The new academic year is starting at almost 4,000 colleges and universities around the country. What will make this a special year for many faculty is offering a new course that they have developed.
Typically when you develop a new course, you are excited about exploring and teaching a new topic and sharing a great learning experience with your students. But that excitement can turn to disappointment when you find that only a few students have registered for the course, and your course is cancelled because it doesn’t have the required minimum number of students.
Let me offer some suggestions for promoting your course based on my own experience in creating new courses and from my experience serving on the University of Florida’s General Education Committee and the College of Journalism and Communications Curriculum Committee.
Don’t count on the course to draw students without your active involvement in promoting the course. Even if you have developed a great course, the first time you offer a course, you are likely to have some difficulty attracting students.
Your new course probably isn’t listed in the university’s catalog and may not be included in your college’s advising materials. So students may not be aware of the course.
Even if they learn about your course, the course is competing with the established courses in the curriculum that students are familiar. Your new course is an unknown.
Develop written descriptions to use in promoting the course – from a one-page flyer to a tweet.
Provide specifics about the course that would appeal to the students. List course objectives, assignments, etc. In addition to the course title and number, include the course meeting time so students will know if the course will fit into their class and work schedules. Explain how the course fits into the major or minor – or why it is a great elective. Include a brief bio of you, and explain how students can obtain more information about the course.
Create a flyer that you can post, distribute and email. Make copies of the flyer to post and distribute. Create a PDF of the flyer to email or link to in social media. Consider the visual appeal of your flyer.
Ask your department chair to send an email to the department’s listserv for students to make them aware of the course. Your department chair will be sending information to the students about drop/add and can include your course as an option.
Use social media to help in your recruitment. Post a promotion on the department’s Facebook page and Twitter account and use your own social media…maybe even record a TikTok.
Talk with academic advisers in your college to make sure they are aware of your new course and ask for their help in promoting the course. Also talk with the academic advisers in other colleges to encourage their students to take your course to fulfill a requirement for a minor or an elective.
The drop/add time period is a crucial time to recruit students for your course. Students are making changes to their schedules. New students will be creating their schedules.
Contact former students of yours and encourage them to take the course. As you know these students, you can explain how the course ties to their career goals or interests.
Send the course description to colleagues and advisers of relevant professional and academic organizations. Ask them to forward the flyer to individual students or student groups. You also can ask them to send you recommendations of students you could contact to invite them to take your course.
Check the roster of the students who are enrolled in for the course and email them to help recruit students for the course. Students registered for the course will know classmates who might be interested in taking your course.
If your course is an upper division undergraduate course, you could talk with the director of graduate studies or dean about the possibility of cross-listing the course as a graduate class. Including undergraduate and graduate students in the same course requires some course management issues, such as designing additional (or alternative) assignments that justify the course awarding graduate credit.
If the school term is about to begin, you won’t have time to try all of these recruitment strategies. Select the ones that seem like the best options for you and your course.
Best wishes in recruiting the students you need so that you can teach your new course!