Make course descriptions more detailed

Logan Green, Columnist

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the August 2 flipbook.

While registration can be a nerve-racking time, it can be exciting for many students to browse the course schedule and plan out their next semester. UT currently offers a lot of choice, freedom and flexibility in choosing courses to fulfill degree requirements. 

However, most course descriptions contain only one to two sentences, which can be a hindrance for students deciding which courses to register for. These course descriptions are often too general, neglecting to account for information about specific curriculum and grading policies.

Psychology junior Naomi Economou has encountered issues with course descriptions when registering for classes.

“I wanted to take this psychology class called Psychology of Music, and it sounded very interesting,” Economou said. “But because there was a lack of a description, I really didn’t know  … how are we tying this in with psychology?”

Because of the lack of a description, she met with her academic advisor to get more information about the class.

“My advisor …  actually told me that a lot of students end up having a lot of issues with the class because it’s very physics dense, which is not something you’d expect from a psychology class,” Economou said. “I was glad that I got that information, but a more detailed (course) description would have eliminated that problem.” 

Many students like Economou seek out different resources when course descriptions are limited  — such as academic advisors, past syllabi and department websites. However, for new or rarely offered courses, seeking out these resources may not be an option since new classes will not have any previous syllabi, and classes offered sometimes contain outdated information.  

Even having detailed course descriptions for frequently offered classes would be helpful as it could ensure that students can find all the basic information they need in one place, rather than having students search through different sources to find missing information. A detailed course schedule would also make sure that the information is accurate and up-to-date for all classes, whether these are newly or frequently offered classes.

According to Kathleen Harrison, assistant director of University marketing and communications, UT may not have enough initial information to create such a detailed course description at the time of the course schedule’s posting.

“Information about curriculum and assessment come from the instructor through the instructor’s syllabus,” Harrison said in an email. “Those details may not be available in the course schedule because instructors may not be assigned yet to a particular course.”

However, many classes already are assigned to a professor when the course schedule is first posted. For classes assigned with one, professors should work to provide certain specificities to students. It is likely that professors know the content they will cover, as well as some ideas about their grading policies. 

Moving forward, the registrar and individual professors should work together to create course descriptions that outline, explain and give context to topics discussed in the class instead of giving a general two-sentence description briefly naming main focuses of the class. Additionally, information about assessment and assignment types should be explained as many students have different preferences for how their learning is evaluated.

Detailed information about curriculum and grading will ultimately help students make informed decisions about their academic careers. Whether a student is looking for a class that interests them, challenges them or allows them to learn something new, they deserve to have accurate and representative information before choosing to register for a class.

Green is a government and social work sophomore from Cedar Park, Texas.