An independent study course is defined as research study requiring a high level of self-directed learning. This learning requires students to read, conduct research, and complete written examinations, reports, projects, research papers, portfolios or similar assignments that are designed to measure competency in the stated objectives. This work may be experiential, directed reading or independent research supervised by a faculty member and approved by the graduate committee director(s) of the department under which the course is listed. If one of the two department graduate directors is the faculty member offering the independent study, then the other graduate director will review and approve the hours.

Nature of the Independent Study 

A number of activities are specifically prohibited as independent study work. Included here are such activities as internships, volunteer or paid work in a university department, volunteer work of other kinds, work in a business, extra work in a class, and work completed elsewhere. Strictly prohibited are independent study as a substitute for a regular course offering. Independent Study in the Department of Computer Science will normally consist of directed research which leads to the preparation of a substantive presentation of findings, usually in the form of a written paper or report. Any variation on this format must be approved by the Department Grad Comm.


The following minimum criteria must be met to ensure the overall outcomes of the educational experience, the success of the students, and the compliance with the accreditation standards:

  • Students who take independent studies must have a minimum cumulative CU Boulder GPA of 3.3.
  • The independent study must include comprehensive objectives in a written form.
  • The independent study must demonstrate the relevance and appropriateness to the program outcomes.
  • The independent study must promote a high level of self-directed learning.
  • The independent study must engage the students to interact with the instructor throughout the course.

Enrollment Procedure

  • The student will develop a plan or idea for independent study and will approach a faculty member to discuss the feasibility and supervision of the work.
  • The student and the faculty member will complete the independent study form including, but not limited to, the following information:
    • General information:
      • Course description and area of study.
      • Number of credits to be issued: 1 credit hour is approximately equal to 40 clock hours of proposed independent study activity per semester.
    • Specific information:
      • Learning objectives and outcomes.
      • Approach to be used (directed reading, instructions and supervision, and/or lab experience, exercises and projects, etc.)
      • Information on textbooks, references, and reading materials
      • Means of communication between student and faculty member throughout the course of independent study.
      • Means of evaluation (one or more): A tangible product such as a project, presentation, written review of the literature; Homework assignments or exams.
      • Plan for implementation: Guidelines, schedules, benchmarks and/or milestones, weekly task breakdowns throughout the semester.
  • Submit the completed Independent Study Agreement form via the online petition for review and approval. Please have your faculty advisor sign the agreement before you upload the document with the petition. The Grad Advisor will then add these hours to your schedule.


The deadline to submit your IS Agreement via the online petition, by uploading your signed IS Agreement is FIRST Wednesday after classes begin every semester. 


Through the course of an independent study, it is the student’s responsibility to communicate with the instructor and document time spent on the independent study. Activities that constitute time spent on an independent study include, but are not limited to: reading, conducting research, completing written examinations, reports, projects, research papers, portfolios and homework assignments.

To ensure proper documentation, the Independent Study Activity Log should be used. This form should be filled out on a bi-weekly basis, with a brief summary of the main activities and be signed and dated by the faculty member for each reporting time period.

Note Concerning Credit Hours

When an independent study is designed and proposed, the rationale for the number of credits awarded by the course should meet the following criteria:

  • 1 semester credit hour for each 40 clock hours of documented independent study activities.
  • The number of allowable independent study credits for any student should be limited to less than or equal to 25% of the total credits required by the entire program.


University rules do not normally allow Independent Study credit for internship experiences, work-study or hourly pay work done in departments, or for work also compensated by a salary. In general, an independent study should not be used for resolving scheduling conflicts, making up failed classes or alleviating faculty teaching loads.