How to Handle Requests for Independent Studies?

While a request for an independent study within RHET is not super common, you may occasionally have a student approach you requesting one.  In nearly all cases, the answer is no.  This is because an independent study cannot be used:

  • for a course that is regularly offered.
  • for taking a course that is currently offered, but is full.
  • for fulfilling or substituting any required Core curriculum course.
  • as a means to speed up timely completion, graduation, or other requirements.
  • as a means to take more courses than is allowed.
  • as a means to avoid taking another course.
  • as a means to “get the instructor I want.”

By contrast, an independent study can be used for when a student has a specialized area of interest, study, or research in which a course at AUC is not regularly offered, but for which there is a faculty member at AUC who has specialization in that area.  The faculty member, of course, also needs to be willing to work with the student on an independent basis to do study/research/work in that area.

The instructor does not receive additional compensation for this, and this does potentially require a decent amount of additional work for the instructor. Specifically, the faculty member is expected to meet with the student at least seven times, associated with written/documented progress and to ensure that the work of the student is at the same level of quality and quantity as any course offered for the same number of semester credit hours. Meetings must be face-to- face, either in-person or by video conference or Skype. For each semester credit hour earned, at least three hours of coursework per week are expected from the student.

The instructor would have to create a detailed syllabus which would include the assignments, grade breakdown, and the determined number of meetings required with the instructor.  In short, the instructor would be creating a personalized class for the student; one in which the student is expected to do the volume and rigor of work required in other university classes.  However, due to the nature of the special independent study, the assignments and other work can be highly adapted or innovative as needed.Additionally, The faculty member must develop with the student a detailed Learning Contract (statement of expectations and requirements, including the number of credits to be earned, method to determine progress, as well as a timeline for completion, and a description of what the finished product will be).

Lastly, keep in mind that students who are eligible to register for an Independent Study course are those who have completed 60 semester credit hours of academic work toward a bachelor degree (Junior-level standing or higher), and a GPA of not less than 3.0.

In the rare case an independent study does work, it may be enjoyable and enriching for both student and instructor as they get to work/study/research in an area of particular interest to both of them.

If you do have a situation where you are willing to work with the student, and you think it fits the above guidelines, then you will need to first meet with the Department Chair for initial approval, and then after that you would need to submit a complete syllabus and learning contract (to be signed by the student) to the Department Chair. After the Chair approves the syllabus, then you can allow the student to proceed to officially register the independent study with the Registrar’s Office. Note that students who are considering pursuing an Independent Study course should prepare during the semester preceding the one in which they plan to register for such a course. The independent study procedure and form can be found online at: