Forms & Petitions

Independent Study Information

Formulate a Course/Project Plan

For an independent study to be successfully approved before the start of the next quarter, a number of steps must be taken PRIOR TO the end of the CURRENT quarter. These include:

  1.  Formulating a course/project plan that satisfies all requirements
  2. Finding an Academic Senate Faculty member to sponsor/direct the course 

Both elements are required before final approval will be given.

Note:  It can difficult to find a willing faculty sponsor without first developing a preliminary proposal. This entire process should be COMPLETED no later than 5 weeks prior to the start of the upcoming quarter. The difficulty of accomplishing the above steps by this deadline will vary based on details of the situation.

All interested students should review the following instructions.  

Multi-step Process

Identify an Academic Senate Faculty Member as a Sponsor

An Academic Senate Faculty member generally has a full-time appointment in the GSM with both research and teaching responsibilities. A Senate Faculty member will have the official title of Professor,  Associate Professor, and Assistant Professor”).  Adjunct faculty members (typically have the title of Lecturer) are not members of the Academic Senate, and cannot sponsor independent study courses.  This is usually clear from looking at the Faculty Directory on the GSM website. If after reviewing the Faculty Directory it is still not clear who is a Senate Faculty member, it is important to ask the GSM Graduate Advisor immediately.

Types of Independent Study Projects

Here are some guidelines to help develop an independent study project or course.  The following examples are only provided to add clarity, and alternatives are certainly possible.

There are two types of independent studies (“academic” vs. “practicum”), and these can be done on an individual or group basis.  The four possible combinations are: 

  1. 298 = academic, group independent study
  2. 299 = academic, individual independent study
  3. 498 = practicum, group independent study
  4. 499 = practicum, individual independent study

Academic Independent Study

An academic independent study can be thought of as a student-created course for learning new content/material that is NOT currently taught in one of the GSM electives (but COULD be, if there were infinite resources).  A course plan would be similar to an existing GSM course syllabus that includes details on learning objectives, readings, learning activities, a schedule, etc.  As implied, the students learn the material independently with guidance from the professor.  The professor might meet with students according to some schedule, but does not provide lectures.  Some important clarifications:  These courses CANNOT be used to duplicate an existing course in the curriculum to meet the scheduling preferences of students.  Also, the material in the course must be appropriate to a GSM elective that could, in theory, be offered.  

Practicum Independent Study

A practicum independent study is typically a project-based course with a “client.” It allows a student to APPLY material already learned in other GSM courses in a practical setting to reinforce and extend the learning process.  It is NOT a “learning by doing” course. For example, a student wishing to learn marketing research should take the marketing research course.  This material could then be applied in a practicum course.  Conversely, if a group of students wants to develop a practicum course that requires a marketing research study, the students in the group should have already taken marketing research.  

Group Project

Group project courses must meet certain minimum requirements.  The students must learn enough about the client’s business situation to develop a clear definition of the business problem to be “solved” during the course, and to identify the skills required by students (ideally in terms of “course prerequisites”).  A project plan must be developed with an appropriate SCOPE for a pre-established number of students (typically no more than 3 or 4).  Last-minute additions or deletions of students are not allowed.  

Units and Workload

Independent study courses are variable unit (typically 1-3 units), and the workload in the course plan should be consistent with the units requested under the “Carnegie Rule” described on the independent study form (see below). 

Because this can be a “chicken and egg” process, students seeking to gain final approval for an independent study course must submit a “pre-proposal” to the Graduate Advisor no later than the end of week 8 in the current quarter (and sooner is better).  The goal is to provide enough information to initiate a successful approval process.  

Specifically, provide as much information as possible to support development of an acceptable course plan, and the identification of potential faculty sponsors. It is helpful for students to clearly identify which program they are in, and for how long. Please download and carefully read the required form listed below, and think of any questions that need to be answered.  

Independent Study Review Process Deadline

This entire process must be COMPLETED by finals week of the current quarter which means successfully supplying all of the materials and obtaining the required signatures using the Independent Study Form.


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