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. Get department chair approval for the syllabus. Do this before you submit a form (this part is new). You will need a CRN in order to complete the form, which you get from the departmental office manager, but in order to avoid setting up a course in the schedule that is not ready to go, please get chair approval for the syllabus before you fill out out the form. So the next step is to email the syllabus to the department chair for review. Please include a completed syllabus checklist. Also please read to the end of this webpage to learn how to avoid the need for revisions.
  4. Obtain a CRN. Once the chair approves the syllabus, ask the Biology and Wildlife Office Manager for a course record number (CRN) for the course. Include the syllabus with your request so the office manager has all the information necessary.
  5. Submit a form. Once you have the CRN, you can initate the individual study form.
    • Go to and click the link entitled "Individual Study Syllabus Submission".
    • When entering the email address of reviewers (e.g. chair and dean) be sure to use the official email address (e.g. and, respectively) rather than an email alias address (e.g. will not work).

Here are things that often require revision - please read before you submit a syllabus:

  1. Designator and 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. or B.A. 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, nor end on the last day of classes.  Just make sure you still have sufficient contact hours to 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 when you are finalizing your syllabus and submit a completed checklist with the syllabus you send to the chair. If any required elements are missing, a revision will be necessary. You will find the syllabus checklist on the UAF Governance Curriculum webpage.
    • Use the syllabus addendum to specify student rights, protections, and support. You'll find it posted under the same pulldown menu as the UAF syllabus checklist. The addendum is updated frequently so check for a new one every semester.
    • Avoid submitting 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.
    • Work with the student to craft a meaningful title that will inform readers of the college transcript. Avoid acronyms and jargon. You only have 25 spaces to deal with - if the title exceeds this length it will be truncated on the transcript.
    • Include in the syllabus a list of readings that is as specific and relevant as possible.
    • Make the hours and type of work clear on the syllabus. E.g. "Expect to spend 1 hour per week in active discussion with the instructor, and at least 6 hours collecting and analyzing data." This example would justify a three credit course. If you don't make this clear, the syllabus will be sent back for revision.
    • 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 (scientific report? review? essay?), the approximate length, and the minimum 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 semester, course number, and credits.