Types of Courses

Awarding of Credit

The following is quoted form the University of Wisconsin System Policy on Academic Year Definition and Assorted Derivatives, as approved by the Board of Regents and as published in the UW System Academic Planning Statement #4 (ACPS-4):

The institutions shall award credit to students successfully completing approved instructional programs, or demonstrating competence or learning equivalent to that provided by such programs as either semester credits, or quarter credits. It is assumed that study leading to one semester credit represents an investment of time by the average student of not fewer than 48 hours for class contact in lectures, for laboratories, examinations, tutorials and recitations, and for preparation and study; or a demonstration by the student of learning equivalent to that established as the expected product of such a period of study.  Study leading to one quarter of credit represents two-thirds of that set as the standard for one semester credit.

Variable Topic / Content Courses

Precedence exists for courses that are approved as "umbrella" courses and that may be offered each time with a different topic or content. This kind of course is often found with a title including a word such as workshop or seminar, or issues. Such courses are often repeatable with the student allowed to earn credit several times for different topics.

Descriptions of the more common of these follow. It must be assumed that, for any one course in any one department, the topics must be those within the known discipline area with which that department is charged.

The following stipulations apply:

Course Offering

Following initial approval through the complete course approval process, departments may offer courses, such as seminars, issues, trends, and workshops, in which the topics/content offered may vary each time the course is offered. Specific approval for this kind of offering is to be given during the approval process.  Use the Variable Topic Proposal cover sheet and follow instructions for developing a new course.

Course Title

For courses in which the topic/content varies with each offering, the course title is to contain the single word which defines it as seminar, issue, trend, workshop, or the like, followed by a colon, and then the specific title which describes the content or topic of the course, for example SUBJ-756 Seminar: Computers in Printing, or SUBJ-456 Workshop: Paper Technology.

The course will appear on transcripts by this name and also in the course Timetable.

Catalog Description

For courses in which the content varies each time offered, the catalog description approved at the time the initial course is reviewed is worded in such a way as to clearly show that the course is always within the discipline area and curricular scope of the department, regardless of the fact that the content may vary each time the course is offered. For example, a seminar in the area of printing may have a catalog description which clearly indicates that content may vary with each offering and that all offerings will relate only to concerns of the printing industry and printing technology. Another seminar in the same department may limit itself to the area of drafting and related concerns only.


Since the course may vary each time offered, it is reasonable to expect that students may enroll in the course several times (each time for a different topic), and receive credit each time. While a department may indicate in the catalog description that the course is or is not repeatable, and may even state how many times the course may be repeated for credit, it is the prerogative of a program director to decide how credits will be accepted toward completing a degree program. Also, students may complete more credits than are required for graduation from a given degree program. It is assumed that the advisement process will help students in deciding how many times they may repeat a course for credit, and/or how many such courses they may expect to include in a program plan.

Before a course is scheduled with a different topic or content, the department offering the course is to submit a complete new course proposal for the variable topic to the dean for approval. The dean forwards the proposal to the provost (or delegate) for review. The provost (or delegate) may then decide whether the proposed topic and content fall under those of the originally approved course and are also within the instructional assignment of the department. If not, the provost (or delegate) may return the proposed offering to the department for additional information.

Special topic offerings shall initially be approved by the associate vice chancellor for up to three terms within a five-year period.  Additional offerings of the special topic must be approved by the CIC. After five years, the special topic offering approval will terminate and can only be renewed by the CIC.


A seminar is a teaching/learning methodology in which a small group, under faculty leadership, engages in original, critical, and usually advanced level presentation and discussion on selected topics. The standard approach is presentation-discussion, in which one or a few seminar members are presenters and all members are discussants, and all are knowledgeable of the subject in advance, through previous course work or through original research and related experiences. Participants may (or usually do) take turns as presenters and discussants.


A workshop is teaching/learning methodology in which a group engages in individual or small group "hands-on" activity or experiential learning of certain competencies of a usually highly specialized nature. Thus, a workshop is essentially a "short course" offered in a concentrated period of time, such as a week or a few days, and in which the emphasis is on actual experience related to the topics of the workshop.


A tour is a planned visitation to one or more destinations for specific educational objectives and outcomes. Such a tour is conducted over an extended period of time (such as a semester or a summer) under the direct or indirect supervision of a qualified instructor selected by the department offering the tour. A tour is an educational entity, and is not part of another existing course (such as a field trip). Students are expected to bear the cost for travel, housing, meals, admission costs, and the like, as may be required.


Problems, as may be indicated in a course title, implies that the course will identify, examine, and perhaps resolve one or several problems that may actually exist, or that may be artificially created for the purpose of requiring students to experience problem identification and solution. "Problems" courses are often graduate level experiences for Plan B papers, but may also be offered at a lower level to introduce students to problem-solving experiences early, or to confront students with the problems that exist in their chosen fields, or in society and the world in general. The course should concentrate on a problem, or problems, in depth.


An issues course concentrates on the identification and examination of topics which are considered controversial in nature and, thus, are classified as "issues" not yet resolved, or not generally resolvable. Student experiences should involve defending certain stands, or critically attacking other stands, or sides, of the issue. In-depth study of the issues are necessary for such activity.

Trends or Developments

A "trends" course provides opportunity to review, analyze, and otherwise study in depth directions which may be found or anticipated in specified areas of interest. Trends imply a change or tendency for change, as opposed to stability or static conditions. In-depth study implies studying, not only the change itself, but also analyzing the cause or reasons for change, the impact of change, or the outcome of change.

"Development" courses have similar concepts (as trends) involved in the content and objectives of the course.

Clinical Experience

A clinical experience offers an introductory or elementary experience in application of previously learned principles. The student works as a paraprofessional under controlled conditions in which specific competencies are to be achieved and/or demonstrated under the close supervision of the instructor. The teaching/learning setting for a clinical experience may be "real life" (such as student working as a volunteer in an agency) or may be more closely controlled as in an on-campus clinic or lab. The student is not paid for work performed. The hours per day or week devoted to the clinical experience are to be only part-time, with credits earned commensurate with hours involved, quality and quantity of effort, and of learning achieved. The student is usually expected to be enrolled in other courses while taking a clinical experience.


A practicum offers a more advanced learning experience in the application of previously learned principles to "real life" setting under the supervision of the instructor. The student functions as a paraprofessional and may or may not be paid for work performed. The competencies to be practiced and achieved are those for work commonly associated with the field. Evaluation is accomplished through the supervision process, in which student/instructor contact is frequent, and affords opportunity for critique and refinement of skills. Students usually are enrolled in other courses simultaneously to enrollment in a practicum. Hours of work and credits earned are commensurate with the activity of the student, both in quality and quantity.


Definition: An advanced and culminating experience prior to entry into a professional career. An intern functions on a professional level and is usually paid for the work performed. Internships are conducted under the direction (direct or indirect) of an instructor and are designed to provide "real life" or "on-the-job" experiences for the student, with the opportunity to critique and refine skills through contact with the instructor, and with an on-site supervisor assigned to work with the intern at the work site. Internships are usually practiced on a full-time basis. Credits earned are commensurate with the hours involved and the quality and quantity of the learning experience.


  1. The objectives to be achieved or the competencies to be demonstrated by the student intern are to be clearly defined in the course outline and approved through the curriculum process. Achievement is to be measured against these objectives or competencies and evaluated by the instructor in determining a student intern's grade for the internship.
  2. The course proposal is also to include the criteria, guidelines and process for selecting both the site and the on-site supervisor of the internship and should contain minimum standards to be met and the evaluation process for assuring that the criteria and standards will be met.
  3. In determining credits to be awarded, emphasis should be on quality of the learning experiences and not primarily on hours spent. Quality, in turn, depends on the content and objectives and/or competencies to be achieved and the methodology for such achievement, which may be guaranteed by the degree or professional supervision of the student during the internship. Maximum credits (1 credit for 48 hours of student involvement), as established by the Board of Regents, shall be awarded only when the conditions of quality, as well as quantity, have been assured.
  4. In all instances in which there is not direct and immediate supervision of the intern by the instructor (or departmental faculty/staff), assurances must exist that any supervision by non-UW-Stout personnel will support and maintain the quality of instruction assumed in on-campus courses. External supervisors must be in close communication with the instructor of the internship course.
  5. An internship is more than a simple employer-employee relationship in that the experiences of the intern are to be well-planned to meet the pre-specified objectives/competencies as given in the course outline. The on-site supervisor is to be a teacher and an evaluator of the intern's experiences on the job and is to see to it that the objectives/competencies are met and evaluated professionally. It is expected that appropriate reporting by the on-site supervisor to the instructor of the course will aid the instructor in the assignment of a final grade. The selection of the site and the on-site supervisor is thus seen as highly significant to the success of the internship experience.

Cooperative Education

Cooperative education is a learning approach that integrates college studies with working experiences in industry, business, government and public service. Under the plan, students leave campus (3 to 12 months) for the rigors and responsibilities of actual employment situations. The objective of the Cooperative Education Program at UW-Stout is to offer an additional option for learning and to give students a realistic education, which effectively combines academic classroom learning with experiential learning.

A variety of programs are open to the cooperative education method. Registered students will be able to apply for those co-op openings in their major or minor for which they qualify. Students who apply are first screened and/or interviewed, then selections for the co-op are made by the co-op employer. The number of credits will vary by program, length of experience and other variables. Students will work this out and gain the required approval with their program director and co-op mentor. Students are registered and pay tuition while enrolled in a co-op course.

Both the university and the company supervisor will evaluate the student. This is an ongoing evaluation process between the student and the company supervisor in order to insure maximum growth and benefit from the experience. A final grade is assigned by the university co-op mentor.

A co-op student can experience all the benefits of this program within a four-year period of time. However, it is likely co-op will extend a 4-year program by one or two semesters. The amount of time spent in a program is determined in agreement between the student, the employer and the college contact person.

The university will make the necessary program arrangements with the company.

Depending upon many factors, jobs may not always be available for each student applying for co-op. Co-op student employees are paid wages by their co-op employer depending upon the skills and techniques required for the job and the experience level of the student. Students are required to register and pay tuition for co-op credits and are responsible for travel, housing and living expenses while working.  See also the Career Services link for more information on co-ops.

Field Experience

Students are encouraged to obtain part of their college education off campus through a field experience. This allows students to receive academic credit for learning related to their major or minor while employed in an approved, off-campus field position. This off-campus learning is coordinated with classroom studies by means of weekly summary sheets, a final written report and an oral seminar when they return to campus.

Most students use their summers to enroll in this program, but part-time work is also permissible if it fulfills the requirement of employment, 320 hours. This number of hours, however, is flexible for most majors and is reduced by at least 50 percent for those students volunteering their services. Most students obtain their own field position, which is part of the educational experience; however, aids to finding and securing field positions are available. Students may repeat the course for credit, but the experience must be in a different organization or progressively more advanced in the same organization. The student's field position and their own individual learning objectives are reviewed and approved by the chairman of the department offering the course.

In the past, students have found that enrollment in this program has improved their motivation at school as they discovered the relationships between theory and practice; helped them in developing better human relations skills; and provided them with an effective means of gaining vocational guidance information concerning their major.

Field Experience courses carry a number ending in 97, elective field experience, or 98, required field experience (SUBJ-x97 or SUBJ-x98), whatever the department/subject or level.

Independent Study

Many students at the University of Wisconsin-Stout design their own courses for credit. They set their own personal learning objectives; develop the best learning methods to achieve those objectives by using resources such as books, periodicals, people, trips, laboratory equipment, etc.; design their own final test; and even decide what type of grading system that is to be used in evaluating their study. The ability for a student to design his own course is made possible by a flexible academic program called Independent Study.

The Independent Study Program is open to all students during any enrollment period. Credits are awarded on the basis of expending approximately 50 hours of effort for each credit. After a topic area for an Independent Study has been selected and approved by an appropriate department chairman, a faculty member is then assigned each student as a learning coordinator to counsel and aid the student in achieving his or her desired learning objectives. At the conclusion of the study, this learning coordinator then assigns a final grade for the study.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the Independent Study Program is for students to become better self-directed learners. Upon graduation, the ability to be a self-directed learner can be a major factor in helping a person achieve his potential in our ever-changing society. This program also provides more scope and depth in the curriculum by encouraging students to investigate areas of interest not currently included in any approved course at UW-Stout, study areas and develop projects that cut across course boundaries, or delve more deeply into specific parts of existing offerings.

Independent Study courses are offered as electives in almost all majors, minors, and departments, and at least one Independent Study is required in several majors and minors. All Independent Study courses carry a number ending in 99 (SUBJ-x99), whatever the department/subject or level. 

Wisconsin in Scotland (WIS) courses

International education directors at consortium campuses select faculty and courses to be offered at the Dalkeith House in Scotland. Course materials are provided for evaluation. Equivalencies or special course numbers must be identified for courses not originating at UW-Stout. The director of the Office of International Programs initiates these actions.

The director checks the course database to identify courses from other campuses that have been offered in previous years at Dalkeith House. These courses are assigned the same UW-Stout course numbers and GE and/or RES categories (if any) previously used. For courses not on the database, the director checks the UW System Transfer Information System (TIS) for UW-Stout equivalencies to courses offered by other institutions. Whenever possible, UW-Stout's equivalent course and GE/RES category is used.

When there is no equivalent in TIS, the director makes initial judgements and then consults with department chairs for concurrence or suggestions, such as:

  • in which college/department should the course be housed
  • identifying similar and possibly equivalent course in the department
  • which GE/RES assignment is appropriate
  • whether a special course number needs to be recommended.

Courses without equivalents are assigned to the appropriate discipline with a special course number, x96, where x is the intended level of coursework. Often a suffix is necessary to avoid duplicate numbering. If credits differ between an existing UW-Stout course and a similar WIS offering, the WIS course will be assigned a special course number.

New course approval forms are prepared and attached to course materials. The director sends them with a cover letter to the appropriate deans. The deans secure department chair approvals before making their own recommendation and returning materials to the Office of International Programs.

Course approval materials are submitted to the Associate Vice Chancellor requesting special approval for offering only in Scotland. Once approved, courses are added to the course database and reported to the Curriculum and Instruction Committee for information.

Repeated offerings occur. Courses previously offered through WIS remain on the course database and are reactivated as needed for future terms.