Graduate Independent Study Policy

Date: September 1, 2014
Programs: All SPH Degree Programs (PhD, MPH, MS SHE)
Responsible Office: Academic Affairs/Student Services

1. Purpose: Clarify policy and procedures relevant to the awarding of academic credit for independent studies and other non-didactic learning experiences.

2. Policy: Academic credit for independent study and non-didactic learning experiences must adhere to the standards described herein with respect to student effort.

3. Background:

  • Each credit hour of independent study or other non-didactic learning experience must be comparable to the student effort reflected by one credit hour of didactic learning experience.
    • One credit hour of didactic learning is awarded for:
      • One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction, AND a minimum of two hours-of-class student work each week, for
      • Approximately fifteen weeks in one semester.
    • Thus, the total student effort for 1 credit hour is comparable to (3 x 15) 45 hours of effort.
  • Academic credit for independent study or other non-didactic learning experiences must therefore be comparable – 1 hour of credit for 45 hours of effort.
  • Other non-didactic learning experiences include but are not limited to laboratory work, practica, internships, research rotations, etc.
  • Normally, a graduate student should take no more than 3 credit hours by independent study which is approved by the student’s faculty advisor.
  • The student’s department chair may approve requests to take more than 3 credit hours by independent study.
  • The student taking an independent study must be on good academic standing (see Academic Standing and GPA Policy).
  • The faculty delivering the independent study must have graduate faculty status at the HSC or elsewhere at WVU.

4. Procedures:

  • Independent Study:
    • Students and faculty who agree to an independent study agreement must develop a scope of effort that approximates the total effort expected for successful completion of the independent study and the appropriate awarding of the number of credit hours.
    • The student and faculty who agree to an independent study must submit the scope of work using the SPH Independent Study Form to the student’s faculty advisor for approval.
    • The proposed quantity of academic credit must be estimated by dividing the total effort hours by 45, with 1 academic credit (by this estimation) reasonably equivalent to 45 effort hours.
    • Independent studies may be graded using letter grades, pass/fail or satisfactory/unsatisfactory (one for 697/797 research learning experiences); regardless, the criteria for grading outcomes must be indicated on the Independent Study Form.
    • Upon approval by the student’s faculty advisor, the signed form must be submitted to the Office of Student Services.
  • Other Non-Didactic Learning Experiences
    • The academic credit awarded for these experiences (practica, internships, laboratory work, research rotations) is typically set by the approved curriculum (e.g., 1 credit, 2 credits, etc.)
    • The responsibility of the faculty supervising these experiences is to ensure the student is assigned sufficient effort to warrant the specified credit hours, and at the same time, is not assigned an effort level that is excessive for the number of credit hours.
    • When assigning effort, the number of hours of effort per academic credit hour should be equivalent to 45 hours of effort per academic credit hour.
    • The faculty should provide the student a sufficiently detailed scope of work that delineates how the quantity of effort has been determined for the credit hours to be awarded.
    • Teaching Practica, when required, also follow these effort-per-credit criteria. For example, if the teaching practicum is 1 credit hour, then the student should plan for approximately 45 hours of effort which include preparation, teaching, and evaluation activities.
  • Effort determination, whether for an independent study or for other non-didactic learning experiences should be formulated before the student registers for the learning experience.

5. Appeals:

  • Any student and/or faculty wanting to appeal or dispute the number of credit hours or the quantity of effort should do so initially with the student’s (or faculty’s) department chair.
  • If not resolved either party’s satisfaction, the appeal/dispute will be reviewed by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

6. Exceptions to Policy/Procedures: Any exceptions to this policy must be approved by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.