About College Course Descriptions

I just spent the last hour registering for courses at IUPUI for the spring semester. It was worse than doing my taxes. It’s the most awful experience ever created. I’d rather shove rusty wooden spoons into my eyes than deal with finding course descriptions, figuring out when classes are offered, who teaches the courses and what I’ll actually be doing. It’s really, really bad. Really, god awful, bad.

The process starts when I reach for my course schedule to figure out how many credits are left (too many) and what classes I still need to take. For me, as an Informatics student, I’m given a lot of different computer-related options.

So, I decide to lookup up this 400-level class called “Multimedia Project Development”. The course description reads:

This course will focus on total project design and development of interactive multimedia applications. Topics to be covered include system design and development, selection of appropriate hardware and software platforms, use of productivity tools, project management, dynamics of team-based project development, cost analysis, prototyping, pilot testing, and other evaluation/usability techniques to ensure product quality. Students will work in teams to develop large-scale projects.

Luckily, I worked for the government for nearly four years and I can cut past the bullshit. Allow me to translate (follow along with the above passage for even more fun):

This course will focus on a website. We’ll talk about ¬†our server, the Dell you will be using, Windows and we’ll make the website in Adobe Dreamweaver using HTML 4. We’ll also figure out what our plan is as we go, whether or not we can afford it (and since this isn’t real, you know it is, otherwise it would be a really long semester) and you’ll be forced to work with nutjob whackos who can’t shave, dress themselves or turn on a washing machine. You’ll end up doing all the work, so it’ll be sorta like a regular HTML class.

I couldn’t figure out when the class was offered, or if it ever even was, so I gave up and looked up this gem called “Research in Design Methods”. Its description reads:

This course is designed to give students an understanding of the advanced concepts of theoretical topics, simulation modeling, and analysis concepts. Students will investigate applications of simulation in systems characterized by probabilistic behavior.

Translation: Read this, then write a paper.

Since I’m not really interested in wasting time writing what will end up being an historical reference piece after 3 weeks of sitting on my hard drive, I moved on. Plus, I’m more interested in being grounded in reality than theory.Then, I found this humdinger, “Online Document Development II” (I don’t see a part I):

Advanced creation, publication, and management of interactive publications for online distribution with the inclusion of emerging technologies for a media-rich experience. Topics include interactive Web site development, animations for the Web, online interactive design, document conversion, file exchanges, and digital media development for online usage

Gee, why don’t you say what you really think. I have no idea what that is supposed to mean, what I’d be doing or why. That sounds like an orgy of everything ever published on the web all merged into a giant, unruly PDF document.

So, to every college and university in the country, I demand you simplify your course descriptions. For some of the supposedly smartest institutions in the nation, you people write course descriptions like you were mentally handicapped in some sort of nuclear reactor tragedy.

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