Increasing Curricular Flexibility in L&S

Overview of several course- and program- level tools for increasing curricular flexibility.

Several tools are available to foster flexibility in the curriculum. Program requirements can be developed to allow students to use the following to meet requirements, assuming that the department/program curriculum committee has reasonable procedures for ensuring that these tools are used appropriately:

Topics Courses

“Topics” courses are types of courses that have a general title (usually, “topics in…”) and a variable subheading determined by the department. They serve as broad categories within a particular field, under which a range of more narrow subjects may be taught. For example, under the course topic “Women and Society”, the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies has taught such varied topics as “Political Economy and Gender”, “Family and Community Life”, “Gender and Welfare in Global Perspective”, and more.

Topics courses allow flexibility in the curriculum, so the faculty can experiment with new courses, offer instruction in areas that are not part of the regular course array, take advantage of the expertise offered by visiting professors, or to provide a “holding” place while a course is awaiting approval. These are tools to use when departments want occasionally to offer courses that don’t appear often enough, or that aren’t broad enough, to justify creating a regular course. In other words, topics courses help the faculty manage curriculum.

See also: L&S Guidelines for Topics Courses  and L&S "Meets-With" polices and guidelines

Directed study

"Directed Study" courses are non-group instruction courses that students pursue under the direct supervision of a faculty mentor.  Although they are often independent reading and research experiences, they have (with the consent of the faculty who guide the student's learning process) been used to connect formally defined academic study and scholarly research with a wide variety of other experiences (e.g., internships and volunteer opportunities).

See L&S Instructional Policy for Undergraduate Directed/Independent Study Courses (for instructors and departments)  for more detailed guidance from the L&S Curriculum Committee about use of Directed Study Courses.  Note: The University Academic Planning Council has approved policy in this area, "Policy on Directed/Independent Study for Undergraduates ". The L&S Curriculum Committee has aligned L&S policy to conform to the campus policy.

Options and Tracks



Contact Elaine Klein, Associate Dean for Academic Planning, with further questions: 
Phone: (608) 265-8484

See also:  Propose changes to L&S program requirements (Major, Named Option, Certificate, Graduate Minor)