Writing Course Descriptions

A course description outlines to prospective students what the course is about, the topics that will be covered and why, and often details how the learning will occur through assignments, assessments and required materials. It's a preview that helps students decide if the course aligns with their interests and academic goals. 

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Best Practices in Writing a Course Description

When you write a course description, it is important to keep the following best practices in mind:

  • Clarity: Use straightforward language that accurately reflects the content and objectives of the course. 
  • Concise Wording: Keep your description concise but comprehensive. The maximum length should be around 100 words. 
  • Targeted Wording: Your course description should be focused on prospective students. What relevant information do they need to understand what your course covers?
  • Perspective: Your course description should be written from a student-learner perspective. Similar to course learning outcomes, the description should pertain to what students will be learning throughout the course and what is expected of them upon completion.
  • Language: Your course description should be written using gender-neutral terms, be written in the present tense and have an active voice. Use common terms that prospective students will understand.
    • Use generic terms when referencing software. Only use specific software names if they are the central focus of the course or if they are required for course delivery.
    • Use industry-approved technical terms and acronyms when appropriate.
  • Prerequisites: Specify the course level. List any prerequisite courses or specific knowledge expectations in the course description.
  • Engagement: Spark interest in your course by using informative and exciting language in your course description. Avoid repetition when describing course elements, but include adjectives such as “amazing,” “interesting” or “fantastic.”

Example Course Description


A course description answers the questions Why? What? and How? of the content covered in your course:
  • Why: Purpose or rationale for the course/subject area covered.
  • What: Key content/principles/topics to be learned.
  • How: Types of major learning activities and student experiences in the course.

Please note: Your course descriptions are included in the UB Course Catalog and your syllabus. You must keep your description the same across both.


The following is a breakdown of an example course description, and which statements apply to each question listed above:
"This course explores the fundamental principles of environmental sustainability, aiming to equip students with a profound understanding of the pressing ecological challenges we face today. Students will explore key concepts such as resource conservation, renewable energy, and biodiversity preservation. Additionally, the course will delve into the intersection of human activities and the environment, shedding light on sustainable practices for a harmonious coexistence. Through a combination of case studies, hands-on projects, and lively group discussions, students will actively engage with real-world environmental issues. From conducting eco-audits to participating in role-playing scenarios, this course fosters a dynamic learning environment that encourages critical thinking and practical problem-solving skills."

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