Independent study

Independent study is a different way of learning and a feature of some kind of university programs. The amount and the kind varies from one program to another. There you need to design your own syllabus of academic readings and writing assignments, and persuade a faculty member to agree to meet regularly with you and evaluate your work, typically for one credit.

In high schools in the United States, where all courses are usually the same number of hours, often meeting every day, students earn one credit for a course that lasts all year, or a half credit per course per semester. This credit is formally known as a Carnegie Unit.
Some high schools have only three years of school because 9th grade is part of their middle schools, with 18 to 21 credits required. In a college or university, students generally receive credit hours based on the number of “contact hours” per week in class, for one term; more well known as Semester Credit Hours.
A “CREDIT HOUR” is the unit of measuring educational CREDIT, usually based on the number of classroom hours per week throughout a term. Students are awardedcredit for classes on the basis of the Carnegie unit. This defines a semester unit ofcredit as equal to a minimum of three hours of work per week for a semester.
You can earn college credits by scoring high on AP (Advanced Placement) or IB (International Baccalaureate) tests or by taking courses at local colleges. Earningcollege credit in high school can definitely help in college admission.
Negotiated independent study

You may be able to study all or part of your degree by negotiated independent study, designing your programs according to given learning outcomes. With this approach, you agree the relevant title, approach, outputs, and resources with your tutor. Although you have some ongoing contact with your tutor, there may not be any taught sessions.

Independent study within a degree program

In most programs, ‘independent study’ means working on your own between taught sessions. Early on you are given more guidance, though probably still less than you received at school or college. As you move through the program, you are usually given more choices and greater personal management of the study process. The amount if independent study increases until you write your dissertation, which you do almost completely by independent study.

Levels of independence
Different levels of independence are involved for each program and for each year. This depends on how far you:
  • have control over the content, design, and learning outcomes for the module, unit, or degree
  • study from resources rather than attend taught sessions
  • have choices over modules or options
  • decide the pace of study
  • are expected to study on your own each week
  • can choose where and when you study
  • can choose your assignment titles
  • can choose how you will be assessed

Independent learning can be all things you would like it to be. University learning allows you a great deal of freedom to shape your learning experience to suit yourself. The better your study skills, the easier you will find managing that freedom so that you can enjoy yourself while undertaking independent study successfully. It is up to you to manage that process well.

The key steps to making your study:
  1. Carefully select something that excites you (or at least narrow down options before); 
  2. Take initiative with the project’s creation and direction: how you will do your research. (In the past student have used interviews, photo essays and observation.)
  3. Think about guiding questions you will answer – what are the key questions within your topic you want to look at in more detail?
  1. How you approach studying matters
Way to help improve your study mindset:
  • Aim to think positively when you study, and remind yourself of your skills and abilities.
  • Avoid catastrophic thinking. Instead of thinking, “I’m a mess, I’ll never have enough time to study for this exam,” look at it like, “I may be a little late to study as much as I’d like, but since I’m doing it now, I’ll get most of it done.”
  • Avoid absolute thinking. Instead of thinking “I always mess things up,” the more objective view is, “I didn’t do so well that time, what can I do to improve?”
  • Avoid comparing yourself with others, because you usually just end up feeling bad about yourself.
  1. Where you study is important
  2. Bring everything you need, nothing you don’t
  3. Outline and rewrite your notes
  4. Use memory games (mnemonic devices)
  5. Practice by yourself or with friends
  6. Make a schedule you can stick to
  7. Take breaks (and rewards!)
  8. Keep healthy and balanced
  9. Know what the expectations are for the class

Studying is an effort to actually learn things, some of which you might actually care about. So while you’ll have to take your share of classes that have little or nothing to do with your interests, you should still look for interesting things to take away from every experience.