Courses and Topics

Most course listings in the CSULB Catalog follow this general example below.

Course Listing Breakdown as described in the content to follow

The three or four-character standard abbreviation for a program or department must receive prior approval from the Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Dean of Graduate Studies four (4) weeks prior to the curriculum submission deadline (see the Curriculum Calendar).

A department/program seeking a new course prefix must first notify the Curriculum Office (, receive a custom form and submit it to their college for review/approval. Upon approval, the prefix will be included in the next curriculum cycle and will become effective the coming fall semester. There must be a single specific department under which all courses bearing the designation will be administered. If appropriate, the department can be a college office.

A workflow diagram on the creation of new course prefixes is available.

A three-digit number is assigned by the program to identify the course in the University Catalog and the online Schedule of Classes. Course numbers are assigned according to conventions within the program that demark sequences or areas of instruction and according to the definitions established below.

When there is a change to a course number, the University Catalog must show the default statement, "Not open for credit to students with credit in DEPT XXX" (the old course number). If the course is repeatable, the default statement will be, "Students with credit in DEPT XXX may only have a total of 9 units of DEPT XXX and DEPT YYY combined" (XXX represents the old course number and YYY represents the new course number).

Changes to course numbers that involve a change from one division to another, e.g., from the 200-level to the 300-level, will normally require a new course description, course outline, syllabus, and bibliography.

NOTE: Numbers cannot be reused for 5 years.

NOTE to Departments without a masters program: The Curriculum Office must forward all new graduate-level courses to the CEP Council for review when there is no master's program offered in the departments. (AS 72-2)

001-099 - special courses involving remediation and development of basic skills. Courses do not convey degree or program credit.

100-299 - lower-division courses: used primarily for General Education and introductory courses. Courses carry university baccalaureate degree and other program credit.

300-499 - upper-division courses: used for advanced and specialized instruction. Courses carry university degree and program credit.

A course may be numbered at both the 400- and 500- level if the faculty provide additional exercises or assignments for students enrolled at the 500-level and grade students differentially. See "Double-Numbered Courses" below.

500-599 - graduate-division courses at the 500-level are used for lecture/discussion, laboratory, fieldwork, and internship courses. Courses confer graduate degree credit and, by petition of a second-semester senior student, undergraduate degree, or program credit.

Fieldwork is usually standardized for an entire group, in the sense that it is directed activity where each student has a similar type of placement, even if the placements are in different settings and carried out individually or in small groups. Usually, the students are in a component where the students meet as a group to discuss their experiences with a faculty member and compare notes with each other.

Internships are typically more varied than fieldwork, with each student working in a different setting. The settings may have little in common with one another, but are fitted to the interests or needs of the individual students. The students are not necessarily at the same stage in their training. There may or may not be a group classroom component.

600-699 - graduate-division courses at the 600-level are reserved for advanced graduate level work, usually in the seminar or independent research or other activity format. Graduate degree or program credit only.

700 - used only for G.S. 700 that does not convey degree or program credit. For further information, see the University Catalog.

701-799 - doctoral courses.

Double-Numbered Courses

Certain kinds of courses may be "double-numbered" so that the course can be offered simultaneously (at the same time and place with the same instructor) for students in the lower division and upper division or for students in the upper division and in the graduate division. In all cases, the course must have the same number of units, same title, and same mode of instruction (classification). Generic courses and generic course topics may be cross-listed but may not be double-numbered. The double numbering of courses in the undergraduate curriculum is normally limited to studio and performance courses where individual instruction is given to students as a normal form of teaching. The double numbering of courses between the undergraduate and graduate levels may include the studio form of instruction and under the following set of restrictions and forms of instruction.

Upper-division courses at the 400-level and graduate courses at the 500-level may only be double numbered to capture the mode and level differential for graduate students. The courses must meet the requirements for double-numbering above. In addition, they must have different standard course outlines which demonstrate that graduate students are required to complete quantitatively and/or qualitatively more difficult assignments and that graduate students are graded differentially.

Certain numbers or parts of numbers are reserved for special purpose courses for which it has become desirable to have a common number throughout the curricula.

  • x90 - Normally reserved for generic topic courses, especially 490 and 590;
  • 492 - Normally reserved for Internships;
  • 497 - Normally reserved for directed studies courses;
  • 498 - Normally reserved for senior thesis courses;
  • 499 - Normally reserved for undergraduate "capstone" or integrative seminar courses;
  • 695 - Normally reserved for Directed Readings courses;
  • 696 - Normally reserved for Research Methods courses;
  • 697 - Normally reserved for Directed Research or Directed Studies in master's programs;
  • 698 - Reserved for thesis in "30" unit degree programs;
  • 699 - Reserved for thesis in "60" unit degree programs;
  • 700 - Reserved for G.S. 700;
  • 795 - Normally reserved for Directed Studies courses in doctoral programs;
  • 798 - Normally reserved for Dissertation.

A one- or two-letter term which indicates that the course is part of a series within the discipline or, as with special suffixes, part of a broad program like General Education or Honors.

  • "A," "B," "C" etc. - suffix indicates a series with similar formats, content, or objectives in the curriculum.
  • "H" - normally reserved campus-wide for courses in the major for Honors program credit.
  • "I" - reserved for General Education "interdisciplinary courses" approved by the President on the recommendation of the Senate.
  • "L" - normally reserved for laboratory courses.
  • "O" - normally not used to avoid confusion with "0" (zero).

Symbols and Signs

Hyphen ( - ) - between suffixes indicates a sequence of courses in the optimal enrollment sequence. Students should take the lower suffixed course first.

Comma ( , ) - between course number suffixes indicates that a student may enroll in either part of the course first.

Course Catalog Title - The course titles and Type Ill Generic Topics will appear in the University Catalog. Type II Generic Topic titles do not appear in the Catalog, but are shown in the online Schedule of Classes. Frivolous titles or titles using jargon, slang, copyrighted names, trade names, or any punctuation other than the hyphen may not be used.

Course Abbreviated Title - The 30-character (including spaces) abbreviated title is the form of the title which appears on student transcripts, in the online Schedule of Classes and the Active Course Report.

Course credit units are the "semester hour units" earned toward the degree or program by the student completing the course. In lecture, discussion, seminar and some other modes of instruction one course credit unit is earned for the 15 contact hours of instruction in a normal 15-week semester. The typical 3-unit course requires 3 contact hours per week for 15 weeks. Faculty may expect students to spend approximately 2 hours out of class for each hour in lecture/ discussion type classes. Thus a 15-unit lecture/discussion workload for a student would calculate to 15 hours in class a week plus an average of 30 hours outside class, or minimum total of 45 hours workload. The number of course credit units conferred is determined solely by the course content. Fractional units are not permitted. Certain types of courses may offer a range of units, e.g., 1-3, indicating that a student may enroll for a maximum of three units, in 1 unit increments, 1- and 2-unit increments, or all 3 at once. The subject matter for each increment is determined by a written supervised study agreement between the instructor and student. A student may repeat courses without unit ranges providing that a repetition option for the course has been approved in advance for that course (see below).

A change in course credit units or a change in classification will necessitate the development of a new course description, course outline, and new course syllabus.

An increase or decrease in course credit units requires review of any existing General Education approval.

An increase in course credit units requires review of any existing Articulation Agreements in force for the course.

A course description, with a maximum of 40 words, should be written in succinct sentences or phrases with consistency of format, especially with respect to the use of phrases or sentences. It should not contain justifications for the course, i.e., its content and methodology.

Course supplemental information lists information about grading policy, repetition, miscellaneous fees, etc. and is not included in the 40-word count for the description.

Each course requiring more than one hour of class attendance per semester unit must indicate the number of hours of required attendance e.g., "Lecture 2 hours; laboratory 3 hours." If the course does not require more than one hour of class attendance per semester unit, the mode of instruction may still be indicated in the course description (e.g., "Lecture" or "Lecture Activity" or "Seminar").

University policy provides that a student may choose to take a course for a Credit/No Credit grade instead of a traditional letter grade up to a maximum number of units per semester and a maximum grand total. However, a course may be designated "Letter grade only (A-F)" or "Credit/No Credit grading only". If so, these notices must appear in the course description in the University Catalog. The default is both grading options.

Some 300- and 400-level courses are approved for use on graduate student programs. Graduate students are graded differentially in these courses.

Report in Progress (RP)

The "RP" symbol is used in connection with courses requiring multiple enrollment, i.e., that extend beyond one academic term. It indicates that work is in progress but that assignment of a final course grade must await completion of additional work. Re-enrollment is permitted prior to assignment of a final course grade provided the cumulative units attempted do not exceed the total number applicable to the student's educational objective. Work is to be completed within one (1) calendar year immediately following the end of the term during which it was assigned except for graduate degree theses. If the "RP" symbol is not replaced by a final course grade within the specified time period or prior to the student's declared graduation date, it will be changed to a "W." An "RP" symbol cannot be replaced by an "I" (Incomplete) symbol; an "I" is not a final course grade.

Repetition Option

Some courses, especially generic topic courses, may be designated as "repeatable." The normal course credit unit limit for any one course is six (6) units, although under exceptional circumstances nine may be permitted. When a course is repeatable, the repetition option should be noted in the course description as follows: "May be repeated to a maximum of six units with different topics in different semesters.".

The Course/Supervision Classification defines course characteristics norms based on the mode of instruction and the level of instruction. A course may have more than one mode of instruction. Each such component is assigned a C/S classification number according to the type of instruction required which determines the normative class size for that kind of instruction at the level of instruction indicated, the number of contact hours required per course credit unit per week of instruction, and the weighing factor for computation of faculty workload (see Course Classifications Information).

Each course requiring more than one hour of class attendance per semester unit must indicate the number of hours of required attendance e.g., "Lecture 2 hours; laboratory 3 hours." If the course does not require more than one hour of class attendance per semester unit, the mode of instruction may still be indicated in the course description (e.g., "Lecture" or "Lecture Activity" or "Seminar").

Executive Order 740 and 919 delegates authorization for approval of all instructionally related course fees to the President and defines the types of optional instructional materials, activities and facilities for which charges are permissible.

If an instructional, miscellaneous course fee has been approved by the Course Fee Committee, Business Manager, and the President of the University, the statement, "Course fee may be required" must be published in the Catalog and the online Schedule of Classes. No other fees may be advertised or charged. All instructionally related fees must be authorized and must meet the following procedures for approval to establish, increase, decrease, suspend or abolish instructionally related course fees at CSULB:

  1. An instructionally related course fee description and approval form must be completed (see Attachment 4.7).
  2. The fee should not exceed the actual or pro rata cost of providing the specified goods or services.
  3. The course fee must be identified in the University Catalog and the online Schedule of Classes.
  4. Fees must be deposited with the Business Office in a trust account established solely for the authorized fee.
  5. The trust account must be used solely for the materials, activities or facilities for which the charge is made.

If expenditures for the specified materials, activities, or facilities are made from General Fund accounts, the department must request a transfer from the trust account each September, December, March, and June for reimbursement of the General Fund.

Periodic reviews will be conducted to ensure compliance with applicable requirements. Each June, a yearly report will be prepared of authorized instructionally related course fees.

Students must have the option of using materials or services provided by the charge or obtaining comparable goods or services from another source.

Some courses by virtue of their interdisciplinary content may be offered simultaneously by two or more different departments/programs. Student transcripts will indicate the department or program in which the student enrolled. Similarly, each participating department will be credited according to the source of enrollments. Cross-listing requires the consent of each participating department/program. Extensive cross-listing with other departments must be justified both academically and fiscally.

Courses may be cross-listed only within the same course-level division, i.e., lower-division 100- and 200-level, upper-division 300- and 400-level, and graduate-division 500- and 600-level. The courses must have the same catalog title, abbreviated titles, prerequisites, course description, grading, and classification. If one course has been approved for GE status, the other must also have GE status in the same category. The course description of each course must indicate the equivalency with each of the other courses as follows: "Same course as DEPT XXX." If a curricular change is submitted for one of the cross-listed courses, the same change must be made to the paired course or the cross-listing will end.

For scheduling purposes, only one department is designated as the "home" department of the course and all others are designated "dependent" departments. Departments may rotate this responsibility that includes schedule building and staffing administration.

Articulation is the term employed to indicate that a course offered by other colleges and universities has been acknowledged as meeting the instructional objectives of a CSULB course. The articulation program of the university operates under the mandate of the CSU for the purposes of facilitating transfer of students between California Community Colleges and private universities to the CSU campuses. Any unit increase or substantial change in an existing course will require review, if not complete re-articulation (see CSULB Articulation Pages.)

With change course proposals, the course being replaced will be made inactive at the end of the semester prior to the first offering semester of the replacement; no overlap is permitted. The semester of first offering is normally the earliest possible date in the curriculum calendar (Curriculum Calendar), and the date of last offering is normally indefinite, except for type two topics, which expire in six semesters.

Each course has one or more functions in the department or program. The usual functions are as a "requirement" which every student in the program must complete, an "alternative requirement" which every student in the program may choose to take from among a limited selection, or an "elective" which a student in the program may choose to take from a wide variety of courses in or beyond the discipline. A course may have "status" in more than one degree program and, if so, this should be noted.

Generic Courses are the parent units of topic offerings. The course elements of a generic course (units, prerequisites, grading options and course classification) are shared with all the topics that exist underneath it. To differentiate between topics in terms of the duration of their expected viability, they have been organized into three categories. More information on topics is available.