Yesterday's post on advertising for your class was not, of course, really about advertising for your class. I have been persuaded that it would be worth having a post that actually was about how to keep your courses from getting cancelled by advertising for them.
As I mentioned yesterday, I have a tiny bit of experience with this sort of thing, from grad school and people I went to grad school with. However, it is not at all clear to me that the posters we were putting up were very effective. It seemed to me that there was no clear relationship between the posters and cancellations. One of my friends had the idea to aim his poster at people who'd failed [notorious professor X's] intro class and to suggest that the summer-school version would be easier, but this person was made to take the posters down after an uncomfortable discussion with the department chair. Although we didn't get to see how it worked, the suggestion of easiness is one potentially effective strategy.
Another thing I often see, mostly in the class-advertisement posters around my current campus, is that they try to make the class seem like it would be fun (in addition to being easy). These posters are for classes in other departments, though, where they can make up a class on the study of some pop-cultural topic that is marginally amenable to academic study. So, like, a class on Calvin and Hobbes as literature or anthropology or something. These classes seem like they'd be pretty fun, and also like they wouldn't be too tough. And you also sort of get the idea that this might be the only opportunity to take it. But they also seem like there's a better-than-average chance that the class is total bullshit--that it's not of any academic value whatsoever. And I guess I wouldn't be willing to make this kind of suggestion in order to attract students. I wouldn't want to be the guy who runs easy, potentially worthless classes for the sake of enrollment. And I wouldn't want to attract the kind of student who is attracted to easy, potentially worthless classes.
And I also don't have any hard data about these classes: I don't know anything about how full they get, how often they get cancelled, or whether the ads themselves are effective.
All this is a kind of long-winded way of saying that I don't know very much about how to make an effective ad for a philosophy course. It seems to me that some effective ways to increase enrollment might include making the class seem fun, easy, frivolous, and unique. But I'm not at all convinced that this is helpful in any way.
However, I can say that, in my somewhat limited experience, the best way to increase enrollments and to make sure your classes don't get cancelled is to make them required for something. In the departments I been associated with, the core gen ed requirements are very popular. Major requirements are somewhat less so, but still popular. Courses that serve as prerequisites for other popular majors and degree programs are also very popular. Straight-up electives can be a tough sell.
What say you, Smokers?