Creating a Comprehensive Course Guide for Students

Every semester, students at the University of Michigan must decide what classes they want to take and register for these classes online. Often times, students have to pick classes based solely on the name of the class without any additional information about the details of the course or its instructor. As it is, the course guide offered by the University of Michigan provides a very broad and general description of each class with no details about the course syllabus or instructor. Students may try and use outside resources such as http://www.ratemyprofessor.com to get a better idea of who will be teaching them, but these websites often contain biased and subjective reviews. As a result, many students discover that the classes they signed up for were nothing like what they had imagined and are forced to drop these classes from their schedule after the initial registration period has ended. When this happens, it is very difficult for a student to add another class of interest to their schedule because of scheduling conflicts or the lack of available seats in a class.

At edUMize, we believe there is a simple and effective solution to this problem: consolidate all of the course information, course reviews, and instructor evaluations into one online database that is linked directly to the student registration webpage. As of right now, the resources that students need to make educated decisions about the classes they want to take certainly exist; however, they are just difficult for students to find and access. After every semester, the University of Michigan sends out evaluation forms for students to rate the quality of their courses and instructors. These evaluations tend to provide quality evaluations of classes and professors without much bias, and they would be a valuable tool for students to have when trying to schedule classes. Furthermore, every class has a syllabus that is released to the students after the students have already registered for that class. These syllabi provide a lot of insight about the structure and content that will be covered in a course, and they would be very useful for students to see before they registered for classes.

Our solution is simple: when it comes time for students to register for classes, have each instructor for every class upload the class syllabus directly to the registration website for students to see. In addition, have the course evaluations for each class and professor linked directly to the registration page as well. With all of these resources made readily available, we believe students will have much more success choosing classes, and we think this will alleviate a lot of the problems that occur when students have to drop classes in the middle of a semester.

Please post any thoughts or ideas that you have to the comments.

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About edumize

We solve educational problems. Where others educate, we edumize*! *By maximizing education, of course. View all posts by edumize

14 responses to “Creating a Comprehensive Course Guide for Students

  • seanhuff

    Integrating additional information & student feedback into the pre-existing Course Guide sounds like a great idea. One can argue that it would be nice to know which courses fulfill requirements for certain majors. Being able to organize available classes by this or other criteria, instead of simply course number, would also be helpful. Additionally, some classes are only offered once every few semesters; a course guide which includes courses that aren’t offered during the upcoming semester would be very helpful in planning future semesters & determining one’s degree progress in general. Including any of the information into the course guide, alongside a link open wolverineaccess and register, would make the process of registration much smoother. Oftentimes I find myself with three or four web pages open during registration.

    With respect to course feedback, I feel as though incorporating any sincere verbal feedback into a University site would be a delicate process. As a result, I believe that third party sites still serve their purpose. Perhaps no written comments should appear in the course guide itself, but the some of the info from surveys that teachers dispers at the end of each term should be publicized for future students to view. These surveys feature general questions, like “Was the workload for this course appropriate for the credit allotment? & “Did the course follow its syllabus?” These relatively benign questions are objective, telling students what they need to know without creating unrest among teachers (like RateMyProfessors has).

  • swimmer1992

    I think that this is a great idea. I have been enrolled in classes that sound great in the course guide, but are nothing at all like what is listed in the course guide. So this would be something I would use.

    The only question I have then would be what would you propose for classes taught by GSIs? Would you have each GSI register and change the course guide so students can also pick classes by their GSI? This would be great, but it just seems a little unrealistic because who teaches a lot of the classes at the University changes so frequently.

  • tinkerbelljacobs

    I think that this is a wonderful idea and that every University of Michigan student will benefit from this idea. From personal experience, I know that classes are not always what you expect. I am sure that had this website been available, my schedule would have been different and I probably would have enjoyed other classes more than some of the ones I am currently enrolled in. The class descriptions are extremely brief and unclear. A detailed description of the class and professor would be great!

    An issue I have with the website is how will you ensure that the evaluations are accurate? Often, students only fill out evaluations when they love a teacher or hate a teacher. Thus, there must be some way to monitor who is filling out the evaluations. Maybe there can be some sort of incentive for all students to take the evaluations.

  • annieshiu

    many prof do not have a syllabus ready and often times, prof would change the syllabus term to term according to how long it takes to finish one topic. courses that dont change their syllabus r usually require classes which the students have to take for their major even if they dont like the syllabus. prof usually provide additional info if the students email the prof ahead of time. if prof name isnt listed, then probably it hasnt been decide who teach the class thus syllabus is obviously not available

  • annieshiu

    maybe instead of providing a syllabus, creating another website where students can post comments on courses that they have taken before, similar to ratemyprofessor.com

  • swartc

    How about course videos? Preview what a lecture looks like before enrolling in the class!

  • davidkoz

    Since people who comment on a class generally have strong feelings one way or another, as you said, the university should incentivize participation for course evaluations. If everyone had to evaluate their class and this information was publicized to the student body, those interested in external recommendations would be able to get an unbiased feel for the classes in which they may show interest.

  • asilvs

    I like the idea about having more information on the course guide. I know that when I am debating between which classes to take that my deciding factors are often what assignments by final grade will be based off of, comments about the teacher and the syllabus. Psychology has been good about having teachers upload potential syllabus for their class that students can read over before signing up for classes for the following semester. One downfall is that not all teachers do this just like no all teacher choose to write a personalized class description in the course guide. Maybe incentives should be given to teacher who take their time to write these descriptions and syllabus up.

  • uofmwolverine

    I would really appreciate something like this because classes are always hard to pic. Everyone experiences anxiety concerning courses and it takes time to make these decision; therefore, this will help this process.

  • wardbr

    I think that this is a good idea. It would be much more convenient to have an evaluation of the professor right on the guide. It would allow a better insight into how the classroom works which benefits those who learn better in a certain situation. As for the problem of reliability of the evaluations, I feel like this is a problem on all sources regardless of whether it is an outside source or straight from the university. It is up to the person deciding whether to trust how others felt. Not everyone feels the same towards different professors. Overall, I feel that this would be beneficial. I don’t think that it would have any negative consequences.

  • hollymj

    I think this idea would be very helpful and I think it would be a big hit with students. I know before registering I always wonder about the teacher and more importantly about the syllabus. I think your idea of having the syllabus made available when registering is a great idea. I often am wondering if there are weekly homework assignments, essays, how many exams, etc. and this would be very important information to whether I register for a class or not. Also I know after taking numerous classes here at the university that a teacher can make or break a class and usually the general feelings towards a teacher are the same across students so having the evaluations made available I think would really allow potential students to see the overall trend of feelings about that professor.

  • susanaysw

    This is a good idea!!! however, the course evaluation is only optional to the students. I found that students usually not filled in the evaluation. The student can make this evaluation as part of the course requirement. Having the syllabus and all the class materials on ctools can help students gain some insight of the course. But sometimes we can only decide whether the course is fitted after we have the first mid-term, which is usually after the add-drop deadline.

  • teijamadhu

    I would like the idea of combining student evaluations with an accurate course description by the professor. Its important for other students to get advice from their peers, because often what the student thinks is important to know is different from what the professor may think is important. If there was a collaborative website or somewhere written where student’s backpack, students would be able to get a broader idea of what a class will be like. In student evaluations there should be a way of preventing bias like in rate my professors. If the rating system included the format of the class and difficult of the class perhaps the rating would be less skewed.

  • davidkoz

    I think that it would be helpful for professors to list the exam dates and the days that the papers are due for their particular class so that a student can plan accordingly. Say, for instance, you’re a student who has a job, volunteers as a research assistant and is taking 15 credits, wouldn’t you like to know when your assignments are due so that you can plan your work schedule(s) accordingly? The less a person has to do at once, the more attention he or she can devote to a couple/few things.

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