A-1. Management of Special Courses

A-1. Management of Special Courses


To establish a uniform practice for the management of special courses at Penn State Harrisburg.  


The term “special course” applies to courses by arrangement, independent studies, individual studies, or any other temporary course lacking a standard course content approved by the faculty for continuous use.  

A. Courses by Arrangement


A “course by arrangement” designates a regular course approved by University Faculty Senate but not listed in the Schedule of Classes during the semester the student requests the arrangement.

1. A course by arrangement may be added to a current Schedule of Classes but must be identified by a separate section number.  The listing must indicate that the class meetings are “to be arranged.”

2.  The “course by arrangement” should be used only in special circumstances and only when the delivery of such a course is consistent with the teaching and learning goals established by the faculty of the appropriate academic unit.

3.  The course by arrangement is not intended for students who have failed to follow the guidance of an academic adviser or the published course sequence schedules.

4.  The arrangement must be approved by the School Director upon appropriate justification from the student and the instructor.

5.  A course by arrangement should have the same overall requirements, learning objectives, and subject matter as the regularly offered course, e.g. MATH 017 should be the same course regardless of how it is delivered.  

6.  Before the student is allowed to register for a course by arrangement, the instructor must provide the student with:

     a. A full course syllabus similar to that used in whenever the class is scheduled during a regular semester

     b. A complete list of meeting times

     c. A beginning and ending date for the course and,

     d. A schedule for tests, examinations, or other projects. 

7.  The enrollment limit is three students.

8.  Such courses should be offered during the regular academic year rather than the summer semester. 

9. Each School must maintain a separate file indicating how many such courses were offered during a typical semester.  Such records should be retained for five academic years.

10.  School Directors will limit the number of courses offered within a School.    

B. Independent Studies


Independent Study courses are commonly listed in the “Common Course Numbers” section of the undergraduate and graduate bulletins.  The numbers 296-496 apply to undergraduate programs, while 596 and above apply to graduate courses.  The undergraduate Bulletin defines these studies as “Creative projects, including research and design, that are supervised on an individual basis and that are outside the scope of formal courses.  A specific title may be used in each instance and will be entered in the student’s transcript.”  The faculty has approved 1-18 credits for Independent Studies listed in the undergraduate Bulletin.   

The following procedures apply to those 296-596 courses offered as Independent Studies:       

1.  Only School Directors may approve independent study courses.  Any independent study course proposal that does not meet the criteria established in these Guidelines or by the faculty of the School will be denied approval.

2.  Students seeking to take an Independent Study must demonstrate some knowledge (prior course work) or practical experience in the subject to qualify.  Once deemed appropriate, the faculty member must discuss the learning objectives with the student and assist him/her in developing the standard independent study form which includes a clear, written justification for the Independent Study.

3.  Included in the course syllabus will be directions for course evaluation as per faculty approval of the academic unit.  The syllabus, the goals of the project, the methodologies to be used, time-line, and description of the final product will be submitted to the School Director for approval along with all the other required materials. Forms are available in all School offices.

4.  Following the completion of that form and the submission of any other required documentation, thestudent must file the form along with a standard registration form at the time of registration. 

5.  Students may not register for an independent study by telephone or electronic registration.

6.  Independent study courses must not be used to replace any regular or required courses in any major. 

7.  The independent study course designation is to be reserved for students who wish to conduct a study, research work, creative project, or design a course not covered in the regular curriculum or to pursue specialized knowledge in a faculty member’s areas of research expertise.

8.  Faculty will prepare a report on the product of the Independent Study for the Director or his/her designee at the end of the semester. All such reports will be filed in the School office and with the Annual Faculty Activity Report known locally as the “Green Sheets.”  Copies of final projects/reports will be placed in students’ files.

9.  No faculty member should teach more than three Independent study courses in a semester.

10. Independent studies are considered part of faculty member’s regular load.  Faculty members teaching such courses will not receive overload compensation during the regular academic year. 

Approved: Academic Council October 12, 2002

Revised: Academic Council April 8, 2009