I prepared a course (more specifically, I created some material for the kick-off meeting and an outline for the contents that would have been addressed if the course would have taken place), but there were too few students participating in the kick-off meeting, so I cancelled the course.

How should I deal with this fact in my CV? Since I prepared the kick-off meeting and the outline, and was willing to give the course, it would be nice to receive some credit. Still, would I have to mention that the course was cancelled?

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    @LeonMeier Voting to leave open. Academic CVs are rather different than commercial CVs and preparing courses isn't something that happens much at all outside academia. May 15, 2017 at 11:29
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    @LeonMeier If you're going to argue that "Academia is a kind of business" then pretty much nothing is specific to academia and we should shut this site down and transfer everything to The Workplace. I mean, people in companies give talks and do research, and teach stuff to their colleagues, and have mentorship relationships with trainees and... May 15, 2017 at 14:55
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    @jwg - I'm intrigued. In what sense is academia not a business?
    – Valorum
    May 15, 2017 at 17:54
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    @DavidRicherby "I mean, people in companies give talks ... etc" That is true, but doing all those things is not the principal reason why a company exists. They may be the only reason why an academic institution exists. Big difference!
    – alephzero
    May 15, 2017 at 19:43
  • Comments should be used to clarify the question at hand. Off-topic discussion should move to Academia Chat or be addressed in a new question.
    – eykanal
    May 16, 2017 at 1:44

4 Answers 4


I'm pretty sure this isn't the answer you want, but I don't think you should mention it in your CV. You have no proof of the quality of the materials you prepared (since they were never used or assessed and you got no feedback on them), or even that they exist (unless you have uploaded them to a public repository or something; even then you are unlikely to get much credit for them).

Where they might come in handy is during an interview: if teaching is a significant part of the job (particularly teaching in a similar field), you may be asked 'how would you prepare a course' or something, in which case you can describe your experiences - although this relies pretty heavily on you being asked the right question at interview, and evidence of practical experience of actual teaching, and positive feedback from participants, will be viewed more highly if you have it from other projects.

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    My CV includes my qualifications (which were awarded by a university), grants I've won (which were therefore more successful than the ones that weren't funded), papers I've published (which were accepted by reputable journals), students I've supervised (with the outcomes of their courses), etc. I can't think of anything on there without some sort of independent assessment of quality, really (the closest is my external teaching, ironically, although I suppose I can demonstrate that they keep inviting me back). I don't mention unsuccessful grants, rejected papers or courses I failed to complete.
    – arboviral
    May 15, 2017 at 10:50
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    my statement was too strong. However, CVs often have unverifiable things like skill/experience listed that can't be seen publicly. More true outside academia, but still true in academia in my experience. It's still useful as a starting point for evaluating candidates.
    – user24098
    May 15, 2017 at 11:40
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    You could compare it to mentioning a publication that never got published. You wrote it, but for some reason, it was never submitted (and for sure never will be), even though you originally planned to. I guess you would not mention that on your CV?
    – skymningen
    May 15, 2017 at 13:56
  • Other points during the interview when you could mention it: "Which courses (beyond the basics) would you teach?" or "What teaching experience do you have?" -> "I have taught this and that, and I also have a course on xyz prepared, which I haven't taught yet." Also, if it's a course on a research topic you're interested in, you can bring it up when they ask you about your research areas. "I'm really interested in xyz because ... and by the way, I also have a course on xyz prepared which I haven't taught, yet, so it's not on my CV". And then just see if they want to know more about that course. May 15, 2017 at 20:14
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    I dont speak for all mathematicians, but for me, almost all candidates in math have been tasked to teach courses that already exist (in some form). So if a candidate had to maneuver the admin hurdles to get a course through to the kick-off meeting, it is an experience that I would find valuable and make the candidate stand out. I agree that the preparation itself is not a big deal, but there is some value in having been exposed to the bureaucracy that unfortunately exists at almost every (US) institution. May 16, 2017 at 4:03

Don't put this on your CV. It suggests that you think preparing for a single meeting and writing a course outline is some kind of big deal that is worthy of praise; it isn't. If you'd prepared a significant amount of the teaching material, that might be different. It also draws attention to a failure: the natural interpretation is that you thought that your course would be interesting to the students and at an appropriate level for them, whereas they disagreed.


I would include something generic that describes your experience as one of the duties of your position, such as:

Contributed to course design and preparation.

This highlights the experience you gained (which is the main benefit, I think). If you are asked about it in interview, you can talk about that specific course and what you did. In the context of a conversation, it will be easier to explain that the course didn't go ahead without it reflecting negatively on you.

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    -1. The language you propose is completely unhelpful, adds nothing to a CV, and is potentially harmful. If OP has other experience preparing courses that were actually delivered, the statement is redundant and would make a reader of the CV wonder why it is included. And if OP does not have other experience of this type, as someone reading his/her CV I would ask myself why OP was being so vague, and infer that the "contribution to course design and preparation" was in all likelihood so minor as to be completely insignificant and thus not worth mentioning in the first place.
    – Dan Romik
    May 15, 2017 at 15:57
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    @DanRomik also note that in some places (here in the UK for example) the first step of narrowing candidates may be checking whether they meet a list of essential criteria. Having something rather than nothing might enable a box to be ticked and your candidacy to move forward.
    – user24098
    May 15, 2017 at 16:20
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    This is what I list (lms admin, acting as instructional designer for 15+ years as well). Be sure to use the appropriate keywords when referencing course design, and if you are looking for a job involving instructional/course design then have samples available (you can get a free Canvas shell at courses.instructure.com, etc). If you are looking for a teaching job, instructional design is important but not as important as being a subject matter expert, etc.
    – ivanivan
    May 15, 2017 at 16:24
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    @dan1111 well, for what it's worth, my own reaction on reading such a statement in someone's CV would be negative. And on further thought, the words "contributed to" are borderline dishonest and I may be quite upset to find out later during an interview how little they actually meant. Basically the whole thing smacks of resumé-padding and I would strongly discourage OP or anyone else from employing such strategies. Sorry if you disagree but that's my opinion.
    – Dan Romik
    May 15, 2017 at 16:32
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    @DanRomik no need to apologize, your opinion is welcome, and if some people will react negatively to what I suggest, that is useful information that should be here.
    – user24098
    May 15, 2017 at 16:43

In my career I have spent hundreds or thousands of hours working on various projects that never amounted to a deliverable product such as a paper, awarded grant, course, talk etc.; any other academic would say the same. I don't list any of this work on my CV, and neither should you. That doesn't mean that I don't think working on such projects has given me valuable experience -- it absolutely has, and it is that experience that has helped me achieve actual, demonstrable successes, which I do list on my CV.

Your CV is the advertising space where you get to use the limited attention you are likely to get from potential employers and colleagues to draw attention to your talent and successes. Using that limited attention to point out something you did that first of all (as David Richerby observed in his answer) isn't that big of a deal, and second of all did not end up having any impact, is counterproductive. Tout your actual successes, and quietly use the experience you gained from preparing the course "behind the scenes" to improve your skills and abilities and make those actual successes greater and more numerous.

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