Policies and Guidelines


Independent Study

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What is an independent study?

Classes categorized as independent study are one-on-one rather than group instruction. Generally speaking, these are mentored learning experiences wherein students become more self-directed learners while working closely with faculty mentors or other qualified instructors who guide their research, provide feedback, and model scholarly and professional behavior. 

How are independent-study classes indicated?

Classes scheduled as independent study will have the component type IND recorded in the Student Information System and displayed in Course Search & Enroll and other systems. 

Independent-study course titles vary and include “Directed Study,” “Independent Study,” “Independent Reading,” “Research,” “Senior Thesis,” “Thesis,” and other typically similar titles. Catalog numbers for independent study vary as well, but can include 699 and other x98 and x99 numbers; 990 and other 99x numbers; and more. The component type IND is the one consistent indicator that a class is independent study.

Does an independent study have regular class meetings?

By definition, all independent study classes include regular instructional contact between the instructor and the student. However, because instruction is one-on-one, independent-study classes do not have recurring day/time meeting patterns or room assignments scheduled in the Student Information System or displayed in Course Search & Enroll.

What is the instruction mode of an independent study?

UW-Madison schedules non-group instruction sections, including independent-study and field-study classes, with the instruction mode P (Classroom Instruction). Because of the varied nature of independent study instruction, that might mean physically in-person within a laboratory or library at UW-Madison, within the fields and forests of Wisconsin, or observatories on other continents. The student and instructor may physically or remotely be in regular contact. The instructor and enrolled students are expected to agree on how, where, and when they will maintain regular communication throughout the semester.  

How are enrollments handled when an instructor is leading multiple students in independent study for the same course?

For each course (e.g., PSYCH 990), each faculty member or other qualified instructor should be listed on one and only one section. If multiple students will conduct independent study with the same instructor, the students enroll in the same class section (e.g., PSYCH 990 section 065), even though they will be engaged in one-on-one instruction.

Where can I learn more about independent study as a type of course offering?

This page includes information about independent study and links with further detail.