Chapter 2: Honors Courses, Honors Options, Honors Independent Study, Honors Research
- What is an Honors Course?
- What is an Honors Instructor?
- SHC Schedule of Honors Courses
- Designing an Honors Course
- Temporary vs. Permanent Courses
- Getting Approval for an Honors Course
- Making a Temporary Honors Course Permanent
- What is an Honors Option?
- Establishing an Honors Option Course
- Establishing an Honors Independent Study Course or an Honors Independent Research Course
Section 2.1: Honors Courses
What is an Honors Course?
In October of 2004, the SHC Faculty Advisory Committee (FAC) designed and approved a position paper called “What is an Honors Course?” describing honors courses used by Schreyer Scholars to meet their honors credit requirements.
What is an Honors Instructor?
In March of 2004, the SHC Faculty Advisory Committee designed and approved a position paper called “Guidelines for Schreyer Honors College Teaching Faculty: A Position Paper” describing guidelines for SHC teaching faculty.
SHC Schedule of Honors Courses
A list of all honors courses available to Schreyer Scholars at University Park for the current academic year can be found on the SHC Web site. Information at that site is continuously updated as new information becomes available. A limited-edition print version is still sent to First-Year Scholars prior to FTCAP. However, since the print version becomes outdated very quickly, all faculty and continuing Scholars are encouraged to use the Web version instead. To view all courses in a given semester, request a search with no keywords.
Designing an Honors Course
Faculty planning to design an honors course should use the general guidelines described in "What is an Honors Course". It is also a good idea to consult with honors advisers whose majors may be interested in taking the designed courses, during the production of the syllabus. An honors course might be a variation of a regular course from the Undergraduate Degree Bulletin (a.k.a. the Bluebook) or it might be a brand new course, for which there is no non-honors counterpart. Either way, honors courses, just like regular courses, are created and staffed by departments. An honors course being designed must meet all departmental and college requirements for curricular approval. The SHC Associate Dean also evaluates all proposed honors courses. The department, the college, and the SHC must all approve the design of an honors course before the university faculty senate and the registrar will make the course available to the students.
Temporary vs. Permanent Courses
A temporary honors course is a course that is offered as an H-course during one semester. Sometimes these courses will be x97H courses – truly experimental courses, and sometimes they will be an honors version of a regular course in the Undergraduate Degree Bulletin (a.k.a. the Bluebook). A temporary honors course is one that lists an END DATE in the Bluebook as an honors course. Most courses being offered as H-courses in the university to date are temporary honors courses, even if they have been available for many years. A permanent honors course is one that has been reviewed by the University Faculty Senate for separate inclusion into the Bluebook. If you need assistance in making a temporary honors course into a permanent one, please contact the office of the SHC associate dean for academic affairs.
Getting Approval for an Honors Course
Every honors course offered every semester must be approved by the department, the academic college, and the SHC. Temporary courses need to be approved by the University faculty senate curriculum office.
The honors course approval system is available online. Links will be provided by the SHC Associate Dean's office. Specific questions should be directed to the administrative assistant in the SHC Associate Dean’s office.
After you receive approval to teach a course from your department head, the online system is used to seek the rest of the approvals. To be advertised properly by the SHC, courses offered Fall or Spring semesters must be submitted to the SHC’s online system by the deadline at the end of January.
Making a Temporary Honors Course Permanent
An honors course is not a permanent course until it appears in the Undergraduate Degree Bulletin (a.k.a. the Bluebook) without an end date. It is necessary to follow college and senate curricular affairs procedures. The Guide to Curricular Procedures indicates that a “new course” proposal must be submitted after consultation with the Schreyer Honors College. The curricular process can seem daunting to many people. The SHC Associate Dean’s office can provide assistance in the preparation of an honors course proposal. Proposals must be submitted as “new course” proposals, even if there is a non-honors version, unless you actually intend to eliminate the non-honors version of the course. New honors courses based on existing non-honors courses are automatically granted all designations (GA, GH, GN, US, IL, W, etc.) related to University requirements, such as General Education, Writing-Across-the-Curriculum, or International/US Cultures. Please contact the office of the SHC associate dean for academic affairs if you need more information about the proposal process or want to find out when the next workshop will be held.
Section 2.2: Honors Options, Honors Independent Study, Honors Research
What is an Honors Option?
In December of 2005, the SHC Faculty advisory committee approved a position paper, "What is an Honors Option at Penn State University?" describing the honors option.
Establishing an Honors Option Course
A Schreyer Scholar intending to earn honors credit via honors option MUST submit an approved Honors Option form. These forms are filled out online by the student, and are approved online by the instructor and the honors adviser. Any individual who is not a tenure-line faculty member wishing to supervise an honors option must be approved to teach the honors option in a fashion similar to that described in What is an Honors Instructor? The form must be submitted to the SHC main office with approvals from both the instructor and honors adviser by the end of the fourth week of the semester.
Establishing an Honors Independent Study Course or an Honors Independent Research Course
Similar to an honors option, honors independent study courses and honors independent research courses are independently arranged honors experiences approved by an eligible faculty supervisor and the student’s honors adviser. Honors Independent Study can be thesis research as well as other honors research projects. It differs from an honors option in that there is generally no pre-existing syllabus and only one student registered for the course. An individual plan for achieving course credit must be identified.
To earn honors credit for independent study (e.g., a 496 course), a Scholar MUST submit an approved Honors Independent Study/Research form. The form is filled out online by the student, and approved online by the instructor and the honors adviser. The project supervisor is typically the instructor of record for the courses. Any individual who is not a tenure-line faculty member planning to supervise an honors independent study course must be cleared to teach it in a fashion similar to that described above for honors options. The form must be filed by the student with both project supervisor’s and adviser’s approvals by the end of the sixth week of the semester.
Section 2.3: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Honors Courses, Options, and Independent Study
Do faculty get paid extra by the honors college for teaching an honors section?
No. The SHC does not provide direct compensation to any faculty member teaching honors courses. Most honors courses ought to be treated as part of the faculty member’s regular teaching load, and not taught on overload, although that is entirely a departmental decision. All compensation issues should be addressed to your department.
I have an idea for honors course, but I don’t know how to get it started?
The first thing to do is to share the idea with your department head and/or the active honors advisers in your department. The decision to offer an honors course or to create a new course rests with the department’s administration with consultation from the honors advisers. You need to determine if they are receptive to your idea, before you pursue the design. If you need help in the design of an honors course, please contact the office of the SHC associate dean for academic affairs. That office can also advise you about whether a population of scholars would be interested in a course and can help you to publicize the course.
Can a staff assistant in my department office submit an honors course proposal?
Yes, but you will need to supply that person with all the pertinent information.
My advisee wants to do an honors option in a course that also has an honors section. Is that allowed?
Usually, this is not allowed. This may be allowed, if there are unavoidable reasons for the student to need a specific honors course during a semester in which he/she is unable to schedule the regular honors course. Poor planning does not constitute an unavoidable reason. If students request such options, determine clearly their motivations for the request and any conflict causing their inability to schedule the regular honors course.
My department offers a 494H course for thesis preparation. Does my student need to submit honors independent study forms for that course?
No, if the course already has a permanent H, or if the department has requested a standing temporary 494H course, the student does not need to submit additional paperwork. That is one advantage to having such permanent honors courses.
My undergraduate research student is working on a project in my lab, but that project will probably not relate to his thesis work. Is it possible for him to earn honors credit using honors independent study/research form, or is that credit limited to thesis research only?
It is possible. If you believe that the student will be doing honors-quality research, it need not be their thesis research. The honors independent study/research form provides a means to notate if the research is meant to be thesis research.