Your course syllabus is your roadmap! Each course syllabus contains valuable information that can contribute greatly to your success in each course as an online student. Make sure your syllabi are easy to access throughout the time you are taking the course. Whether that means printing paper copies for your desk or downloading PDFs onto your computer and placing them in a separate file, make sure you maintain an organization system that is convenient for you.

Below are some tips for reading and identifying helpful information in each section of your syllabus:

Professor Contact Information

Each course syllabus should contain the name of your professor, his or her contact information and course number information. This is important to know in case you need to contact your professor for any reason.

Class Description and Course Materials

The class description is essentially a summary of the course. It gives you valuable information about the content covered in the course. In this description, there is also a section that lists the materials and textbooks you need for the class. For example, a math class might require a calculator that can perform certain functions.


Courses will usually grade on a point system from 0 to 100. Each course will have different ranges for which point value is equivalent to which letter grade. For example, one course syllabus may say that 95–100 equals an A. The syllabus will explain how many points each assignment is worth. Note that some professors weigh certain assignments or exams higher than others so they affect your grade (e.g. tests are weighed 40%, quizzes are weighed 25%). If any of this information on grading is unclear, don’t hesitate to reach out to your professor.

Late Policy

Late policies are also important to note. Professors all have different policies. For example, one professor may deduct 10% from your assignment grade for every day or week an assignment is late. Other professors may not accept late work at all.


Your syllabus will contain descriptions of all assignments, as well as rubrics that show how each assignment will be scored. Make sure to take stock of your assignments well in advance of their due date, and ask your professor if any assignments are unclear. Do some assignments, projects or papers require lots of planning or research? Take note of that, too.

Calendar Due Dates

Each syllabus has a chart of due dates for assignments – this might be the most important tool in your syllabus! It can be helpful to mark all due dates on a calendar so that you have an overview of your semester workload. Hopefully, this will give you an idea of when to start assignments and it will prevent assignments from sneaking up on you.

Written by Cristal Vazquez Carrillo, success coach for Online and Graduate Student Success.