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Course Outline Guide

Below, you will find information on preparing a course outline in keeping with current McGill policy.

Course Outline Brief Guide - Printable Version [.pdf]


Course outlines are intended to provide students with an overall plan for a course to enable them to function efficiently and effectively in the course. A course outline can be divided into seven sections:

In the following sections, items in bold print are required to be included in written course outlines, which must be provided to students during the first week of classes according to the McGill Charter of Students' Rights (Chapter One, Article 10.2 - amended by McGill Senate 21 January 2009 - of the Handbook on Student Rights and Responsibilities, available here)

General information

  • Number and title of course, number of credits;
  • Name and title of the Instructor;
  • Day, place and time of regular classes;
  • Prerequisites - particular courses, specific knowledge or skills a student should know before beginning the course (e.g., use of the computer, ability to read architectural plans, etc.);
  • Access to the instructor - office hours for students, office location and telephone number for office appointments - Other contact information may be provided, such as email and similar information for teaching assistants where applicable.
  • Calendar course description.

McGill Policy Statements

The following two statements must be included in all course outlines, in keeping with various Senate resolutions:

  1. "McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore, all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (see www.mcgill.ca/students/srr/honest/ for more information).(approved by Senate on 29 January 2003)

    The FRENCH TRANSLATION of the Academic Integrity statement may also be used on your course outline:
    "L'université McGill attache une haute importance à l’honnêteté académique. Il incombe par conséquent à tous les étudiants de comprendre ce que l'on entend par tricherie, plagiat et autres infractions académiques, ainsi que les conséquences que peuvent avoir de telles actions, selon le Code de conduite de l'étudiant et des procédures disciplinaires (pour de plus amples renseignements, veuillez consulter le site www.mcgill.ca/students/srr/honest/)."

  2. “In accord with McGill University’s Charter of Students’ Rights, students in this course have the right to submit in English or in French any written work that is to be graded.” (approved by Senate on 21 January 2009 - see also the section in this document on Assignments and evaluation.)

    The FRENCH TRANSLATION about this right may also be used on your course outlines:
    "Conformément à  la Charte des droits de l’étudiant de l’Université McGill, chaque étudiant a le droit de soumettre en français ou en anglais tout travail écrit devant être noté (sauf dans le cas des cours dont l’un des objets est la maîtrise d’une langue)."

If you intend to use Text-matching software, you must follow the guideline below as well:

Use of Text-matching software: You must inform students in writing before the end of the add/drop period of your intention to use text-matching software. The Policy on Text-matching Software provides details on required statements and appropriate implementation. To use the software, please contact itsupport [at] mcgill [dot] ca

You may also wish to include statements such as the following:

  • “The University Student Assessment Policy exists to ensure fair and equitable academic assessment for all students and to protect students from excessive workloads. All students and instructors are encouraged to review this Policy, which addresses multiple aspects and methods of student assessment, e.g. the timing of evaluation due dates and weighting of final examinations.”
  • © Instructor generated course materials (e.g., handouts, notes, summaries, exam questions, etc.) are protected by law and may not be copied or distributed in any form or in any medium without explicit permission of the instructor.  Note that infringements of copyright can be subject to follow up by the University under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures.
  • "As the instructor of this course I endeavor to provide an inclusive learning environment. However, if you  experience barriers to learning in this course, do not hesitate to discuss them with me and the Office for Students with Disabilities, 514-398-6009."
  • Guidelines for the use of mobile computing and communications (MC2) devices in classes at McGill have been approved by the APC. Consult the guidelines for a range of sample wording that may be used or adapted by instructors on their course outlines.
  • "End-of-course evaluations are one of the ways that McGill works towards maintaining and improving the quality of courses and the student’s learning experience. You will be notified by e-mail when the evaluations are available on Mercury, the online course evaluation system. Please note that a minimum number of responses must be received for results to be available to students."
  • "McGill has policies on sustainability, paper use and other initiatives to promote a culture of sustainability at McGill." (See the Office of Sustainability.)
  • In keeping with McGill's preparedness planning strategies with respect to potential pandemic or other concerns, the Administration suggests that all course outlines contain the statement: "In the event of extraordinary circumstances beyond the University’s control, the content and/or evaluation scheme in this course is subject to change."
  • "Additional policies governing academic issues which affect students can be found in the McGill Charter of Students' Rights" (The Handbook on Student Rights and Reponsibilities is available here).

Learning outcomes

  • Course goals or objectives; clear statements of the knowledge, competencies or skills you expect students to have acquired by the end of the course (e.g., "By the end of this course students should be able to synthesize information from...." or "make predictions" or "solve problems" etc.).

Course content

  • A description of the topics to be addressed in the course.
  • A concept map or graphic representation of the content of the course.
  • The rationale for the sequence of the course, especially if there is not an assigned text in chapter sequence (e.g., an historical approach with topics arranged chronologically, a progression from simple to more complex procedures or concepts, or a series of theoretical principles followed by applications).
  • If appropriate, explain what the course is not about or what topics will not be covered.

Instructional method

  • Provide a brief description of instructional approaches that will be used during the course (e.g., lectures, seminars, laboratory or clinical activities, group projects, etc.).
  • All instructors are strongly encouraged to conduct mid-course evaluations. See here for detailed information. Advising students of mid-course evaluations ahead of time will likely lead to more constructive feedback.

Course materials

  • Specific information should be provided about required texts, including title, author(s), edition number and where they can be purchased or borrowed.
  • Additional materials should be noted if they are part of the required reading. (It should be clear what is required reading as opposed to suggested reading).
  • Recommended readings should also be listed. It is helpful to the students to indicate the relationship of each reading to a particular topic in the course. This can be accomplished by grouping readings according to topic and/or class session.
  • The Library provides access to course materials, both print and online in its Course Reserves system. The Library puts course reserve materials on short-term loan at the branch libraries, while also linking to online materials (both e-books and e-journal articles.) Course Packs are made available at the library branches, along with print and online links for the materials listed in these Course Packs. Please share your lists of course materials with your Liaison Librarian. You can work with your Liaison Librarian to create links to the library’s Course Reserves and online resources in myCourses.
  • Any other requirements should be mentioned.

Assignments and evaluation

The description of how learning will be evaluated provides guidelines for students to structure and pace their study and to gauge their progress. Providing explicit information about assignments and grading procedures will allay student anxiety or prevent phone calls, e-mails and visits from students questioning their mark after the course is finished. Once the course is finished, it is difficult to set up consistent standards and the result can be confusion and perceived injustice. When planning your examinations and assignments, make sure to consult the University Student Assessment Policy. The following issues should be addressed:

  • A description of the means of evaluation to be used in the course.
    • A clear statement of what percentage of the final grade each assignment and exam will represent.
    • The criteria and procedures for arriving at each contributing score.
    • The consequences of a delayed presentation or late paper. Are extensions possible? What are acceptable circumstances for a delay? Are there penalties?
    • The topic or name of each assignment. Explicit information about assignments (e.g., length, breadth) can also be provided as part of the course outline, but this may be more easily provided later in the course, as assignments are presented.
    • Some instructors prefer to hand out a description sheet for assignments before each is due, responding to any questions at that time.
  • Refer to policies on Academic Integrity and the Right to submit in English and French.
  • If applicable, refer to the policy on Text-Matching Software

Further information

Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) is available to assist individual professors, departments and faculties with various aspects of curriculum and course design, and the teaching and learning process. Please contact TLS at tls [at] mcgill [dot] ca or 514-398-6648 for further information about our services or browse the rest of our website.