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Using Independent Study Projects In Your Research And Teaching Program

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

New Engineering Educators: Tricks of the Trade I

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1550.1 - 12.1550.9



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Paper Authors


Edward Gehringer North Carolina State University

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Edward F. Gehringer is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, North Carolina State University. His research interests include hardware and software support for memory management, architectures for security, object technology, and educational software for collaborative learning.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session ????

Using Independent-Study Projects in Your Research, Teaching and Service Program

Edward F. Gehringer North Carolina State University


Independent-study courses are offered by most institutions to allow a student to work one-on-one with a faculty member on a topic of interest to both. The rules vary widely with department and institution. They may be letter-graded, or graded pass/fail. Usually they are limited to three to six credits in a student's degree program. Sometimes the topics are constrained by the need to satisfy accreditation requirements. Many institutions require a syllabus, or a contract between the student and professor. Sometimes the contract is required to specify deliverables.

An independent study usually addresses a topic that is not covered in a regular course. Faculty can use them to build up their teaching and research program. For example, an independent study may be used to introduce a student to a particular research area in which (s)he may pursue a thesis (though in some cases, students are not allowed to earn both independent-study and thesis credits on the same topic). It may also be used to assist another student on a thesis project, as when an undergraduate gathers data that a graduate student can use in writing a thesis. Independent studies can also be used to enrich existing courses. A faculty member may want to introduce a new topic into a course, but lack time to produce the necessary lecture and homework materials. An independent-study student can scout the topic in advance and produce lecture notes and problems that can be used in teaching the course. This helps both the independent-study student, who learns about a new topic earlier than other students, and the rest of the class, which has access to better course materials than they would otherwise.

1. Introduction

As a new faculty member, you probably want to expand your research team and get extra help in preparing your courses. This paper will tell you how you can use independent-study courses to meet these needs, while simultaneously enriching the students’ education by giving them the opportunity to work more closely with a faculty member than they do as a student in regularly scheduled courses.

Most of a student’s college education involves taking regularly scheduled courses, either online or in a classroom environment with other students. But few institutions require all credits to be earned in this way; usually there is a provision for a student to earn some credits by on an individual project under the direction of a faculty member. Faculty usually receive no teaching credit for supervising projects like this, so why would they be interested? Because the project may be one that is of interest to them too. Assuming that the topic is job-related for the faculty, both students and faculty benefit from this approach: The student learns something that would not be learned in a regular course. Because the project is independent, the learning tends to be at a higher level of the Bloom taxonomy,` e.g., application, analysis, or synthesis, rather than

Proceedings of the 2007 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2007, American Society for Engineering Education

Gehringer, E. (2007, June), Using Independent Study Projects In Your Research And Teaching Program Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2295

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