To accomplish all of the ends simultaneiously requires a good deal of thought and a certain amount of finesse.
Describe what the course covers, why the subject is interesting, or useful, and how it fits into the curriculum. Be sure to mention whether the course fulfills any requirements, and whom it is appropriate for, to help shoppers evaluate whether your course is what they need.
What should students expect to know and be able to do upon completing the course? State learning objectives in concrete terms whenever possible. Use action verbs such as analyze, explain, identify, apply, critically evaluate, demonstrate. In addition, you may wish to tie it all together with an overarching goal, which may be stated in more abstract terms: introduce, provide an in-depth understanding, etc.
Students will want to know how you plan to teach the course. Will you primarily lecture? Will there be independent or group projects? Discussion? Will students have any responsibility for choosing their own areas of emphasis? What do you consider the roles of student and instructor?
Indicate whether they are required or optional, and where they may be purchased.
Clearly spell out
what will students have to complete in order to pass the class.
Many instructors like to frame this as a positive statement, such as In order to be successful in this course, students will. . . . List exams, quizzes, written work, projectsalong with the relative weight each will carry in computing final grades, and an indication of your grading philosophy.
Attendance, late assignments, participation, rescheduling exams, etc.
You may wish to include a complete description of each major assignment here, or indicate that this will be provided at some later date. When spelling out assignments, remember to specify the criteria on which they will be evaluated.
Minimally, this should include what topics will be covered for each week of the quarter, with readings and other assignments. Although you will probably want to include a statement allowing yourself a little wiggle room, aim for as much detail as possible in the calendar. This enables students to plan ahead, and will save you having to constantly field questions from students who werent in class or for some other reason didnt get the assignment. This schedule also serves to convey the conceptual structure of the course.
Including this accomplishes three things: it communicates your expectations for student effort; it encourages students to plan their time; it allows students to find another class if they wont be able to manage the work load in this one. Be realistic: dont either underestimate in the hope of attracting students, or overestimate in the hope of weeding out slackers.
Be sure to include this information about any TAs or course assistants, as well.
Youll want to know about any necessary accommodations as early as possible, to allow you time to work with the Disability Resource Center.
Communicate the universitys values and policies regarding academic integrity, as well as any discipline-specific resources or expectations.
You may wish to include items such as a glossary, bibliography, list of useful web sites, information about available academic support.