CCI publishes an unofficial course guide after catalogs become digital

Nicole Stempak

Few people bought the $10 abstracts from bookstores

The College of Communication and Information decided to publish and sell undergraduate course descriptions following the Provost’s Office announcement that course catalogs would no longer be printed.

“Those of us in CCI heard other faculty and administrators saying they wish they still had the paper catalog,” said LuEtt Hanson, associate dean for the College of Communication and Information. “We heard enough that we thought we could market this.”

Hanson approached the Provost’s Office with an idea: The college wanted to print and sell the undergraduate catalog at bookstores.

The Provost’s Office is responsible for all academic curricula and publishing the catalogs with course descriptions and program requirements. The office had been talking about making the catalogs only available online in HTML since 2007 and set a goal for Fall 2009, said Therese Tillett, director of curriculum services. Tillett said the catalog was previously available in PDF format online and on CD-ROM.

Tillett said many universities sell printed versions of their academic catalogs.

“If they want something at their fingertips, a book, that is mainly, like I said, course descriptions and policies, then they can go to the bookstores and buy it,” Tillett said. “I do know that certain academic units have bought them in bulk.”

The Provost’s Office gave the college the OK but stipulated the book be called an unofficial catalog abstract. Hanson explained it’s an unofficial version because it isn’t printed directly by the Provost’s Office, though they used the office’s PDF copies of course descriptions. It is considered an abstract because it does not include program requirements or semester-by-semester course plans.

Hanson said CCI printed between 1,500 – 2,000 copies of the abstract. Abstracts are $10 and are available at University Bookstore and DuBois Bookstore.

But she estimated the office has not yet sold enough to pay the printing costs and projected they will take a loss of a few thousand dollars.

“We were hoping to make a slight profit, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen,” she said, adding, “I’m glad we tried it as an experiment.”

One reason for low sales is the information is already available for free online.

Still, Hanson said she thought it would be a helpful tool for advisers because having the catalog online slows down the advising process.

Becky Gares, coordinator of advising for the Honors College, said the college uses the online version from the Provost’s Office, but she wishes a hard copy still existed.

“The opinion of the Honors College staff is that we do wish we still had a paper copy for advising,” Gares said. “It really makes the advising process impersonal when you’re constantly having to be on the computer (looking things up). We would prefer to have the paper catalog as an advising tool.”

DuBois Bookstore ordered 300 copies and has sold 94, though it has not sold any since the beginning of the semester. The University Bookstore ordered 400 copies and has sold 371 abstracts throughout the semester.

Hanson said the college does not plan to publish the catalog again next year because there’s “no sense losing money again next year.”

Remaining copies of the abstracts are stacked in boxes in a corner cubicle of the CCI’s office in Moulton Hall. Hanson said she is not sure what they will do with them.

Contact enterprise reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected].