Technology has changed the way prospective college students discover and engage with their future institutions. From virtual tours and Zoom interviews to YouTube videos and registering for classes, the Internet gives students what they want most, options.
While programs like User Experience, Data Science, and Social Media Marketing were not around a quarter-century ago, traditional programs like Accounting, History, Biology, and Education haven’t changed much in terms of credit requirements and core curriculum. Let’s face it, course catalogs are not the most exciting reading materials, but they are valuable for students (and their families) comparing similar degree programs at various institutions. It’s time colleges and universities took the course catalog to the next level, and we have the technology to make it happen.
The goal of any course catalog is to grab prospective students’ attention and answer the age-old questions, “Why enroll here instead of there?” The more unique courses, the better. Here are a few that caught our attention:
Innovative, pop-culture-filled, outside-the-box and oddly named courses may work from certain institutions, but you won’t need to reinvent the curriculum to reimagine the course catalog.
The essential first step: Add links.
Course catalogs transformed from direct mail to digital over the past 25 years. Accepted students in the 1990’s would receive a 400+ page course catalog in the mail, and today, most institutions host their catalog on the school website. While the convenience of a digital course catalog is more attractive than a content-filled book in the mail, it does come with some extra homework. Hyperlinks must be updated consistently to ensure accurate information and relevant content. When a prospective college student decides to research their future course plan, they should be rewarded with links that work.
So, what should you include? Here are 6 ideas to enhance your digital course catalog:
Here's an example from an Ohio State University biology student:
Here's an example from the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department at Dickinson College:
Watch Emily Johnston’s Three Minute Thesis, ‘Mosquito Research: Saving lives with pantyhose and paperclips’ from the University of South Australia:
When parents ask, “What will my child do with a political science degree?” show them the Student Opportunity Overview video from the Central Intelligence Agency:
Check out Texas A&M Genetics’ GENE Faculty Highlights:
Here are sample assignments from Georgia State University’s Guide to Writing.
Don’t Forget the Search Bar.
Downloadable PDFs are the most common online format for course catalogs, but today’s college-aged generation craves immediacy. This tip may seem obvious, but the more straightforward your course catalog is to search, save, and categorize, the more engaged the readers will be. Ithaca College lists their courses A-Z in their Academic Catalog. The University of Chicago gives clear instruction on how to navigate their College Catalog. And North Carolina State allows students to find courses based on career interest on their Class Search page.
Like any traditional college document, the course catalog is a vital piece of the enrollment puzzle but requires a digital overhaul for our modern students. Remember that you don’t need to change everything all at once. With minor adjustments, your institution’s course catalog can become a part of your student recruitment strategy.