Tue. Mar 31st, 2020

The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Course descriptions lack detail, leave students wanting more

4 min read
By PAIGE WALTON The current quality of course descriptions is lacking. Important information such, as the potential for additional costs, is excluded and thus forces students to select classes without all of the facts.As college students verging on entering “the real world,” it is a disservice for us not to be afforded as much information as is available.


The current quality of course descriptions is lacking. Important information such, as the potential for additional costs, is excluded and thus forces students to select classes without all of the facts.As college students verging on entering “the real world,” it is a disservice for us not to be afforded as much information as is available.

Making informed decisions is an active process between the student and the information made available and when the information made available is insufficient, such decisions are forced to be made without total cognizance.

A possible solution would be for professors to submit a draft of their proposed syllabus ahead of time so that students could look over it and garner a better understanding of class expectations, possible costs, and so on.

The syllabus would be attached to the individual courses and viewed in Banner, with the understanding that the syllabus would be a draft and subject to change. Currently, there is a tab labeled “Syllabus” when you click on a course to view but there is no enforcement or encouragement for syllabi to be posted.

With the expanding reach and increased accessibility to technology, it seems posting such information on an online format would present less of an issue than expecting such changes to occur with the printed version of the Undergraduate Academic Catalog.

Dr. Leslie Martin, professor of the sociology department, says the possible benefits of including a syllabus ahead of time would be a, “helpful idea when thinking about upper level classes, seminars, and special topic courses.” She goes on to say how she would, “love to have students enroll who know what they are getting into.”

Ultimately it would be up to the student to seek out additional information on potential courses and it would be largely to their benefit to do so.

By providing a syllabus ahead of time for students to view, the frenzied activity during add/drop week would be decreased and overall satisfaction with class placement would increase.

Freshman Bryant Atkins believes that, “[students] would know what they are getting into” if a syllabus were made available ahead of time.

The courses students take can affect the career paths they pursue, the interests they cultivate and the overall satisfaction they feel. Like any important decision that has both time and money weighing in on it, students should be afforded the opportunity to seek out more information on potential courses to insure maximum understanding.

Another method of attaining a better scope of a particular course would be to reach out to the professor or professors teaching it. Dr. Jessy Ohl of the communications department “highly encourages students to contact professors with course related questions” and says that he “often has students contact [him] for advice on whether or not they will be prepared to succeed based on their previous academic experience.”

If a certain professor is not yet listed to instruct to a course, contacting the department chair or any other faculty you are familiar with in the subject could also yield the benefit of additional information. A glaring oversight in course descriptions rests in their inability to warn of potential costs associated with certain classes. In the case of several theatre classes, for example, there are large mandatory fees associated with the classes that are not explicitly stated ahead of time.

Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, Gregg Stull, said that he “would not be in favor of such language [including the possibility of an additional fee] in the Catalog” and goes on to say that “our students need to understand that the resource materials that contribute to their learning come in many forms.”

As a university that places emphasis on expanding one’s knowledge to all areas of matters, general education requirements take the form and shape through many avenues. In order to fulfill one requirement or another, a student may opt to take a theatre course over an English course, not knowing that the introductory theatre course would impose a mandatory fee of $45 due by the end of the second week.

The problem here rests not in the fee itself, rather in the void in the course description that makes no mention of even the possibility of such fees. Many college students work to put themselves through school and are on tight budgets, so having a fee thrown at them on the spot can be a daunting thing.

If course descriptions were to be expanded to even include the possibility of such fees, students would then be able to better assess which classes make the most sense for them in terms of financial necessities and general education requirements.

Follow me on Instagram

This error message is only visible to WordPress admins

Error: The account for theblueandgraypress needs to be reconnected.
Due to recent Instagram platform changes this Instagram account needs to be reconnected in order to continue updating. Reconnect on plugin Settings page

Follow me on Twitter


Enter your email address to subscribe to The Blue & Gray Press to receive the latest news at the University of Mary Washington.