Independent Study Courses

1. Introduction
1.1. Background of the Study
1.2. Statement of the Problem
2.1. Objective (that achieve the aim)
2.2. Outcome
4.1. The Research Method
4.2. Data Gathering Procedure
5. Limitations
6. Conclusion


Education has for a long time been termed as the universal “key to success”. It is through a good education that we equip ourselves with the best skills both mentally and physically so as to yield positive results in our journey for success.

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However, education without direction is not effective and as such, it is of equal importance that one understands his/her strengths and weaknesses in order to balance them so as to achieve the best results in all his/her endeavor.

The purpose of this proposal shall be to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of independent study courses for Non-Traditional students.

The undertaking shall focus on Non-Traditional students who would like to enroll in these programs and analyze the extent to which these independent study courses are applicable and effective in relation to safe guarding the development, performance and survival of the students against the unpredictable employment market trends and competition brought about by the different variables that exist in the world today.

The evaluation of these factors shall be done through the use of interviews and questionnaires where various students and educators shall be encouraged to participate in a bid to find the disadvantages and advantages that can be accrued from these courses and how that decision may affect the overall future performance.

Thereafter Suitable solutions shall also be addressed as pertaining to the disadvantages and limitations that may arise as a result of pursuing these courses.

The study shall utilize the descriptive correlation method of research to effectively provide answers to the following question: what are the advantages and disadvantages of independent study course for Non-Traditional students? An analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) shall be used to evaluate the costs and benefits that are present in these courses and at the same time to pin point the major concerns raised by the participants in regard to the application of these courses in future endeavors.

Data collected shall at the end help in establishing the extent to which the decision to enroll in this courses is beneficial or not to the overall performance welfare of the students.

1.1 Background of the Study

There has been an increase in the number of educational institutions offering independent study courses globally. This has been as a result of increased competition, rapid technological advancement and the need to expand the market base by various institutions (Burke & Cummins, 2002).

Consequently, these institutions have resulted in offering courses that can be done from any location and at any time without the need for a school setting.

Over the years, the issues raised in relations to these courses have always evolved around the quality of education achieved by the students, applicability of the courses in the employment market and the ethical underpinning of such programs (Leh & Jobin, 2003).

In addition, Ryan (1999) reiterates that concerns have been raised as regarding to the extent to which they interfere with the set missions, visions and objectives of the educational systems.

Consequently, a building interest has been developed by policy makers towards the transformation of the rules and regulations that govern the establishment of educational institutions and their contribution or lack thereof towards the sustenance and protection of quality education within the student community

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Fourie (2002), states that over the past decade investments in the education sector have sky rocketed through out the various sectors, publics and business entities. Consequently, concerns have been raised as regarding to the quality of education offered, relevance of the courses offered in regards to gaining useful employment and the availability of learning resources required by these institutions (Fourie, 2002).

Considering the learning environment presented by the independent study courses, the need to evaluate such programs has heightened significantly.

This study shall evaluate the extent to which independent study courses are beneficial to non-traditional students. This shall be achieved through the analysis of the advantages and disadvantages that comes from enrolling for such courses.

Aim Of The Dissertation

2.1 Objectives (that achieve the aim)

Discuss with the various participants their overall expectations and views about the independent study courses.
Discuss with educators from selected institutions how these courses are different and/or beneficial to the students as compared to the traditional mode of studying.
Interview the various implementers and policy makers about how the benefits of such courses can be measured or analyzed.
Prepare a report about the findings collected relating to the above objectives.

2.2 Outcome

What are the benefits of the independent study courses to the non-traditional students?
What factors may make a student choose this mode of learning and what challenges and risks are they bound to encounter?

3. Related Literature Review

According to Smith (2001), getting quality education plays a very important role to both the student and the future employers. The authors discuss the benefits that can be acquired from having the necessary skills in the job market.

The authors reiterate that proof of educational achievements indicate high performance thereby increasing the likelihood of getting a great job. This they claim is because a learned person attracts more attention from employers because highly skilled personnel improve on the reputation of the organization.

This article gives insight on the benefits of acquiring education especially in a world where jobs are scarce and competition for the limited resources is rife. These advantages will be important during my research especially when it comes to formulating solutions and recommendations.

In his article, Kirkwood (2003) theorizes the concept of SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis as one of the best tool to evaluate the benefit and performance of an endeavor. He claims that with the knowledge collected from the analysis, the student can be able to make crucial decisions with a zero margin for error.

This means that the student can find ways to ensure that his/her goals are met all the while maintaining the required standards in all situations. The book will be most helpful especially during the methodology section where the SWOT analysis shall be carried out to evaluate whether enrolling for the independent study courses is a worthwhile investment to non-traditional students.

Getting an education is very important in today’s society. According to Washburn & Draper (2005), that does not necessitate the presence of learning institutions. This is because, there are various avenues through which one can get an education. Due to rapid technological advancement worldwide, people can get education from any location through the internet.

Independent study courses have utilized this opportunity to ensure that students in their different capacities get the necessary skills they need whenever and at whichever location they may be (Malan & Feller, 1992).

Fourie (2002) claims that the information technology sector is constantly faced with changes which render past skills obsolete. As such, practitioners in this sector are constantly forced to get back to school and update their skill level if they wish to remain relevant.

However, most of them lack the time to attend such classes mainly due to scheduling and location disparities. The author affirms that these courses offers such individuals a chance to pursue their careers with ease all the while getting the necessary skills needed in this dynamic field.

Leh & Jobin (2003) oppose to these independent study courses programs claiming that education is considered useless without proper communication and socialization skills. The authors state that school settings have been very instrumental in ensuring that students get the best skills that can be applied in the current business environment.

Schools provide educational programs consisting of subjects that impart general knowledge and development to the students in terms of rational thinking and intellectual capabilities. In as much as independent study courses may seem appealing to many, they do not consider the impact of interaction and competition to the future of the student.

School settings are characterized by peer groups, high competition and are very interactive. From these aspects, students are able learn the value of team work, how to cope in competitive times, how to strategize, apply the available resources to the maximum and how to interact (respect and social ethics) with different people.

Meeus et al (2008), state that researchers in the field of psychology have developed theories and assumptions on how a human works as per processing information and learning. As a result, these theories have made it possible for teachers to identify and divide students according to their different intellectual capabilities and learning preferences.

According to Souto & Turner (2000), people with a fixed mindset often believe in the basic intelligence that they are born with. They often doubt their abilities because their minds cannot perceive beyond what they believe they can manage and as such they lack the motivation to try harder because they are afraid to fail in their endeavors.

4. Methodology

4.1 The Research Method

The most suitable tool to use while evaluating this situation is analyzing the correlations that exist between the costs and benefits of enrolling for independent study courses. As such, this study shall use the descriptive correlation research method. This is because this research methodology seeks to identify the relationship between two variables which in this case are the advantages and disadvantages of the independent study courses to non-traditional students.

The data collected will consist of testimonials from some selected students and educators. It shall also include documented reports from various sources related to the ethical policies governing the educational sector.

These reports shall be used to evaluate and provide useful insight regarding the perceptions held by these policy makers. The data collected shall then be compared to data generated by other related studies to evaluate the efficacy of performance and applicability as regarding to the independent study courses. This comparison will be based on the credibility of the sources, the strength of the arguments and the perceptions of the different authors.

To evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of independent study courses for Non-Traditional students, key concerns such as quality of education provided, costs and applicability to the job market shall be established to provide guidelines for the interviews and the criteria to be used in data collection.

4.2 Data Gathering Procedure

Data collection shall be carried out through the following techniques:

Primary source of data will include scholarly and peer reviewed articles retrieved from various libraries. According to Kirkwood (2008), this is the best method of acquiring accurate data due to the credibility of the sources and the minimum costs incurred through these techniques. In addition to this, I shall organize appointments with at least four educators from whom I expect to get a brief overview of the independent study course programs and the reasons as to why they are most suitable for non-traditional students.

Secondary data shall include internet sources (websites and blogs) related to this topic as well as books used in class. However, since not all sources are credible, a thorough analysis of the data gathered from these sources will be required.

This shall be achieved by gathering information about the academic background of the authors as well as the reviews on their works as posted by other scholars. These sources shall be used in order to further support the findings from the primary sources. In addition to this, I shall use the various learning theories covered in class to explain the relationship between these two aspects.

This shall be done by analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of Independent Study Courses all the while linking them to the assumptions made by the selected theories. An analysis of the strengths weaknesses, opportunities and threats as regarding to these programs for at least two students shall also be carried out in order to gauge the various strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that may arise from using this system of learning.

As per demographics, flow charts, and other graphical representations shall be used to further explain the advantages and disadvantages of independent study courses in different circumstances such as working and non-working class students, distant and close (location from learning institutions) student.

Finally, a cost benefit analysis shall be done in order to evaluate the efficiency presented by these programs in terms of overall costs, time management and stress management (for students who are employed).

This shall be done in a bid to analyze the factors that would make student choose these programs as well as the risks that they are bound to face in future due to this decision. The cost benefit analysis will help in determining the best course of actions as well as the establishment of recommendations related to this topic (Ryan, 1999).

5. Limitations

The first limitation that I foresee will be getting credible data to utilize in this study. Due to the freedom of expression accompanied by internet usage, people may post biased comments as regarding to this topic. This may affect my arguments and consequently; the quality of my research.

In addition, getting first hand information from the educators and students involved in these programs may be difficult due to inadequate time and scheduling differences. This means that the selected participants may not give me the support I expect especially in relations to the amount of time I need to carry out the interviews. I may have to schedule the interviews to take place during breaks or after working hours in order to fit in their schedules.

Also the time I have very limited free time and as a result, most of my research will be carried out during the holidays, weekends work breaks and leaves.

This will be very challenging because I have to make those opportunities count in a bid to provide a well organized and informative research paper. Other foreseeable problems may include changes in the research parameters or even the absence of some key participants in the project.

6. Conclusion

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of the independent study course will be very beneficial especially to those students who would like to enroll but lack adequate information pertaining to these courses.

In addition, the recommendations made may be useful in the implementation process of measures designed to tackle the disadvantages of these programs. By undertaking this research, I will have played my part in ensuring that students get a chance to learn with a high degree of freedom as regarding to their needs.


Burke, L. A., & Cummins, M. K. (2002). Using Undergraduate Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Projects to Personalize Teaching. College Teaching, 50(4), 129 – 133.

Fourie, I. (2002). Using Distance Teaching Methods to Further the Careers of Working Adults. Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, 21(2), 29 – 48.

Kirkwood, A. (2003). Understanding Independent Learners’ Use of Media Technologies. Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 18(2), 155 – 175.

Leh, A. S., & Jobin, A. (2003). Striving for Quality Control in Distance Education. Computers in the Schools, 19(3), 87 – 102.

Malan, R. F., & Feller, S. (1992). Establishing workload equivalence: U.S. independent study courses and college residence classes. American Journal of Distance Education, 6(2), 56 – 63.

Meeus, W et al. (2008). Stimulating independent learning: a quasi-experimental study on portfolio. Educational Studies, 34(5), 469 – 481.

Ryan, J. H. (1999). Measuring Costs and Benefits of Distance Learning. Journal of Library Administration, 26(1), 235 – 246.

Smith, E. S. (2001). Writing web-based distance education courses for adult learners. American Journal of Distance Education, 15(2), 53 – 65.

Souto, C., & Turner, K. (2000). The Development of Independent Study and Modern Languages Learning in Non-specialist Degree Courses: A case study. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 24(3), 385 – 395.

Washburn, A., & Draper, J. (2005). 80 Miles from the Nearest Library, with a Research Paper Due Monday. Journal of Library Administration, 41(3), 507 – 529.


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