Experiential Learning Programs
Independent Study, Fieldwork, and Research in H&S
Independent study projects are individualized academic experiences that provide students with the opportunity to pursue an academic topic in greater depth than the coverage of the topic in a class, or to pursue significant original research or creative inquiry projects, with the guidance of a faculty member, whether in the field, in archives, in the laboratory, or in the studio. The goal of these projects is to enhance the student's ability to engage in sustained, self-directed learning. Effective independent study/research/inquiry experiences require appropriate academic preparation, regular consultation with a faculty mentor, and a clear plan of action. Students assume much of the responsibility for defining, designing, and implementing these projects.
Independent study projects can include action research or service learning projects in the community. For such projects, it can sometimes be difficult to determine if it is an independent study project or an internship. We suggest that if the student's work and the project goals are guided and evaluated primarily by a faculty mentor, it is an independent service learning project; if the work is primarily guided and evaluated by an on-site professional supervisor, it is an internship.
Projects undertaken as independent study courses can be academic-oriented projects, such as "directed readings," which can include a student developing an annotated bibliography or conducting a literature review, or they can take the form of a specific research plan the outcome of which be a major research paper or report. Other projects included in the independent study framework can include research-focused data collection, creative inquiry including poetry writing or studio art, computer programming, or laboratory research.
Note that students may not elect to do an independent study that covers the same material that is taught in courses offered as a regular part of a department’s curriculum.
Applying for and registering in an independent study course
- Students must be in good academic standing without warning for grades (warning for credits alone is acceptable) to be eligible to register for an independent study course. You must also meet any requirements put in place by departments to be eligible for enrollment in a department-based independent study course.
- All projects undertaken as independent studies must occur in
consultation with a sponsoring faculty member, who ultimately
evaluates your work and assigns an appropriate grade, and should
provide information about the grading scheme on the application
There are two steps for being registered for an independent study course:
- First step: You or your faculty sponsor fill out an H&S Independent Study Intent to Register Form. This form does not actually register you in the section, despite its name - the information allows the H&S Dean's office to be sure that there is a section in the schedule that you can register in. This form should be submitted no later than the first day of classes for fall/spring semesters.*
- Second step: in consultation with your faculty sponsor, complete either a department-based Independent Study Learning Contract, or the H&S Independent Study Learning Contract. This Learning Contract establishes the syllabus for the course, and describes the project that will be pursued. This document is submitted directly to the sponsoring department for review and approval no later than the last day of Add/Drop. Some departments may have earlier deadlines; consult with your department.
- If you are approved for the independent study before Add/Drop, you will receive a notification email from your department, giving you information about how to register yourself in the appropriate section. If it is after Add/Drop, the H&S Dean's office will handle your registration in the appropriate section.
- After Add/Drop has passed, the Dean's office confirms with the department that your completed Independent Study Learning Contract has been approved and is on file. If this is not the case, you may be dropped from the course in which you are registered. If you need an extension, please contact the department and the H&S Dean's office at email@example.com.
- Independent research projects that take place off campus with community partners and/or that involve working with living subjects require additional information from the student, including consideration of whether an IRB proposal needs to be submitted, the completion of sexual harassment prevention training, and confirmation from a community partner that the student may engage in the project (i.e., a signature from a community partner liaison). The online Registration Form suggests what is required. Verification from the community partner about your participation in the activity (in the form of a signature or email verification) is required before you begin the project, and in order for your registration to be confirmed.
* Note that in order for registration to take place:
- you must be in good academic standing without warning for grades (warning for credits alone is acceptable)
- you must not have any holds on your student account
- you must have room in your schedule to permit the addition of the independent study course if Add/Drop has ended.
You may also enroll in credit-bearing independent study courses during winter and summer sessions. For these opportunities, you should also complete the H&S Registration Form and submit a Learning Contract to the department, no later than the published deadline. Students enrolled in independent study courses during the winter or summer sessions will be charged per-credit tuition, at the rate established the Office of Extended Studies (607-274-3143).
For more information, contact the H&S Dean’s Office (607-274-3102).