • Ask the student for an explanation of breaks in page numbers, a Web address, or other strange or out-of-place items
  • The paper just doesn’t match the assignment closely enough
    • The approach to the topic differs from the one assigned in class
    • The assigned topic is addressed only peripherally and may not fit with the rest of the paper
    • Ask the student to clarify his treatment of the topic and have him explain several paragraphs to check his understanding of what he has written
  • A quotation or a reference cited in the paper doesn’t “sound right”
    • Finish grading all papers before you turn any back.. The actual source may turn up in another paper
    • Ask the student to explain the quotation or reference, what it means to her, how it supports the topic, and where she located the source
    • Check that all citations in the paper actually are listed in the bibliography
  • The bibliography is suspicious (too long; few references to assigned reading in the class; most of the copyrights are four or more years old; format is one that the student wouldn’t know and that was not required in class) 
    • Ask student to explain the bibliographic format and show what style sheet she used
    • Have her demonstrate the format by making new citations for 3 articles and books you provide; check that they match the suspect paper
    • Ask where each reference was located
    • Ask which print and electronic periodical indexes she used and get a copy of the index page showing the reference cited
    • Ask why there are no recent items
    • If an article seems too specialized, ask her to discuss the article
    • Ask for a finished bibliography to be turned in a week before the term paper is due so that you have time to check suspicious entries

General Principles

A special session on academic honesty was developed with the help of the librarians who helped compile and field test some of this material and with the contributions of several generous colleagues, notably Sam Powell, Carol Blessing, Becky Havens, and Greg Crow all of whom spent time thinking about this topic in order to bring a variety of ideas to the discussion floor.

Below are the seven basic points that emerged from our wide-ranging discussion. In addition there is a general description of material developed both by the CTL and the library.

1) Dishonesty is on the rise across the nation with some alarming statistics on the percentage of high school students who have cheated. This data is of importance to us because the primary factor that predicts whether a student will cheat is whether that student has cheated before.

2) Modern technology has made cheating easier with a proliferation of Internet sites offering papers for sale. Technology has also complicated our lives with palm pilots, pagers, pager watches and other small devices that can be used for text messaging or for information storage.

3) Always follow through on a dishonesty incident.  If you catch a student being dishonest, doing nothing is not only unfair to all the other students who are being honest, but it risks teaching your dishonest student that crime does pay and makes it more likely that dishonesty will occur. Assuming that dishonesty does not occur in your class will not make it disappear and may, in fact, encourage it.

4) Always follow university procedure on a dishonesty incident.  In the case of PLNU, that procedure means documenting the incident, meeting with the student, sending a report of the incident to your area dean and then on to the Provost. Following this procedure allows PLNU to intervene early in the case of repeat offenders. Remember: this is a kindness to the student, not a punishment. A habit of dishonesty may end up ruining a student’s life in ways that are far more profound than a bad grade in your class or even being expelled from PLNU. Helping students learn to be honest is investing in their lives.

5) Handle students with grace and redemption.  Students need to know that dishonesty will be dealt with seriously, but that students can re-take a class without fearing that the professor will be against them because of a past cheating incident. We should be ready to reward students when they behave responsibly. But forgiveness does not mean rescuing from consequences. If that is all that the student learns from a cheating episode, it may be a valuable lesson by itself.

6) Be wise.  Create classroom circumstances that reduce students’ opportunity for cheating. Many of these are listed in the documents put into the CTL folder. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Being very clear about your expectations in your syllabus and about consequences for cheating
  • Minimizing chances for cheating on exams by careful proctoring and by use of alternate exams
  • Remaining alert to possible plagiarism on papers and always following through with some research to discover an unauthorized source

7) Be honest. Although a professor’s behavior can never guarantee that a student will be honest, professors can not only reduce the opportunities for cheating, but also increase the expectations of integrity in a class by the integrity and fairness of their own behavior. Students will be more motivated to behave responsibly for a professor who himself or herself behaves with integrity, treats students respectfully and handles all classroom matters fairly, always keeping the good of the students in mind. It is hard to combine the vigilance necessary to be wise in managing your class with the trust needed to establish a supportive, collegial atmosphere. But honest students are as upset by the dishonesty of their peers as we are and learning to be alert yet warm will only serve, in the long run, to make your class a safer place to be for all.

Materials on Academic Dishonesty

1) In the file named Common Forms of Academic Dishonesty is a list of the ways that students most often attempt to cheat or plagiarize.

2) In the file named Dishonesty On Exams is a list of suggestions about how to detect or prevent cheating on exams.

3) In the file named How to Detect Plagiarism is a list of suggestions about how to detect or prevent plagiarism.

4) In the file named Resources for Finding the Source of Plagiarism is a list of varied Internet resources available to deal with plagiarism. These sources include the following:

  • Web sites that define the problem and that offer links to sites offering up-to-date solutions.
  • A few sites with good honor codes and academic integrity statements.
  • A short list of some of the best prevention and detection resources and software available on the web.
  • The best search engines for detection of plagiarism.
  • A brief selection of the most frequently used sites for student papers, both free and paying. Often you may be able to actually do a search on this site for the paper you suspect of being other than the student’s work.

5) In the file named Student Survey on Dishonesty are forms that you are free to download and adapt to your own use. The forms are as follows:

  • A survey that you can give your students to find out what actions they feel constitute academic dishonesty serious enough to merit an F in the course or the assignment. The questions here are exhaustive but you should feel free to simply edit out ones you do not wish to use.
  • A survey that you can give students on what circumstances they feel justify dishonesty. Both this survey and the previous one could be given as homework assignments and become the basis of a follow-up discussion with students. They would also help serve as detailed information on what behaviors you will consider cheating.
  • A set of questions designed to help you detail exactly what kinds of collaboration you would recommend and what kinds you would see as dishonest. Given differences between individual professors and disciplines, there is a wide variance here around campus and being very clear would help students know exactly what behaviors are recommended in each class.

All the forms in this file are designed for you to adapt for your specific needs. If you wish to download one of these files, please go to the CTL folder found in the shared faculty folder on Socrates. Download the files and edit them as you see fit.

6) In the file named Technological Tools for Dishonesty is a very brief list of some of the newer tools and what they can do. It will, of course, be out of date in an alarmingly short time, but it can give you an idea of some of what is available to students.

7) Finally, the file named Fostering Integrity lists positive things a professor can do to develop a classroom atmosphere that encourages responsible student behavior.

How to Encourage Integrity

1. Be aware of “professorial honesty” = atmosphere of trust

  • Equity of interaction
    • Impartiality in handling of students
    • Respect for all students
    • Concern for all students
    • Integrity (being consistent and truthful in explaining and administering policies propriety
  •  Equity of procedure: creation and enforcement of rules for grading, classroom administration
    • Appropriate workload for students, their level, goals
    • Fair tests (=on material of text/course, appropriate difficulty level; well-designed with clearly phrased questions; using skills worked on in class)
    • Providing prompt and constructive feedback
    • Being responsive to students (solicit feedback and respond to)
  •  Equity of outcome: distribution of grades
    • Follow institutional practices
    • Use accurate assessment instruments
    • Make multiple assessments
    • Tell students how they will be graded—and follow it
    • Base grade on individual performance unless otherwise justified and explained
    • Don’t change policies mid-course without clear reasons based on student need
  • Equity of perspective
    • Decisions should be made on what students need not what professor needs
    • Decisions should be communicated in language that students will understand
    • Treat students as ends in themselves 

2. Write a clear syllabus: items to include

  • Definition of plagiarism
  • Definition of acceptable and unacceptable collaboration
  • Explanation of potential penalties
  • Explanation of 0-tolerance policy (if you have one)
  • Explanation of detection and response process

3. Treat academic dishonesty seriously

  • Affirm the importance of academic integrity
  • Clarify expectations for originality, collaboration, attribution and
    • Do this preferably in writing, in the syllabus
  • Treat academic honesty as the student’s responsibility
  • Confront dishonesty and apply some consequences

4. Empower students to succeed through honest effort

  • Show them how to succeed in your course
  • Support where necessary

5. Help reduce pressure on students=show them how to do this

  • “Normalize” pressures that students feel
  • Discuss ways to “talk oneself down” from an anxious state

Prevention and Detection of Cheating

Form of Dishonesty: Cheating in general

  • Prevention: Proctor exam.
    • Distribute alternate forms of the exam so that no students are next to others who have the same form of the exam
    • Mark different forms of the exam by printing them on different colors so that you can easily tell if two students near each other are using the same form of the exam
  • Detection: Carefully observe test takers preferably from the back of the room so that they cannot see the proctor without turning around
    • Change position frequently while proctoring
    • Make a seating chart of the exam so that later you can check if two students with suspiciously similar exams were seated next to each other 

Form of Dishonesty: Stealing exams prior to administration.

  • Prevention: Establish strict test taking procedures.
    • Do not allow student employees to copy or type exams.
    • Store exams on computer diskettes not on hard drive and keep the diskettes locked up.
    • Shred copies spoiled during duplication.
    • Do not leave copies hanging around the office or work area or in a faculty box. o
    • Keep track of teacher’s manuals with test banks and answer keys.
    • Don’t allow students in your room unsupervised.
    • Don’t copy test from a teacher’s manual, from a school library book, or another source easily accessible to students.
    • Give essay rather than multiple-choice whenever possible.
    • Avoid tests requiring memorization of large amounts of material; students might feel more pressure to cheat on such tests.
    • Change at least some questions if you are re-using the test for another class period.
    • Always have two or more versions of a test for each class period.
    • Print tests on different color paper for different periods.
    • Change tests from year to year, semester to semester. Old ones circulate. ·
  • Detection: Number all exam copies immediately and periodically check for missing copies.

Form of Dishonesty: Using crib notes

  • Prevention: Provide blue books for students and mark them with some distinguishing mark. If students bring their own exam book, collect them, stamps them and redistribute them randomly.
    • Attach blank pages to the test if scratch paper is needed.
    • Limit student access to electronic devices such as pagers, cell phones.
    •  Be explicit about what materials students may and may not bring with them into exam.
    • Require students to leave books, coats, backpacks, and so on at the front or back of the room.
    • Require students wearing baseball caps to turn the brim to the rear.
    • Require students to turn in exam if they must leave the room.
    • Provide all scratch paper to be used.
    • Require all scratch paper to be handed in with the test, stapling each student’s scratch paper to his/her test.
    • Do not let students use blue books they have brought to class
    • Put date stamp on bluebooks you have brought so that they are only good for that day.
    • For open book exams, walk around room making sure that no unauthorized materials are being consulted.
    • Allow only materials required for the test on the desktop or near the desk.
    • Make sure no charts or cheat sheets have been posted (or left by you) up on walls or chalk board
  • Detection: Be alert for answers that look too good.
    • Watch for cheater-friendly baggy clothing
    • Be alert to strange behaviors, especially when they are repetitive

Form of Dishonesty: Copying from or exchanging information with other test takers

  • Prevention: Seat students in every other desk
    • Seat students alphabetically or by some other scheme students could not have calculated
    • Be sure to count exams accurately so that you do not give out too many
    • Hand out alternate form of exam for every other row
    • Fill out Scantron sheets in advance with name, ID number; this prevents a student taking an exam for a friend as well as for himself
    • Have students cover answers with a blank page to prevent copying
    • Remind students that you are watching if you think you have seen wandering eyes
    • Watch for body language (or auditory) signals from one student to another
    • Pay special attention to students in the back row who may be there because they think they will be unnoticed
    • Always turn finished exams face down when a student approaches your desk
    • Encourage students to use the facilities before the test begins
    • Have an orderly system for collecting tests
    • Make sure that students who return to put their name on their test don’t use the opportunity to write more information or to look at others’ tests and change their own answers ·
  • Detection: Watch for too many answers that are similar on two papers
    • Watch for a repeat on wording that is particularly unique

Reasons Students Cheat

It is important to understand what motivates students to cheat because having alternative solutions to the pressures that lead good students to be dishonest may be helpful as you work to encourage your students towards moral behavior. Below is a list of the most commonly expressed reasons for student cheating.

  1. Performance Concerns
    • Need to excel at any cost
  2. External Pressures
    • Academic
      • Semester workload too heavy
      • Others’ cheating puts me at disadvantage
      • Professor/text did not adequately explain material
      • Too many tests on one day
    • Nonacademic
      • Pressure from parents
      • Job leaves no time for study
      • Illness prevents adequate preparation
      • GPA for athletic qualification
      • Financial aid depends on GPA
      • Good grades needed for job or graduate school
  3. Unfair Professors
    • Overly harsh grading
    • Unfair tests designed to fail students
    • Unreasonable workload in course
  4. Lack of Effort 
    • Did not attend class
    • Did not study, do reading, etc.
  5. Adherence to Other Loyalties
    • Helping a friend
    • Loyalty to a group (fraternity)
  6. All’s Fair in Love & Academia 
  7. Opportunity 
    • Unexpected opportunity arose
    • Instructor left room during exam
    • Instructor wasn’t watching carefully
    • Other students didn’t cover their paper
  8. Campus Ethos
    • Others do it
    • No one ever really gets punished/caught