Course Director's Guide

Main Content

Course Management

Course Syllabi

The course syllabus defines the content of the course within the curriculum of the School of Medicine. It is a document of reference for accrediting body review and is actively supervised by the Curriculum Committee through the Office of Medical Education. Course syllabi should conform to the template developed by the Office of Medical Education and approved by the Curriculum Committee.

  • A syllabus must be submitted to the Curriculum Advisory Council when significant modifications are made in the management, grading mechanism, or designation of mandatory sessions in an existing course.
  • Syllabi will be requested by the Office of Medical Education annually and may be requested by a School of Medicine committee or other institutional offices at any time.

Standardized Examinations

  • An external measure of student achievement is essential for all foundational science core courses and the six (6) core clerkships in the M3 year. Usually, this is the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) customized examination (for foundational sciences courses) or subject examination (for clinical clerkships). The examination's contribution to the final course grade and the consequence of failing the examination must be identified in the syllabus.
  • The Curriculum Committee recommends that a subject examination comprise no more than 25% of a student's final grade.
  • In the M1 and M2 years, board scores are curved. This is accomplished by subtracting the class mean percent correct score from 83% and adding the difference to each student's score. In the clinical years, the raw equated percent correct score, without adjustment, is used to calculate the final grade.
  • In the M3 year, a student must score at or above the lower limit of the Hofstee compromise recommendation provided by the NBME.

Course Evaluation

By the Curriculum Committee

Each core course is evaluated annually by the Curriculum Committee, using a two-level review process.
A Level One review is conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of each core course taught during the first three (3) years of the educational program. During the Level One review, members of the Evaluation Subcommittee of the Curriculum Committee examine outcome metrics compiled into an Evaluation Dashboard. The metrics for preclinical courses include:

  • NBME Subject Exam Performance
  • Student of the Course evaluations,
  • Step 1 discipline/topic scores
  • Contact hours
  • Evers Society reports

The metrics for the clinical courses (or clerkships) include:

  • NBME Subject Exam Performance
  • Student of the Course evaluations
  • AAMC GQ data
  • Step 2 discipline/topic scores
  • Duty hours
  • Timeliness of formative feedback
  • Clinical encounters log
  • Evers Society reports

Results from the Level One review may yield one of the following actions:

  • No action
  • Submission of a narrative response with a performance improvement plan
  • A Level Two review by the Evaluation Subcommittee
Level Two reviews of core courses may result when one of two conditions is met:
  • Prompting by a Level One review if the course or clerkship falls outside of acceptable parameters on three
    performance standards.
  • Four (4) years have occurred since the last level 2 review.

The Level Two review is based on a set of performance standards determined by the Curriculum Committee. The metrics for the clerkships include:

  • NBME Subject Exam Performance
  • Student of the Course evaluations
  • AAMC GQ data
  • Step 2 discipline/topic scores
  • Duty hours
  • Timeliness of formative feedback
  • Clinical encounters log
  • Evers Society reports

The Level Two review involves a deep dive into student and course performance followed by the creation of a performance improvement plan for the next cycle, which will be followed up in the subsequent years by the Evaluation Subcommittee.

By Students

The Carl G. Evers, MD, Society is an independent, student-run organization whose primary function is the development, administration, and analysis of course evaluations. To obtain student perceptions of the course, end-of-course surveys are completed, and an annual summary report is provided to the course director, department chair, the Office of Medical Education, and the chair of the Evaluation Subcommittee of the Curriculum Committee.

Course directors must provide a written response addressing the issues or suggestions contained in the Evers Society report. The response is sent to the student representative who submitted the report, the Office of Medical Education, and the chair of the Evaluation Subcommittee. Responses are due no later than four (4) weeks following receipt of the report.


Canvas is the SOM learning management software, and all course materials, including the syllabus and schedule, should be published there. Additionally, all grading in the course should be documented in the Canvas grade book, and its calculations should be used for the final grade.

SOM courses are automatically added to Canvas once they are published in Workday. A training guide is available for more specific information. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced training is available through Technology Learning Central. The e-learning administrator or the instructional designer can also provide support in using this resource.

Materials to be posted to Canvas include:

  • The course syllabus should be posted in the syllabus tab. The syllabus should be posted directly as text and not as a word or PDF file. Course schedules entered into the Canvas calendar will automatically populate the schedule at the end of the syllabus.
  • Course materials for student access (e.g., small group assignment lists, videos, and presentations) should be posted in modules. Information should be available at least 24 hours before it is needed.
  • Presentations and documents for course activities pertaining to a single examination should be gathered under one (1) module. Course materials should be available to students for at least 14 days after final grades are submitted.

Quizzes and Examinations

  • The course director is responsible for the preparation and supervision of all examinations, including maintaining the security of test materials before, during, and after each examination.
  • The design of multiple-choice examination questions should follow the United States Medical Licensing Examination format. More information on this format may be found in the NBME Item-Writing Guide.
  • Online quizzes in Canvas and high-stakes examinations in ExamSoft must be scheduled so that students can complete the planned activity during the normal workweek.
  • Notice of required quizzes/tests and their periods of availability should be provided to the students at least 48 hours in advance of the scheduled examination period.
  • Canvas quizzes are automatically posted to the Canvas grade book, which can also be updated by using comma-delimited spreadsheet files enabling posting of grades from other testing methods (ExamSoft) or by the manual entry of grades.
  • The testing capabilities of Canvas can be supplemented through the use of Respondus, which can import questions typed in the required format using Microsoft Word. UMMC has a site license for Respondus and the Respondus Lock-Down Browser. The program files and installation codes are available in the E-Learning Document Center. Contact area support or the Help Desk for installation.
  • Computer-based testing using ExamSoft is the SOM's method for high-stakes proctored examinations. ExamSoft allows students to download exams and take them in a technologically secure environment using their own laptop. Faculty training in the use of ExamSoft can be arranged by the E-learning administrator.
  • Examination proctors should be mature, confident, and assertive. Individuals who are involved in or planning to be involved in examination review courses, publications, or similar programs for which a fee is charged are not permitted to serve as proctors for NBME tests. Depending upon the total number of examinees and the number of testing rooms that are used, the number of proctors required can vary. Major duties of proctors can be found in Arranging for and Administering an NBME Web-Based Examination, published by the National Board of Medical Examiners.
  • The course director and faculty have the discretion whether to allow students to request changes in the answer key for difficult examination questions. When doing so, it is recommended that courses follow the algorithm described by Dory et al. and provided at the end of this guide (Appendix A).

Student Evaluations and Grading

Student performance at UMMC is evaluated according to academic criteria, not based on opinions or conduct in matters unrelated to academic standards. A course director has authority over all matters affecting the assignment of grades. Students have protection against prejudiced or capricious academic evaluation. The method of grading should be made clear to students in the syllabus, and course directors may be required to provide the rationale for scoring or information to justify the grading rubric.

Specific information regarding evaluation and assessment of students includes:

  • Formative assessments should be provided to all students by the midpoint of the course to allow time for corrections to be made. These must be completed using the form in MedHub.
  • A narrative assessment should be provided to each student in each required course whenever teacher-student interactions permit. The narrative is a description of a student's performance, including her or his non- cognitive achievement (e.g., professionalism or communication skills).
  • Course directors are responsible for ensuring that summative evaluations, with narrative comments, are completed and a final evaluation submitted within a timely manner.

Release of Grades

  • Finals grades are released through Workday. For most courses, this should occur within the latter of thirty (30) days of the end of the course or from the receipt of national board examination grades.
  • It is prohibited to post a publicly accessible list of grades in any form, either on a board or a web page, regardless of the type of identifier utilized.
  • Medical students may appeal grades within fourteen (14) days of their posting to Workday. After that time, grades stand as recorded.

Record Keeping

  • Formal arrangements should be made for the storage of records in a secure environment that can be accessed by appropriate members of the department other than the course director if she or he should become unavailable.
  • In the M1 and M2 years, each course should submit a copy of the grades following each major examination to the Office of Medical Education as soon as they are finalized.
  • Course directors should consult with any student who receives a failing grade on any examination.
  • Test scores must be provided to students as soon as reasonably possible through ExamSoft or Canvas. Any score sheet returned to a student should be scanned and posted in the secure Canvas environment. Secure email (Outlook), one-on-one personal communication, or identity-verified departmental office release are also viable options.
  • Final grades are submitted to Workday. All grades should be thoroughly proofed by at least two individuals, one of whom should be the course director, before being submitted.
  • For most courses, final grades are to be posted within thirty (30) days of the end of the course or receipt of national test (NBME) scores. For courses ending during April and May of the academic year, final course grades are to be posted within ten (10) days of the end of the course or receipt of external exam scores.
  • All materials on which grades are based should be retained for at least six (6) months, and some materials should be retained for up to five (5) years following completion of the course/academic unit. More information can be found in the AAMC Guidelines for Maintaining Active and Permanent Individual Student Records.
  • Materials stored in Canvas are automatically archived and do not have to be duplicated.