The Office of Faculty Development

Design an engaging syllabus - Liquid syllabus

A "liquid" or "fluid" syllabus, a concept coined by Michelle Pacasky-Brock(opens in new window), is a concise online version of the syllabus that can be easily accessed with a single click, in contrast to being buried within a Learning Management System (LMS). Its primary purpose is to infuse a humanizing element into our courses, demonstrating our genuine concern for the well-being of students and our dedication to being active partners in their learning journey prior to classes start. It also conveys that all students are valued members of the learning community. The liquid syllabus provides an excellent opportunity to warmly welcome students to the course, creating a positive initial impression and clearly outline learning agreements that specify what students can expect from their instructor and what is expected of them. Additionally, it offers guidance on how students can excel in the course, including what they should do in the first week of classes and how to do it, which can potentially reduce the number of inquiries during the initial week. This syllabus format typically takes the form of a publicly accessible, mobile-friendly website that opens instantly and displays well on smartphones, uses affirming language and invites belonging. In this guide, we will provide you with insights that will help you to create a liquid syllabus for your course.


    Pacansky-Brock, M., Smedshammer, M., & Vincent-Layton, K. (2023). In search of belonging online: Achieving equity through transformative professional development. Journal of Educational Research and Practice, 12, 39–64. in new window)

    Pacansky-Brock, M. (2021). The liquid syllabus: An anti-racist teaching element. Colleague 2 Colleague Magazine, 1(15)

    Pacansky-Brock, M., Smedshammer, M., & Vincent-Layton, K. (2020). Humanizing online teaching to equitize higher education. Current Issues in Education, 21(2). in new window)

    Taylor, S. D., Veri, J. J., Eliason, J., Hermoso, J. C. R., Bolter, N. D., Van Olphen, J. E. (2019). The social justice syllabus design tool: A first step in doing social justice pedagogy. Journal Committed to Social Change on Race and Ethnicity, 5(2). in new window).


    Ready to apply Liquid syllabus to your teaching? Here are some ideas and strategies to get you started:

    The first step is to determine if the liquid syllabus will either replace or supplement a formal syllabus. Then you will have to pick a platform (google pages, sway) and a template. It is important that the page reflects you and uses equity-minded language.

    Pacansky-Brock(opens in new window) suggests that minimally you should include:

    1. A brief welcome video (2-3 min)
    2. A “how this course works” section explaining course organization and goals
    3. Your teaching philosophy conveying high expectations and how you will support their learning
    4. A learning pact expressing expectations from both sides
    5. A “how to get your questions answered” section tacking communication
    6. A “how to get into your course” section with links to Canvas, for example

    Other suggestions include: materials, grading, schedule, resources, policies, etc.