Master of Education in Distance Education (MDDE) 690-691

Independent Study

Course cover

Delivery Mode: Individualized Study

Credits: 3

Prerequisite: None.

Availability: All terms

Note: MEd program students must complete Mdde601 & Mdde602 prior to all other courses
Early access to the Moodle Learning Management System begins a few days before the official start date of your course. At that time you will have limited course access.


The purpose of Independent Study (IS) credits is to provide a means by which students can focus on, elaborate, or broaden their understanding in an area of interest not provided in the formal core or elective courses. As the impetus for an IS proposal is the students' individual interests, it is not possible to anticipate in advance the range and variety that might be encompassed.

IS cannot be used as a substitute for existing course offerings, even when scheduling problems occur. Further, IS credit will not be granted for proposals that replicate knowledge and skills acquired in previous courses or are somewhat larger projects than students have conducted in their assignments.

IS credits can be used to go beyond existing course content and extend the skills learned in courses already completed by students. The following are a few examples of circumstances under which an IS proposal may be appropriate.

  • IS credit may be used when a student wants to do more reading and studying in a subject or topic area not currently covered by an existing course.
  • IS credit may be appropriate when a student wants to go beyond the level of knowledge and skill achieved in an area of study covered by an existing course which they have already completed, that is, which they want to achieve higher-order or increased skills covered in a previous course.
  • IS credit may be appropriate when a student wishes to consolidate their thinking in an academic or applied area of special interest. This could involve writing a review or summary paper demonstrating that consolidation and thinking (e.g., publishing a paper or making a conference presentation or some similar combination of activities).
  • IS credit may be appropriate when a student wishes to engage in a series of activities and link them together into a creditable package. For example, a student might attend a workshop, participate in a conference, conduct a seminar and prepare a number of reports, products, or documentation demonstrating the new knowledge and skills they have acquired.
  • Finally, it is important that IS credits not be viewed as a means of conducting thesis preparation. Ample thesis and project credit is available and should be used for that purpose. At the same time, some students may find that the IS credit provisions actually permit them to accomplish goals similar to those that might also be developed through thesis/project work. For some students, using IS credits and selected option courses may achieve similar knowledge and skills, that is, this can be an approach that permits course route students to obtain some of the specific skills that may otherwise have to be achieved via the thesis/project route. Students should talk to their advisors about how this could work for them.
**Note: MEd program students are also encouraged to register in courses outside of AU for MEd credit. That process requires a Letter of Permission (LOP) and is NOT an example of IS credit. See the directions for requesting an LOP in your handbook.)


All MEd program students are eligible to register in up to two, 3-credit Independent Study (IS) for in meeting the program requirements of the MEd degree. These will be assigned numbers (MDDE 690/691) and names. Names will be derived from the IS proposals as written by students. Non-program students are not permitted to take IS credits. Normally, students will have completed a substantial number of core and elective courses before requesting IS credits.

Minimal Requirements for IS Credits

All IS proposals must meet the following minimum standards:

  • the work proposed must be demonstrably at the graduate level;
  • the magnitude of the work must be equivalent to that required by core and option courses (e.g., approximately 150 hours of work, 2-3 products or evaluative activities, etc.); and,
  • the proposal must contain documentation and evidence that appropriate supervision and evaluation has been planned.

The Process for Preparing an IS Proposal

The Student's Role

Note that IS credits are not required of MEd students, rather, this category of elective credit is provided to facilitate students' who need an opportunity to earn credit for achieving educational objectives outside those specified within the regular program courses. Thus, the responsibilities falling on the student in planning and organizing such credit activities are greater than with other, planned electives offered by the program. The following list describe the student's responsibilities with respect to IS credits.

  • Initiating the process - normally, the student will initiate the proposal for IS credits by bringing their ideas, topics and suggested activities to their advisor for discussion.
  • Obtaining a sponsor - it is the student's responsibility to locate a faculty sponsor for proposed IS credit work. In some cases, students may also need to arrange for support or permission from other agencies or people should their proposed IS credits require this.
  • Adhering to policy and procedures - it is the student's responsibility to make sure that regulations are met and that the timing of application meets required cut-off dates, etc.
  • Fees - the fees for IS credits are the same as for other elective courses.

The Advisor's Role

Note that advisors are not obliged to sponsor IS credit activities simply because they have been requested or proposed by an advisee. Neither are students required to work with their advisor on such projects or activities. Rather, the student and advisor should discuss the proposal, decide whether the advisor could or will become the sponsor and, if not, the advisor may be able to recommend or suggest alternative sponsors. The following are the roles the advisor may play in facilitating an advisee's IS credit proposal.

  • The advisor is available to help students structure an IS proposal, specifically in ensuring that the proposal meets the qualities and requirements for such activity as specified above.
  • The advisor may assist the student in defining the goals, objectives and outcomes of the proposed IS.
  • The advisor may become the sponsor for the IS activity - should that be mutually agreeable.
  • The advisor may facilitate the student in locating another faculty member to sponsor the IS activity.
  • The advisor should assist the student in ensuring that the regulations and procedures are followed.
  • The advisor must endorse the proposal, that is, s/he will be required to sign off on the proposal prior to the student's proceeding with the work.

The Sponsor's Role

The faculty sponsor is someone on the MEd faculty that will endorse and support the student's IS request. The sponsor may have different levels of involvement in the IS activity depending upon its specific characteristics. At a minimum, the sponsor endorses the activity, supervises the student and takes responsibility for ensuring that the student demonstrates achievement of the specified goals, objectives and evaluates the student's products. In some cases the sponsor may be more actively involved in the IS activity with the student (e.g., suggesting reading, providing on-going feedback on projects, working with the student on research or other activities, etc.).

The sponsor is required to approve and sign the student's application for the IS form before it is sent to the program director. The role of the sponsor should be clearly specified on the form and the sponsor's signature is an indication that s/he agrees to the roles, responsibilities and levels of involvement describe in it.

Independent Study Regulations

  1. Normally, students cannot gain credit for more than two, three-credit IS courses in the MEd program.
  2. IS credit is equivalent to other option course credit, but uses a unique number (i.e., MDDE 690 or MDDE 691).
  3. IS credit is recorded on the student's transcript using the appropriate course number, as indicated above, along with the number of credits (3), a numeric and alpha grade (e.g., 95% A+), and a title (as defined in the IS proposal).
  4. Students must follow the existing regulations for option credit registration when applying for IS credit. That means that a student cannot register in IS credit unless they have completed the core courses or are concurrently registered in a core course offered that term.
  5. All IS applications must be signed by the student's advisor and sponsor prior to submission to the MEd program director.
  6. Faculty are NOT required to sponsor IS requests from any student (including those they advise). Therefore, students should discuss IS interests with faculty well in advance of any registration cut-off dates.
  7. The signed IS application form becomes the contract for the IS credit. The faculty sponsor will be responsible for providing a mark according to the MEd program marking and grading scheme for work completed (or not completed) according to the contract.
  8. All MEd cut-off dates for registration and withdrawal dates apply to IS credit. Students are advised to check dates carefully when registering and considering withdrawal. Students should begin preparing their application well in advance of announced registration deadlines. All signatures must be obtained prior to the registration deadline (e.g., If the deadline is July 6th for fall registration, work on the application for IS should begin at least one month prior to that date in order to meet the cut-off deadline.)

MDE Faculty Profiles

Details of the academic background and interests of the full-time CDE faculty members may be helpful in planning independent study activity and sponsorship.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.