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The Graduate College Handbook

for students, faculty and staff – August 2018

Chapter 1: Policy for Proposed New and Revised Courses that Carry Graduate Credit

As one mechanism for fulfilling the statutory function of the Graduate College to "develop and safeguard standards of graduate work," the Dean of the Graduate College and the Executive Committee review all proposed new courses and revisions of courses that carry graduate credit. Detailed review of proposals is handled in one of two ways, which are outlined in Section C.2. and Section C.3 of this document.

Criteria by which proposals for graduate courses are judged and procedures by which they are reviewed are described below. Faculty members are encouraged to consult with Graduate College deans to get advice in preparing course proposals. The checklist of criteria is minimal, and is not intended to be exhaustive. The diversity of programs and the wide variety of courses necessitate, in many cases, judgments based in part on the standards of an individual discipline and are usually made by faculty in that discipline. There is no intent to eliminate judgment by reducing the criteria to an inflexible set of rules. However, proposers are encouraged to offer specific explanations whenever their proposals deviate from the general criteria. Assistance for proposing and revising courses is available.

A. Criteria

  1. Course content should be intellectually challenging to graduate students.
  2. Course subject matter should have a strong emphasis on the literature of the discipline(s) and/or should draw actively from the latest relevant research and scholarly activity.
  3. A course for graduate credit should usually build on knowledge previously gained or, unusually, on equivalent experience. Admission criteria should be carefully specified as to background required (e.g., prior study, courses completed, level of creative accomplishment). The prerequisites will also be evaluated as to appropriateness to the content and rigor of each course.
  4. A graduate course must bear a logical relationship to the total offerings of a department or to other courses in an area of specialization within the discipline.
  5. Course content should not needlessly duplicate or overlap substantially that of other courses in the department or in other departments. A single cross-listed course may meet the needs of students in several departments. If the course overlaps significantly with a course in another department, it might still be offered independently; however a supporting letter, explaining how the courses differ in purpose and content must be attached. A single cross-listed course may meet the needs of students in several departments, wherein the interdisciplinary review of the subject may benefit both the students and the instructors. Other factors will be considered, such as level of the course, background of the students, and the emphasis of the course in evaluating duplication and overlap of course content.
  6. The graduate credit offered should be appropriate to the nature of the course and to the extent of work required of graduate students and how it will be factored into the final grade.

B. Graduate Course Credit and Contact Hour Expectations*

  1. Credit
    1. Course proposals should justify why the course warrants graduate credit in terms of level of content, previous knowledge required, relevance to current research, methodology, etc. (See Criteria, above.)
    2. If credit for graduate students is different than credit for undergraduate students, the extra work required should be of a concrete nature, included in calculation of the final grade, and listed explicitly. For example in a class with 3 hours of undergraduate credit and 4 hours of graduate credit, it is necessary to state, ‘graduate students must lead one class discussion, write weekly summaries that will be graded, and turn in a 25 page paper instead of a 15 page paper,’ than to simply say, ‘graduate students will be held to demonstrating graduate level depth in class discussions and assignments.’ Demonstration of graduate level depth in class discussions and assignments however should be expected of graduate students if credit for graduate and undergraduate students is equal.
    3. If variable credit is to be offered to graduate students, e.g., 3 or 4 hours, the higher credit should be justified by describing the extra work required and how it will be factored into the final grade.
  2. Contact hours* 
    The Graduate College has not established rigid ratios between course credit hours and class contact hours*. However, in recognition of desired variability associated with subject matter and modes of teaching, the following issues are relevant for consideration:
    1. The number of class contact hours* in organized instruction between instructor and student is one factor affecting the quality of instruction. It is customary for graduate courses that carry either 3 or 4 hours of credit to meet in organized instruction for 43 to 58 contact hours* per term (3 to 4 contact hours* per week in fall or spring) including examinations. These ratios should be observed for organized instruction, which excludes laboratory, independent study, special problems, and thesis research courses. An additional laboratory that meets for two to three hours per week can justify one additional hour of credit.
    2. Substantial deviation from these ratios should be justified by the department proposing the course. Each case will be judged on its merits as detailed in the course proposal.

* The distinction between a contact hour and a clock hour is as follows:

  • A class contact hour is defined as one 50-minute session, that is, the traditional meeting time within a clock hour, allowing for the mandatory 10-minute passing period beginning at X:50 of the hour.
  • If a class session extends past one clock hour, or meets “off-clock,” the total session minutes divided by 50 determines the contact hours for the session. Thus, three 50-minute or two 75-minute sessions per week constitute three contact hours per week.

C. Review Procedures

  1. Role of the department, school, and college courses and curricula committees.
    Review and approval of all appropriate committees is required before a course proposal will be reviewed by the Graduate College.
    1. The course proposal must be approved and signed by the head of the department. The faculty members who prepared the request and will teach the course should be identified.
    2. A courses and curricula committee in the school (if applicable) and college must have reviewed and approved the course proposal.
    3. The proposal must be reviewed and approved by all cross listed units, as well as their school (if applicable) and academic colleges, if different, prior to review by the Graduate College.
    4. The college courses and curricula committee must provide a report of its evaluation. If the substantive review of courses is conducted by a unit other than the college, (e.g., certain independent schools and institutes), those units should also submit a report of their evaluation.
  2. Administrative review in the Graduate College
    If the college-level courses and curriculum committee verifies that a course meets the six Graduate College criteria 1 through 6 (see Section A above), then the course may be approved administratively by a dean within the Graduate College.
  3. Review by the Graduate College Executive Committee
    Courses that have not gone through a two-tiered committee approval process will be reviewed by the Graduate College Executive Committee, prior to Graduate College approval.

December 2005