Curriculum Management  

Elements of a Course Record

The basic information in a course record is broken into various fields and codes:

course catalog record

The elements of the course catalog record are reviewed each year before the catalog is used to generate the coming year's class schedule:

●  Subject Code
Signifies the department offering the course
  ●  Other Offering
  ●  Component
●  Catalog Number
Used with the subject code uniquely identifies the course
  ●  Title   ●  Repeatable for Credit
●  Course ID
System generated number that identifies the course in perpetuity
  ●  Description   ●  Quarters Offered
●  Career
Signifies for whom the course is intended.  UG: undergraduates; GR: graduate students; MED: exclusively or primarily for MD students
  ●  Units   ●  Instructors
●  Effective Date
Date the course record was last modified
  ●  Grading Basis      

Course Catalog Descriptions

Probably the most important part of the Course Catalog is the course descriptions. They guide students to the courses they need in Axess, but they also live on for a long time afterwards for purposes of data-mining, transfer credit, searching, and accreditation.

A course description is a short, content-filled statement which informs a student about the subject matter, approach, breadth, and applicability of the course. A description should be about 100 words maximum, providing students with what they need to know for planning their programs.  The description is not a marketing piece, nor a syllabus.

A course description appears in the Stanford Bulletin Explore Courses, Axess, and MedCatalog. Students also need to be able to tell prospective Universities and employers what the course was about in a short, content-filled way. This also dovetails with the University’s plans for an online transcript that will be linked to the course description for the rest of a student's life.

How to write a description

Below are standard phrases used in descriptions. Follow this template in the order:

  1. Start with restrictions and preferences such as "Preference to graduate students" or "Restricted to majors."

  2. State the main topic or area of the course without repeating the title. You can state a focus or emphasis using phrases such as "Focus is on" or "Emphasis is on."

  3. Use lists of topics and/or sources introduced by a phrase such as "Topics include" and/or "Sources include" and/or "Readings include" and/or "Authors include", etc.

  4. Only non-standard class activities may be mentioned such as "Field trip to" or "Guest speakers include." We assume that all classes may involve lectures, discussion, reading, studying, exams, and papers, and there is no point in mentioning them in the restricted space of a course description.

  5. You may include a URL to an active site in this fashion: "See" Do not include URLs to CourseWorks.

  6. If class size is limited, you may state either "Limited enrollment" or "Enrollment limited to 00."

  7. If a class is repeatable for credit, include "May be repeated for credit."

  8. Prerequisites must be specific and quantifiable; enthusiasm is not a prerequisite. Hence, "Prerequisites: SUBJECT 000 or SUBJECT 001, and SUBJECT 002; or consent of instructor." or "Prerequisite: background in topic."

  9. Recommended preparation is handled in this way: "Recommended: SUBJECT 000 or SUBJECT 001, and SUBJECT 002." or "Recommended: background in topic."

Specific Style Points

Unit of Credit

The unit field shows minimum and maximum units, which are most often the same.  If the number of units is variable, for example 3-4, the course description and syllabus must differentiate the work required for each of the unit values.  For example: 3 units lecture only; 4 units includes project.

Stanford University defines unit values as follows:  

Every unit for which credit is given is understood to represent approximately three hours of actual work per week for the average student.  Thus in lecture or discussion work, for 1 unit of credit, one hour per week may be allotted to the lecture or discussion and two hours for preparation or subsequent reading and study.  Where the time is wholly occupied with studio, field, or laboratory work or in the classroom work of conversation classes, three full hours per week through one quarter are expected of the student for each unit of credit; but, where such work is supplemented by systematic outside reading or experiment under the direction of the instructor, a reduction may be made in the actual studio, field, laboratory, or classroom time as seems just to the department.

Grading Basis

The grading basis is the data element of a course that controls both what type of grading students can choose and what types of grades instructors can enter. The grading basis is designated by the Course Director, taking into account the student population(s) for which the course is intended.

●  MED Medical School MD grades (+/-) only
●  MOP Medical Option (MedMD, Letter, or Credit/No Credit). +/- for MD students, option of letter grade or CR/NCR for all others.
●  MED S/NC Medical School MD grades for MD students, satisfactory/no credit for all others
●  RLT Regular Letter – letter grades only
●  ROP Regular Option – letter grades or  S/NC
●  RSN Regular Satisfactory/No Credit – S/NC grades only


Component Type: Abbreviation: Definition:   Evaluated Online:
Activity ACT A course of study devoted to participation in or performance of some form of physical activity. Knowledge associated with the proper performance of the activity is presented and discussed. Examples include physical fitness courses. May be used for graduate lecture series courses where students do little or no work. Maximum 8 ACT units count to an undergraduate degree.   No
Clerkship CLK Medical School clinical rotations   No
Colloquium COL A usually academic meeting at which specialists deliver addresses on a topic or on related topics and then answer questions relating to them.   Yes
Discussion DIS Section of a larger course, designed solely for group discussion. Discussions are typically non-credit bearing, linked to a credit bearing course, and not stand-alone courses (see seminar). Discussion sections generally contain fewer students than the course to which they are linked.   Yes
Seminar SEM A more interactive and typically smaller course forum than a lecture. Content may include student presentations and discussions based on literature, theory, problems, or research. Enrollment is generally limited to allow for greater focus on students’ critical reflection and exchange of ideas. Lecture is not the dominant pedagogical activity of the course, as in a LEC component course.   Yes
Research Seminar RES A group of advanced students studying under a professor with each student doing original research and all exchanging results through reports and discussions.   Yes
Individual Study INS Courses of an independent individual nature. Students complete individualized and often self-paced plans of study. The instructor and the student negotiate the details of the plan of study.   No
Lab Section LBS A course of study related to a laboratory (LAB) which is typically a non-credit supplement to instruction in a traditional classroom section (similar to discussions). As such, lab sections generally contain fewer students than the course to which they are linked.   No
Laboratory LAB Courses meet in a defined physical setting (i.e., laboratory) for the purpose of the application of methods and principles of a discipline.   Yes
Lecture LEC A course of study where instruction occurs in a traditional classroom setting. Lectures almost always have larger class sizes than seminar. Lecture courses may include a variety of pedagogies (discussion, class presentation) but are predominantly lecture oriented. If a course is more discussion or non-lecture dominated, then seminar (SEM) may be a more applicable course component.   Yes
Practicum PRC A course of study designed especially for the preparation of teachers and clinicians that involves the supervised practical application of previously studied theory.   Yes
Foreign Language LNG Courses typically offered by the language center with a focus on teaching a foreign language, or English as a foreign language.   Yes
SU Intro Dialogue – Sophomore IDS Introductory courses offered to second-year undergraduates allowing them to work with faculty members in intimate and focused settings.   Yes
SU Intro Seminar – Freshman ISF Introductory courses  offered to first-year undergraduates allowing them to work with faculty members in intimate and focused settings.   Yes
SU Intro Seminar – Sophomore ISS Introductory courses  offered to second-year undergraduates allowing them to work with faculty members in intimate and focused settings.   Yes
Sophomore College Seminar SCS Introductory courses offered to second-year undergraduates allowing them to work with faculty members in intimate and focused settings, introducing them to a variety and richness of academic topics, methods, and issues which lie at the core of particular disciplines. Offered prior to the beginning of Autumn Quarter.   No
Thesis/Dissertation T/D Coursework related directly to dissertation or thesis.   No
Workshop WKS A usually brief intensive educational program for a relatively small group of people that focuses on techniques and skills in a particular field. This course of study provides a creative forum for a collaborative and interactive learning experience between faculty and all enrolled students.   Yes

Repeatable for Credit

Repeat a Course for Credit
When it is stated that a course can be repeated for credit, it means that a student may enroll in the course up to the "Total Completions Allowed" and for the "Total Units Allowed" as entered in Course Catalog in PeopleSoft.  For example, if a 5-unit course can be taken 3 times, 3 is entered in “Total Completions Allowed: and 15 in “Total Units Allowed.”  The default values are 99 total completions allowed and 999 total units allowed. Courses in which content varies from quarter to quarter or year to year are typically repeatable for credit, as are many activity and service learning courses.

Quarters offered

AUT Autumn
WIN Winter
SPR Spring
SUM Summer
NOTTHIS Not given this year
NOTTHISALT Not given this year, alternate years

Not given next year

*NOTNEXTALT Not given next year, alternate years
OCCASIONAL Offered occasionally

*A course so coded must also be coded with the quarter(s) it is to be offered in the current year or it won’t schedule.


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