Individual Study Classes

How to propose a BIOL or WLF Individual Study Class (-97)

The steps

  1. Meet with the student to discuss the following:
    • The educational goal of the individual study
    • The accomplishments and assignments expected
    • The level (197, 297, 397, 497, or 697)
    • The amount of time each of you will invest
    • The credits (which are linked to the time investment; see below)
    • The title, which should be short, capture the educational goal, and make sense to a reader of the student's transcript.
  2. Prepare a syllabus. Note that the syllabus is the instructor's responsibility, not the student's. The syllabus must  address all points on the Faculty Senate's syllabus checklist or it will be returned for revision. Share the syllabus with the student and discuss questions or potential problems before the syllabus is finalized.
  3. Fill out the individual study proposal form. Either the student or faculty member may do this part. Both student and faculty member must sign.
  4. Submit the form and syllabus to Pauline Thomas in the B&W office, either in person or electronically (

Here are things that often require revision:

  1. Level. The level should be based on the sophistication of the assignments and expectations. An individual study proposal that will also be an undergraduate capstone project should be 400-level.
  2. Credits/Contact Hours. The time investment (contact hours) must justify the credits. Follow these Faculty Senate guidelines:
    • A minimum of 800 minutes (13-14 hr) of "lecture", or in this case direct meeting time with the instructor, are required for 1 credit. For a full semester of study, this translates into about 1 hour per week per credit.
    • A minimum of 2400 minutes (40 hr) of independent work "lab" or are required for 1 credit. For a full semester of study, this translates into about ≥3 hours per week per credit during a 15 week semester.
    • The nature and intellectual difficulty of the work will inform the conversion. For example, if much of the student's activity will be dominated by low-skill, repetitive tasks (e.g. weighing samples), then 3600 or 4800 min/credit might be more appropriate.
  3. Start date. Note that your individual study course does not need to start on the first day of classes. If the proposal form reaches the registrar's office after the start date specified on the form, the student will be assessed a late fee. You can avoid this by making the start date a week or so after the date you submit the proposal. Just make sure you still have sufficient contact to justify the credits. (Similarly, the end date can precede the official last day of classes. The critical thing is that the contact hours justify the credits.)
  4. Syllabus. The syllabus must be complete and descriptive. The following guidelines are intended to assist the instructor in writing the syllabus.
    • Do not submit a "stock" syllabus with vague goals and assignments designed to fit a variety of students and projects. An individual study syllabus should be tailored to the student's individual goals and needs. Vague course proposals will be returned to the instructor for revision.
    • Use the UAF syllabus checklist before you submit. If there are missing elements, the syllabus will be returned for revision.
    • Help the student to craft a meaningful title that will inform readers of the college transcript. Avoid acronyms and jargon. Pay attention to the number of characters available on the form - if the title exceeds this length it will be truncated on the transcript.
    • Make the list of readings as specific and relevant as possible.
    • Make the expectations for assessment clear
      • Describe each major assignment. E.g. if there is a paper required, tell the student the type of paper required (scientific report? review? essay?), the approximate length, and number of references required.
      • Describe how quality will be assessed. The simplest way to do this is to include a rubric that lays out how the student can excel at (or just pass) the assignment. If the project is for the capstone requirement, the rubric is provided in the capstone evaluation form.
      • Assign points or percentages to all major expectations and assignments so the relative weighting of the assignments is clear.
      • Quantify and report the relationship between points and grades. You must do this even if the class is pass/fail.
      • Include a schedule. This is required, even if it is just a list of target due dates for draft and final major assignments.
  5. Form/syllabus consistency. Make sure the syllabus and the form are in agreement with respect to course number, title, credits, and hours expected. For example, if the form says 2 hours per week with instructor and 6 hours per week independently, the syllabus should say the same.