Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology

Course Description Samples

A promising syllabus does more than copy the course description from the university catalog. A promising syllabus invites students into the course with the instructor’s personal introduction. Descriptions that convey engagement and passion for the subject are especially effective.

From a Communications Course

How and why do we decide to part with our hard-earned money to own the latest electronic gadget, or decide to pass on it? Why do we choose to take up some new practices but not others? Who tends to jump in to a new product or idea sooner and who tends to wait until much later? What determines whether an innovation becomes broadly accepted or becomes a forgotten historical oddity? Do inferior innovations sometimes become successful while superior innovations fail, and why? Is it possible to influence the choices that people make about innovations? Can we distinguish between beneficial and harmful innovations, and then learn to promote adoption of beneficial innovations and to discourage adoption of harmful innovations?

In this course we will tackle these questions, which are essentially communication questions that are highly relevant to our daily lives and very possibly your career as a communication professional. As we answer them together, we will be honing your critical analysis skills as applied to innovations and developing your ability to actively shape others’ responses to innovations. Although these skills (as is true with other communication skills) could be used for self-serving or antisocial ends, our focus will be on applying them to pro-social issues. My intent is that you will leave this course with the ability to be a skilled and effective agent of change. I also hope that you will be motivated to use those skills to make the world just a bit better.


From an Education Course:

This seminar has two primary purposes.  First, it provides you with an opportunity to engage with in-depth readings of key texts related to language, literacy, and culture.  Examining works by influential theorists and researchers, we will consider such fundamental questions as:

·      How are discussions of language, literacy, and culture deeply rooted in broader social and political contexts?

·      How do issues of language, literacy, and culture relate to education?

·      How are our own perspectives about language, literacy, and culture influenced and challenged by disciplines such as anthropology, linguistics, political theory, feminism, and critical pedagogy?

·      How has the digitalization of contemporary life shaped notions of language, literacy, and culture?

Second, it seeks to provide you with the opportunity to develop your own theoretical positions on educational issues that most interest you.  To this aim, many of the course assignments (including the final essay) are designed to articulate how theory works for you.  We will spend the last three weeks of the course reading selections from other theorists and researchers we’ve become interested in through our own research, and we will share our results in oral, written and visual forms. 


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