Master Course Description Guidelines (MCDs)

Approved by the Undergraduate Studies Committee


Courses are described in three ways. The Catalog description is a succinct three or four line listing of course topics and prerequisites in a form dictated by the University Catalog. A set of lecture notes is the most detailed form of course description. Intermediate is the Master Course Description (MCD), a one or two page listing of significant course information. The MCD has in the past been referred to as an "ABET sheet" and also as a Master Course Syllabus.

The purposes of the Master Course Description are to provide documentary evidence that the course addresses certain Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) requirements, and to provide course information to students and to instructors which expands on the catalog description, yet is compact enough to be rapidly perused.

Preparing and revising the MCD is the responsibility of the assigned course coordinator, or of the appropriate curriculum group chair, if no course coordinator has been appointed, or of the Undergraduate Studies Committee chair if the course does not fall under a particular curriculum group and no course coordinator is appointed. The MCD should be updated whenever a course is reviewed and improved.

All MCDs must be updated prior to our practice ABET visit in the Spring of 2000.

The MCDs are posted on the EE department Web site. The posted version is the official version. It may also be possible to link the MCD as the Instructor Course Description from the electronic version of the University Course Catalog.

For the benefit of students and instructors as well as ABET visitors, MCDs should conform as much as may be practicable to a common format in appearance and contents. Example MCDs are attached. They should be prepared in HTML format. Final formatting for appearance will be done by Department staff. The following are suggested guidelines for the contents of different MCD sections:

The document title should be Master Course Description.

No: Enter the course number, e.g. EE 455.

Title: Enter the course title as given in the catalog.

Credits: Enter the course credits as given in the catalog.

UW Course Catalog Description: Problems arise when the catalog description is changed in the catalog, but not in the MCD. Therefore, this will simply be a link to the on line Catalog description. When preparing the MCD, type UW Course Catalog Description. The link to the catalog will be added when the MCD is installed on the Department Web site.

Coordinator: Enter the name and professorial title of the current course coordinator, e.g. Richard D. Christie, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering.

Goals: This should be a short statement of the high level goals of the course. It should be consistent with those portions of department objectives and outcomes that the course addresses. Department objectives for the undergraduate program can be found in the Continuous Improvement Program document posted on the Info for Undergrads link of the department web site. Department outcomes are also in the Continuous Improvement Program. Course-specific outcomes are in the Continuous Improvement Program Document.

Learning Objectives: This section should contain learning objectives describing abilities the students will have at the conclusion of the course. 7-9 objectives are typical. A suggested format is:

At the end of the course, the student will be able to:

1. Calculate fault currents for simple circuits with paper and pencil.

2. Write computer programs that can calculate fault currents for larger power systems.


Note how each objective starts with a verb, and is clearly testable. Bad words to use in a learning objective are: know… learn… appreciate… understand…. Good words are: calculate, estimate, solve, derive, describe, compare, sketch, explain, paraphrase, identify, choose, list, predict, plan, order, outline, construct, design…

References for objective writing include:

Felder and Brent, Effective Teaching Workshop Notes, 1995, copies available from Rich Christie

Mager, R.F. Preparing Instructional Objectives, Fearon Publishers, 1962.

Textbook: Enter the current course text.

Reference Texts: Enter additional texts or other references that the students may wish to consult.

Prerequisites by Topic: Enter a word description of up to five topics students must know in order to take the course. Note that prerequisites by course are listed in the Catalog entry and should not be repeated here.

Topics: Enter the topics the course covers in the order covered. Give the topic name, the approximate amount of class time, in weeks, and the associated textbook reference.

Course Structure: Describe the meeting arrangements, homework, quiz, exam, programming and project expectations, and any activities outside of the classroom.

Computer Resources: Describe how students can obtain the hardware and software resources needed for the course.

Laboratory Resources: Describe how students can obtain the laboratory resources needed for the course. For example, purchase of lab kits, time spent in the lab, policy for lab access outside scheduled hours, project storage, etc.

Grading: Describe how the course is typically graded. Include a percentage weighting of grade components.

Outcome Coverage: (new) The department has adopted a set of expected outcomes, representing abilities and attitudes we want undergraduate students to have on completion of their degree. These outcomes include ABET EC 2000 outcomes (a) to (k) and the associated Electrical Engineering outcomes. All EE courses are expected to address at least one of these outcomes, and may be required to address a number of them. For each outcome addressed in the course, this section must contain a one paragraph discussion of how the outcome is addressed, and the extent to which it is addressed. In general, the paragraph should describe the amount of instructional effort specifically aimed at the outcome, the student work associated with the outcome, and the component of the course grade specifically related to the outcome.

For example, suppose the course addresses outcome (g), an ability to communicate effectively, by requiring students to write extensive laboratory reports. The paragraph might say:

(g) Ability to communicate effectively. Students received one hour of lecture and written guidelines on proper format and writing style for laboratory reports. For each of the five experiments, each student is required to write a five to seven page laboratory report in the required format. The laboratory reports are separately graded for writing style and technical content. The writing style is graded by a teaching assistant from Technical Communication. Before each experiment, good and bad writing found in the previous experiment is discussed by the class. Writing style is typically 30% of the laboratory grade.

Preparer: Your name.

Last Revised: Enter the date of revision of the Master Course Description.