Writing a Course Description

The primary purpose of the course description is to clarify course content.

Course Description Best Practice

Course descriptions may be utilized by many audiences including current and prospective students, prospective employers, accrediting bodies, other academic institutions, and other audiences inside and outside of EWU. Descriptions should be created to inform any reader of the content, not just a student.

All descriptions should be created in the present tense and in an active voice. All course descriptions that are not written in the present tense and in an active voice will be edited. Course descriptions are limited to 500 characters which includes spacing and punctuation.

Descriptions Should Include

  • What is taught or covered in the course, not what the student “will learn”.
  • Action words to introduce the description: explores, examines, applies, integrates, etc..
  • Alignment with the course learning outcomes.
  • Content that does not need to be changed annually.

Descriptions Should Not Include

  • The introduction of “This course”. Descriptions should start with a verb.
  • The “student(s)” is the known participant of a course and the word should be limited.
  • The entire course content, detailed descriptions can be included in the syllabus.
  • Wasted words: any words such as “Introduction to” or “Advanced study of” if they are already included in the course title.
  • Personal pronouns: “I”, “we”, “you”.
  • Extra “ands” and “these” and “that’s”.
  • Phrases such as: “Students enrolled in this course will perform…,” “Students will be introduced to…”, “This course will provide…”.
  • Clichés and jargon: “unique experience,” “today’s global society,” “the twenty-first century”
  • Other course numbers. This limits errors when courses are banked or renumbered.
  • How the course is applied to a program: “completes the required elective”. This limits errors after program changes.

Non-standard courses typically have a generic description. The title and prerequisites can be added at the section level.

Additional Description Content

Course Titles introduce the course and are a part of a course description. Long titles are limited to 100 characters including spacing, all titles over 30 characters require an additional short title with a maximum of 30 characters. All words should be spelled out in the long title and acronyms only used in rare instances.

Notes are included in the description and can include:

  • Clarifying information that is not included in the description.
  • Restrictions that may be on the course that are not built into the prerequisites.
  • Previous experience or courses that are suggested or required but not used to restrict registration.
  • Requirements that fall outside the traditional classroom experience.
  • Repeat course information.
  • Stacked course information.
  • Pass/No Credit or Pass/Fail grading.

Prerequisites are noted as registration restrictions. They can include required courses, program admission restrictions, or student class level. Note that class level and course prerequisites cannot be built on the same course in Banner with an *OR* function (example: ENGL 201 or senior standing). Co-requisite or concurrent registration information can also be included in the prerequisite.

Satisfies is used for an attribute the course satisfies (Global, Capstone, BACR, etc.).

Example of a Course Description

Provides pre-service teachers with the fundamental concepts of probability, counting, statistics, geometry and systems of measurement. Emphasis is on developing understanding through exploring and modeling using appropriate manipulatives and technology, as well as the historical evolution of concepts. Hands-on laboratory activities are incorporated. Designed for those intending to obtain elementary teaching certification.

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Mark Ward

Scott Eubanks