Independent Study – Advanced Options for Special Occasions

Make Your Own Road

There is  often confusion about Independent Study courses in the Photography Program at College of DuPage. This post aims to end that confusion. There is an official course in the catalog for Independent Study. It reads:
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PHOTOGRAPHY 1840
Independent Study – Individualized
1 to 4 credit hours
Exploration and analysis of topics within the discipline to meet individual student-defined course description, goals, objectives, topical outline and methods of evaluation in coordination with and approved by the instructor. May be taken three times for credit as long as different topics are selected. Prerequisite: 32 semester credits in Photography and consent of instructor. Course requires Reading Placement Test Score-Category One. (1 to 4 lecture hours)
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Note the prerequisite: 32 semester credits in photography. This would mean that a student considering independent study would have taken a *minimum* of 10 photography courses. The Independent Study option is intended for the advanced student.

The idea here is for the student to be able to explore a topic, concept or technique that we don’t currently offer in any of our other courses. In other words, if we cover it in any one of our required or elective courses, you can’t take it as an independent study.

All Independent Study courses need to be approved by both a program Coordinator (Jeff Curto or Glenn Hansen) and then by the Associate Dean. The Associate Dean has final say about whether the student can do an Independent Study course. The proposed course concept and proposed outcome (body of work, paper, exhibition, presentation, website, etc, etc) must be clearly spelled out and sufficiently rigorous for the number of credits proposed. Obviously, finding an instructor in our program who has some background in the proposed topic is useful, but since the study is intended to be “Independent” that’s not essential (more on this below).

So, the process goes:

  1. Student has amassed at least 32 hours of credit in photography
  2. Student has a desire to explore a topic not covered in the regular photo curriculum
  3. Student proposes Independent Study idea to instructor in Photography Program
  4. Instructor agrees to do Independent Study project with student
  5. Student & Instructor collaborate on Independent Study proposal using the form that COD has for this purpose
  6. Instructor submits Independent Study Proposal to Program Coordinator (Jeff or Glenn)
  7. If Program Coordinator approves proposal,  then Coordinator submits proposal to Associate Dean
  8. If Associate Dean approves proposal, then proposal goes to the Registration Office, which assigns a course code
  9. Student registers for Independent Study course, paying tuition relative to the number of credits the course carries
  10. Student begins to work independently with occasional feedback from instructor
  11. Instructor gauges progress toward course goals, evaluates final outcome/output of course and assigns grade at the end of the term

Now, before you  go rush out and propose Independent Study courses, here is some additional information:

  • Much of the time, a student looking for Independent Study will be better served by re-taking an existing course. Since they’ve already taken the course, their grade doesn’t count (it will show as an “R” or “Repeat” on their transcript) and they can work on whatever they want to work on and have access to an instructor to help them when they get stuck. Another advantage here is that the student has a group of other students for feedback, etc.
  • Independent Study courses are, by definition, Independent study. The instructor does not provide class content or any formal instruction. The instructor is there to offer feedback and direction, acting more as a mentor for the student’s research and exploration than a “teacher” of particular content. In other words, the course’s content is “student-driven” not “instructor provided.” The student needs to be self-directed, self-motivated and, for the most part, self-instructing.
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