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A course description needs to do several things:

  • Indicate why students might be interested in the course (even if it is required).
  • Indicate where a course fits in a curriculum (particularly if that course is required).
  • Indicate the types of work the course will demand so students can know what to expect.

Some questions to help draft a course description

Is there a thought provoking or compelling question that the class investigates? Could that question help get students get excited about your class?

  • Are there concepts, materials, or people covered in the course that they are already familiar with (or perhaps have heard of and want to know more)?
  • Is there course content that they might want to think a bit more about?
  • Is there a question about the material that is of importance now?

What will students get from the class? (Try to express this in ways that are relevant to your students.)

  • Will they learn something they don't already know and are curious about?
  • Will they find out more about a topic they are unfamiliar with and if so what difference will that make?
  • Will they learn new skills? Or will they solidify skills they already have?
  • How might reading and thinking about this topic change how they understand the world? How has it changed your thinking as well?

Students appreciate descriptions that avoid using terms that they haven't learned (yet). They expect to learn terminology and jargon that are part of the field, but those terms can be confusing and off putting before they take the class.