Student Course Contract Options

The University Honors Program (UHP) is committed to student engagement in learning; and we offer the opportunity for students to collaborate with faculty to develop directed study courses and course adjustment options. Our Honors Contract enables UHP students to undertake a faculty supervised course and to have those course credits, with a minimum grade of “B” or better, applied as HON credits. Up to three Honors Contract course credits may be applied toward membership requirements, scholarship renewal, priority registration and the UHP Honors Core Award, and up to six Honors Contract credits may be applied toward the UHP Honors Certificate.

Students must seek out a faculty member who is willing to assist them in the development of the Honors Contract (pdf). Generally, it is a good idea to choose a faculty mentor with whom you have previously worked and whose field of scholarship is appropriate to the proposed course. Once you have defined a directed study project, a special topic for study/research, or a regular course that you wish to adjust; your faculty mentor can advise you in defining the scope of your honors course and appropriate number of course credits. Then, complete the Honors Contract and submit it to your faculty mentor and the UHP Director for signature approval. After receiving written approval from the Director, the department overseeing the course may open the appropriate course section with HON in the course description.

The Honors Contract course must be taken for a traditional letter grade. Students may enroll for a maximum of 3-4 credits per semester. An Honors Contract will not generally be approved when a regular academic course is available on the same topic, nor for internships, practica, technical training courses, studio courses, or developmental courses.

Honors Contracts fall within the following three categories:

  • Honors Directed Study:
    A directed study (DS) course provides the opportunity for students to explore topics in greater depth as well as topics that fall outside the scope of regular academic courses. For example, undergraduate research and other types of scholarly or creative activities may be pursued through a directed study course. Generally, a research project includes a review of the pertinent literature, independent research, a formal write-up of results, and possibly a formal presentation. Service leaning can also be conducted as a directed study course. Service learning is an unpaid, focused, service activity, constituting a minimum of 48 hours per credit hour earned and must be discussed in detail with the UHP Director. Students benefit their local community and learn by engaging in a substantial and meaningful activity usually through a non-profit or public institution. Examples include the Moscow Mentor Program, Habitat for Humanity, food banks, homeless shelters etc. A faculty member must be willing to open a DS Honors section and then assist the student in course planning and grading the additional work.
  • Honor’s Course Adjustment Option:
    With faculty collaboration and approval, students, can convert a regularly scheduled 3- or 4- credit course into an Honors course through specified extra assignments such as additional reading, writing, fieldwork, research, or community service. For example, a standard course could be supplemented with current research articles, with readings on the history of the discipline; a research project, a significant presentation etc. A faculty member must be willing to open an honors section for the class and then assist the student in course planning and grading the additional work.
  • Study Abroad Experience:
    With the UHP Director’s approval,
    • students who participate in a one-semester study abroad experience may receive an Honors Core Award by completing 16 rather than the required 19 UI Honors credits or the Honors Certificate by completing 24 credits rather than the required 27 Honors credits.
    • students who participate in a two-semester study abroad experience may receive an Honors Certificate by completing 21 rather than the required 27 Honors credits.
    For the study abroad contract, students complete the top 4 lines of the Honors Contract, provide a brief description (200-300 words) of the study abroad experience, gain the signature of the UHP Director, and then complete a 2-page reflection paper upon return.

Student Responsibilities

Discuss course options with the UHP director. After carefully reading the course contract information on the Honors website, work with your faculty mentor to develop learning expectations and then develop a detailed description of the proposed course work or the study abroad experience that you will complete through your Honors Contract.  Be sure that the description of your course work includes project title, learning objectives, specific assignments and activities, due dates, and evaluation methods. Submit the initial contract with faculty signature to the UHP Director no later than 5:00 p.m. on the 4th day of class each semester.  Following initial contract approval by the UHP Director, complete the agreed upon work over the semester and then submit the final contract with faculty signature to the UHP Director by 5:00 p.m. on Friday of "exam week."

Faculty Responsibilities

We appreciate your extra efforts that enable an Honors student to take advantage of the Honors Contract option. Please work with the student to establish appropriate learning outcomes, assignments, due dates, and criteria for evaluating the learning outcomes. Sign the Honors Contract (pdf) showing your agreement to assist the student. After the Honors Contract has been approved by the UHP Director, you will receive an email confirmation and basic information to open the course through your department. The course may be listed as HON: DS 499: (title of the course) or as an HON section of a regular class. Faculty should not support this contract unless they are willing to plan, direct and evaluate the student’s work and efforts.

As available, the faculty mentor could schedule regular meetings during the semester (possibly weekly or biweekly) to discuss course progress. If more than one student is completing an Honors course under the supervision of the same faculty mentor, then the faculty mentor may wish to schedule regular group meetings with those students to share information, exchange ideas, and discuss their progress. When the student work has been completed, the faculty mentor must sign the bottom half of the Honors Contract indicating that the student completed all agreed upon work and then submit a letter grade by the Registrar’s deadline. If the agreed upon work has not been completed by the end of the semester, the faculty mentor must submit an appropriate letter grade or an “incomplete” to be followed by a final grade when the work is complete. If you have questions, or if the student fails to complete the agreed upon work, please contact the Honors Program at 885-6147 or

Process and timetable for completing an Honors Contract:

  • Meet first with UHP Director and then with faculty member to discuss course content and scope of work, typically by the end of the preceding semester.
  • Complete initial Honors Course Contract (pdf) with description of work and then gain formal approval with the signature of faculty mentor and the UHP Director by 5:00 p.m. on the 4th day of the semester
  • Complete agreed upon learning experiences over the course of the semester
  • Meet with and submit final assignments to faculty mentor who will then sign the bottom half of the Contract verifying that all the agreed upon work was completed.  Instructor must submit course grade by Registrar’s deadline.
  • Submit the final Contract to the UHP Director by 5:00 p.m. on Friday of “exam week.”

Components of the scope of work (200-300 words):

  1. Course or Project Title
  2. Describe what will you study, learn, and be able to do after the completion of this course. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! Generally the scope of the proposed project should be commensurate with normal expectations for an academic course with a corresponding number of credits.
  3. Describe in detail the specific learning experiences and activities that will help you achieve your learning goals. Don’t indicate that you will do “extensive fieldwork” or “extensive reading.” Explain the specific type of fieldwork or the specific books and articles you intend to read, and, more importantly, how this work will enable you to accomplish your specific learning objectives. Don’t merely list an activity, such as “research” or “community service.” Again, give details. What kind of research? If laboratory experiments, how many? If library research, how much? Or, how many hours of service learning? Of what type? Don’t simply offer that you will write a paper. What is the paper topic? Its length? How does the thought and writing that will go into the paper provide opportunities for original observations, discoveries, and insights?
    Examples of learning experiences:
    • Conduct research in a laboratory or at a field site
    • Review or research the primary literature
    • Write a research paper or a critical essay
    • Develop a video or film
    • Write a short story, poems or . . .
    • Create art or sculpture
    • Integrate research with practice
    • Write a technical paper or a paper targeted at lay audiences
    • Conduct interviews with primary sources
    • Write a research proposal
    • Develop or contribute to a web site
    • Perform via dance, music, or drama
    • Create an exhibit of work
    • Develop and publish software
    • Make an oral presentation or poster presentation at a regional or national professional meeting or on the UI campus (UI Research Expo, Engineering Expo, or COS Student Research Expo)
    • Apply engineering concepts to solve a problem
    • Conduct policy analysis
    • Participate in a significant service learning activity that benefits the community
  4. Develop a calendar that clearly states when different learning activities and experiences are to be completed over the course of the semester
  5. Describe the methods and criteria that will be used for evaluation. If there are written assignments, specify their nature and how they will be evaluated.

Scope of Work Example for a Directed Study Research Project

Kinetics of Cellulose Decomposition

Woody biomass (45% cellulose) holds tremendous potential for the conversion of cellulose to glucose. Glucose can then be fermented to alcohol or thermally or chemically converted to basic chemical feed stocks and polymer precursors. Dr. Wilson (professor in Biological Sciences) recently isolated a bacterium that produces extremely high concentrations of a very active cellulase enzyme. The goals of this exploratory research project will be to study the bacterial kinetics of cellulose decomposition to glucose through a series of lab experiments. The effects of temperature, pH, and nutrients on glucose production will be examined via graphical analysis. Through this project, I will learn how to research the primary literature, plan a research project, conduct experiments, analyze data, and write a manuscript.

For my 3-cr undergrad research course, I intend to spend 10-12 hours per week working on the project as described in the work plan below. Dr. Wilson has agreed to supervise this research; and I will meet with him and/or his research team at 1:00 every Tuesday afternoon to go over my progress. My grade will be based on the quality of my literature review, laboratory work (data collection, graphical analysis, and lab notebook), data analysis, and final manuscript. If the quality of my research and manuscript is high enough, I would like to present my research as a poster presentation at the College of Science Research Expo next fall and possibly as an oral presentation at the UI Research Expo the following spring.

Schedule Target Completion Date
Review pertinent literature Jan. 15-31
Learn experimental techniques and procedures from post-doc Jan. 15-Feb.5
Write introduction and compile bibliography for manuscript Feb. 1-10
Conduct experiments and graph results Feb. 6- April 20
  • Temperature experiments Feb. 6-15
  • pH experiments Feb. 15-30
  • Nutrient experiments (if time allows) March 15-April 20
Analyze data and write manuscript April 10-April 30
Submit manuscript and all assignments to faculty mentor Friday of “dead week”
Submit reflection paper and all assignments to UHP Director Friday of “exam week”
Prepare and present poster at COS Research Expo Next fall (optional, and ungraded)