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Variable Credit Hour Example Plans

Field Study/Internship Plan

Field Study/Internship (X964) courses are work experiences (“internships”) that are approved by some departments and selected to augment traditional classroom activities. The student is evaluated by their site supervisor and academic department on the knowledge and skills acquired as a result of the experience. Emphasis is placed on the academic and practical value of the work.

Example Plan

Your initials: HB

Project Title: Internship with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Key Details.

  1. (a) Start and end date of the project or position, (b) approx. hours to be worked per week, and (c) total hours to be worked during the semester. Each credit hour should entail a minimum of 45 hours of combined instruction, supervision, and student effort during a 15-week semester.

    (a) August 23, 2021 to December 8, 2021, (b) 10 hours per week, (c) 150 total hours

  2. Description of the project or position; you must include learning objectives and activities associated with the project or position.

    I will be working as an intern for the USDA NRCS to map soils in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. My work will involve physical mapping activities in the field, plant identification and correlated association with particular soils, and use of a Geographic Information System (GIS) to maintain digital soil maps. I will be supervised by and work closely with the soil survey leader in charge of mapping in this region of Montana. My learning objectives are as follows: (a) learn to utilize soil-landscape relationships to systematically map and describe the occurrence of soils in the landscape; (b) develop skills to identify and acquire the spatial data layers needed to create and maintain a digitally-based soils map; (c) develop skills to identify plants of the Bitterroot Valley and learn to use plants as indicators of soil map units, ecological sites, and soil-site and topographic relationships; and (d) acquire knowledge related to estimating the production for crops, trees, and grasses associated with particular soils and ecological sites.

  3. Describe how the project or position relates to your major and career goals.

    This position provides me an opportunity to apply and integrate knowledge from a large number of courses that I have completed for my major (Intro to Land and Field Measurements, Forest Soil and Watershed Mgt., Intro to Physical Geography, Principles of GIS, Geomorphology, Forest Biology and Dendrology, and many others). It also permits me to expand my knowledge base into scientific topics that have yet to be covered in my coursework. The internship will provide great preparation for me to work as a forest soil scientist with the USFS, which is my desired employment opportunity after graduation.

  4. Describe how you will be evaluated for a grade at the conclusion of the experience. (Work closely with your instructor of record to develop this section.)

    I will be evaluated by the instructor of record based on the following: (a) completion of a daily journal (15% of grade), (b) mid-term report (25% of grade), (c) final reflective summary (25% of grade), and (d) letter of evaluation from my NRCS supervisor (35% of grade).

Independent Study Plan

Independent Study (X974) courses generally involve extensive reading and tutorial sessions with the faculty supervisor and may involve written papers or other learning assessments. The subject of independent study is usually a continuation in greater depth of a topic covered in a regular course, allowing students to study topics of a particular individual interest.

Example Plan

Your initials: HB

Project Title: Independent Study in Circular Economy and Consumption

Key Details to be developed in conjunction with the Instructor of Record.

  1. Description of the study (topical area to be studied and content of the course)

    This course provides an overview of contemporary actions, applications and approaches to the implementation of consumption within a Circular Economy system. This includes exploration of emerging business models, the technologies required for these to succeed, the systems in which new models of consumption exist and influence, and the potential rebound effects of new models. I will work closely with the instructor to explore contemporary thinking and methodologies used within the literature regarding the conceptualization, application, and measurement of circular economy systems. Grounded in the use of systems-thinking and systems-design methods, learnings will be applied through a series of applied systems-tools to describe, capture, and clarify the interconnected economic, social, and environmental system elements within circular economy.

  2. Course learning objectives
    1. Explain the primary mechanisms and business models of circular economy consumption that have been introduced and/or are currently operating in the world.
    2. Describe these systems using visual tools from the systems-thinking literature, reflecting micro, meso, and macro scales and diverse stakeholders (e.g., causal-loop diagrams).
    3. Develop a visual diagram(s) describing the nested systems (micro, meso, and macro) of circular economy consumption that reflect the most recent thinking and research and which will provide a basis for continuing research.
  3. Course learning activities

    Course objectives will be met through completion of assigned readings, a series of assignments requiring the application of systems-tools to particular elements of the integrated system, and key outputs as outlined below (see Section 5 below).

  4. Student effort during the 15-week semester (total hours of scheduled instruction throughout the semester and total hours of all learning activities during the semester); each credit hour should entail a minimum of 45 hours of combined instruction, supervision, and student effort during a 15-week semester.

    For this 1 cr hr course, I will receive one hour of scheduled instruction per week (15 hours of scheduled instruction in total), and complete assignments an additional two hours per week (30 hours during the semester). Total hours of learning activities during the semester = 45 hours.

  5. Describe how you will be evaluated for a grade at conclusion of the experience.

    I will be evaluated by the instructor of record based on the following: (a) weekly readings and discussion responses (30% of grade), (b) weekly assignments (30% of grade), and (c) final project (40% of grade).

Undergraduate Research Plan

Undergraduate Research (X994) courses are individual research projects carried out by students under faculty supervision. The student defines the research topic and objectives, proposes a methodology, conducts the research, and creates a tangible deliverable such as a paper, presentation, or technical product.

Example Plan

Your initials: HB

Project Title: Influence of redox sensitive Fe-C interactions on denitrification in variably saturated soils

Conflict of Interest.

Conflict of Interest training is required by every student participating in an externally funded undergraduate research project, the timing of which is determined by the nature of the research. Explanation of this requirement can be found at the Office of Undergraduate Research - Training and Compliance. Registration for training can be found at

(Public Health Service) project, specifically NIH, CDC, or FDA; as such, we understand the student must complete Conflict of Interest training before the student begins any work on the project. Date training was completed:
(Public Health Service) project; we understand the student must complete Conflict of Interest training within the first 30 days of classes for the term in which the student is earning credit for this project. Date training was/will be completed:
, thus the Conflict of Interest training is not necessary for student.

Key Details.

  1. Scientific premise for conducting the proposed research

    Soil greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are strongly related to soil moisture content. While differences in GHG emissions from continuously saturated soils (constant reducing conditions)and well-drained soils (constant oxidizing conditions) are well-described and modeled, GHG emissions from variably saturated soils are poorly understood. In particular, the transition zone between wet and dry areas may be a biogeochemical hotspot for soil GHG emissions. These variably saturated zones can experience rapid changes in soil water and cycling reduction-oxidation (redox) conditions, thus altering the biogeochemical interactions among organic carbon (OC), nitrogen (N), and redox sensitive metals (e.g., Fe and Mn) with important implications for soil GHG emissions.

  2. Specific research objectives

    The objectives of this research are to (1) characterize Fe-C interactions in soils collected across a gradient of soils that are continuously saturated, variably saturated, and well-drained; (2) quantify GHG emissions (CO2, N2O, and CH4) and denitrification potential from soils under variably saturated conditions; and (3) elucidate correlations between Fe-C interactions, GHG emissions, denitrification potential, and soil saturation.

  3. Research methods to be employed

    We will sample forest soils at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, an NSF-supported long-term ecological research site that spans a natural gradient of saturating conditions. Modified selective dissolution analyses will be conducted to characterize Fe-C interactions in each sample. Samples collected from the field will be packed to field measured bulk density in 100 mL vials (soil mesocosms) and incubated. Within the mesocosms, we will manipulate soil saturation and quantify the emissions of CO2, N2O, and CH4. Lastly, assays will be conducted to evaluate denitrification potential. Correlations between denitrification potential, Fe-C, GHG emissions, and saturation dynamics will be explored using statistical analyses.

  4. Expected hours worked per week and total for the semester: each credit hour should entail a minimum of 45 hours of combined instruction, supervision, and student effort during a 15-week semester.

    For this three-credit-hour undergraduate research study, I will be working approximately nine hours per week in the laboratory and field. In total, I will work a minimum of 135 hours during the semester.

  5. Description of how the student will be evaluated for grading purposes. List all items/activities that will be graded and the proportion of the final grade associated with each graded item/activity. (Work closely with your instructor of record to develop this section.)

    I will be evaluated by the instructor of record based on the following: (a) a complete and thorough research notebook describing my daily research activities, procedures, and protocols (30% of grade); (b) mid-term summary of research progress that includes a thorough literature review (25% of grade); and (c) a poster presentation of my research findings at the 2021 annual meeting of the Soil Science Society of America that will be critiqued by the faculty member supervising this research (45%).