When a college class has two versions, one of which is preceded by "fundamentals of" - what is the difference between the two versions?

For example: If two different but similar/related college or grad school tracks each contain a HYDROLOGY class, but one track contains the "Fundamentals of Hydrology" class, and the other track contains a class simply named "Hydrology", and might even use the same book for both classes - how do the two classes differ.

Not specifically to hydrology.  I've seen this for other subjects, like "Project Management" and "Fundamentals of Project Management" or "Inorganic Chemistry" and "Fundamentals of Inorganic Chemistry", etc.

Is the difference the same across all subjects, or does it vary depending on the specific subject?  Is the "fundamentals of" class easier than the other version, or not necessarily? Would a fundamentals of class be more introductory, or require less math? Is one more geared towards functional or practical applications of the subject, and one version more theoretical than applied?

Also, is one or the other more or less likely to be able to be substituted for the other in the event that a student decides to change majors or tracks, specifically if they are changing from a track that includes the "fundamentals of" to one that includes the other version of the class.  Or vice versa.  Are they more or less likely to be allowed to substitute the regular version of the class for the fundamentals one?  Or the other way around? Or is it not that simple?

3 Answers

  • User
    Lv 7
    1 month ago


    the "fundamentals" course will be a course for those who are taking Hydrology to fulfill science requirements **that are not part of their major**

    while the "not fundamentals" course will be a course for those for whom Hydrology is a course that contributes to the requirements of their major


    if you have multiple levels of courses for a major

    you will have something like "intro X" (or just "X") and "advanced X"

    Consider for example the UC Davis Hydrology major requirements


    No "Fundamenals" hydrology course is given in the major

    but one probably IS offered by the Hydrology department - to students NOT majoring in Hydrology.

  • 1 month ago

    Typically the class title that starts with either "fundamentals of" or "introduction to" indicates a class that is cursory or an overview of the subject.  Such a course for STEM subjects for example would avoid using detailed mathematics.

    But, a big BUT, in my teaching experience, the professor (me in my case) was permitted to make of the course what he chose it to be, just so long as he covered the material outlined in the catalog.  So if you're in doubt find a former student of the same professor who taught that course in previous terms to see what that prof does.

    I had a visiting student from another campus sit in on my course in optimization one week because she happened to be on my campus for business related purposes.  She didn't want to miss a lesson so she attended my version of the same lesson.

    At the end of the class that day, she came to me and was really really angry.  Turns out I taught the course mathematically while her prof at the other campus taught it cursorily.  She used no math at all at her other campus.  Same course, same lesson, same catalog...different profs.  I taught this course off campus for U. of Md.

  • A
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    Fundamentals is going to be more of an intro course, it might be a prerequisite for the next level

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