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 appropriate form. The process has changed recently.
    • If the individual study class will meet in person or over Zoom, use the new Next Gen form; go to and click the link entitled "Directed - Individual Study Approval". Choose Individual Study from the drop down menu and fill in all the information requested. You will be prompted to attach a syllabus for review. (Be sure you have read through the section below on things that often require revision before finalizing the syllabus.)
    • If the individual study class will be asynchronous, it should run through eCampus. In this case (and for courses running through CRCD or CTC), go to and click the "Individual Study Approval (PDF).
    • Either the student or faculty member may initiate the form, but the syllabus is the responsibility of the faculty member. Both student and faculty member must sign the form before it goes to the department chair.
    • When entering the email address of reviewers (e.g. chair and dean) be sure to use the official email address (e.g. and, respectively). Next Gen forms send to an alias email address address cannot be opened by the recipient.

Here are things that often require revision:

  1. Level. The designator can be BIOL or WLF; the course number can be 197 through 697. 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 497.
  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 should inform the decision about credits. 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.
    • Note that in order to apply a course to the elective course requirements of the Biological Sciences B.S. program, it must be worth 3 or more credits. Two or more individual study classes on similar subjects worth less than 3 credits may be combined to meet a degree requirement. Any application of individual study to the degree requires a petition.
  3. Start date. Note that the 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 hours 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. Following these guidelines will help to avoid the need for revision:
    • Use the UAF syllabus checklist before you submit. If any required elements are missing, a revision will be necessary.
    • 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.
    • 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 biological sciences research 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.