Nancy Colyer is beginning to think that all times of the year are busy for the independent study office at Kansas University.
As students frantically struggle this summer to finish courses needed for graduation, Colyer's staff is struggling along with them. The director of independent study, a division of Continuing Education, Colyer took some time out last week to talk about what's happening in those small trailers near the Kansas Union.
Colyer, who's been director for six years, said enrollment in independent study courses is at 3,000 students. They offer 115 courses for undergraduate credit, from a seminar in "life shaping" to human physiology.
"There are a lot of faces of independent study," Colyer explained. "Besides the courses we offer for credit, we do a lot of publications, like the Kansas Studies Program that publishes materials about Kansas for high school students who now are required to take a Kansas history course."
They are also working on a geography manual, she said.
IN RECENT years, the department has revised its course offerings to better accommodate students. The courses are taught by about 75 instructors, 90 percent of whom are full-time professors. Some of the lower-division courses are taught by graduate teaching assistants, Colyer said.
While enrollment in on-campus classes is regulated, an independent study course may have only one student enrolled or as many as 500. But Colyer added that enrollment has never reached 500 for one class.
"To some extent, our enrollments reflect general enrollment on campus," she said. "What we do really mirrors the rest of campus."
Their largest enrollment is in math. Independent study offers nine mathematics courses with a total of 308 students enrolled in them. They offer seven psychology courses with a current enrollment of 186 students.
The students who take courses through independent study usually need to fulfill a graduation requirement. Other students may take a course for pleasure, she said.
IN ADDITION, there is a College for High School program that is offered for high school students who would like to get some basic requirements out of the way before coming to campus. Nearly 75 students in Manhattan have pre-enrolled for classes this fall, Colyer said.
One of the newest classes, Introduction to Jazz, is among the most interesting courses that is offered, she said.
Taught by Chico Herbison, assistant director of admissions, Colyer said Introduction to Jazz is "a listening course, a reading course and a writing course." Herbison wrote the study guide, and he and Dick Wright, courtesy professor of theater and film, produced the tapes, she said.
Students have nine months to finish an independent study course, and they may extend their enrollment for three months if they have not completed the assignments within the regular enrollment period. Since revising the courses, the completion rate, which is about 70 percent, is much higher than it used to be, Colyer said.
"Our completion rate is very good overall," she added. "There are some courses that have excellent completion rates. Some don't, like math. The trouble with math is many of the students aren't very well-prepared. The students must be self-motivated to finish an independent study course."
THROUGHOUT THE course, students send in lessons, which usually are returned to them within two weeks. And like on-campus classes, they also must take exams and finals.
While the instructors never meet their students, Colyer said she believes the courses have a personal touch.
Jerry Masinton, an English professor, has taught independent study courses for about 16 years. He said he has enjoyed the experience. He teaches two American literature surveys and two directed readings courses on Willa Cather and Ernest Hemingway.
Masinton said he plans to continue to teach in independent study.
"Unfortunately, you don't have the one-on-one relationship with students," he said. "But I've tried to be more personal in commentary. I've found that the students are usually self-selective; they're a bit better than average. There's a tendency for them to be more practiced.
"Occasionally, I'll have older students who are trying to advance their careers. Most of the people seem quite interesting."