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Washington State University Graduate School

Chapter Three – E

Definition of Graduate Level Courses

1. 500-Level Academic Courses

A graduate course is a course whose contents require a high level of cognitive processing, such as synthesis, conceptualizing, critical evaluation, and problem solving. A graduate course contains a significant communication, writing, and speaking requirement with the ultimate objective being to prepare the student to perform, critically evaluate, and communicate original research and scholarly activity.

The guidelines for a graduate course are:

  • The course should not be a survey and introduction course to the discipline. The course content should be commensurate with the expectation that students in the class already possess knowledge of the discipline equal to that of a typical undergraduate degree holder.
  • The course should contain a writing, speaking, and communication component and include relevant required and suggested readings of research and scholarship in the discipline.
  • The course should be taught by a faculty member who a) has the terminal degree relevant to the course and is current in the course discipline or b) is a current and recognized contributor to the course’€™s discipline. (Requests for exceptions to this policy should be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School.)
  • The course size should be limited by course objective, funding, opportunity for student and faculty interaction, and the special requirements of the course.

Graduate Capstone Course. A non-thesis master’s curriculum may be approved with a capstone (500-level) course in place of 701 or 702 credits. The guidelines for a graduate capstone course are:

  • The capstone course(s) should not be taken until at least half of the required graded credits for the degree have been successfully completed.
  • The capstone course should integrate the program’s learning outcomes and include a means of assessing whether students demonstrate proficiency in these areas.
  • The capstone course should include a project that represents a major component of the course. Team capstone projects should include a rubric or clearly defined means for the assessment of the contribution of individual students.
  • Capstone courses may be graded S/F. If letter grades are assigned, students must earn a “B” or higher in all graded capstone courses in order to complete the degree. If a student receives a grade less than a “B,” the department can petition the Graduate School for an exception to policy to allow the student to repeat the course one final time.
2. 500- through 800-Level Professional Academic Courses

A professional course is a course offered in a professional doctoral curriculum such as the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine or Doctor of Pharmacy. These courses are intended to impart a body of didactic, theoretical, and technical knowledge in support of obtaining comprehensive professional understanding and expertise.

3. 600-Level Course

A 600-level course is generally for independent study, special projects, and/or internships. Credits are variable and grading is satisfactory/fail (S/F).

4. 701 Credit

 The 701 credit is a Graduate Professional Master’s Independent Capstone Project and/or Examination credit.  Credits are variable, and grading is satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S, U). Credit is awarded for a grade of S; no credit is awarded for a grade of U.  The S/U grade does not carry any quality points and is not calculated in the grade point average (GPA). Faculty should set course requirements for each semester that a student is enrolled in 701 credits, and provide an S/U grade at the end of the semester based on the student’s performance in meeting those requirements. Generally, students enroll in a minimum of 2 credits of 701 in the semester in which they take their final examination or present their capstone project. In the event of a failure of the final examination, a U grade should be assigned for that semester’s 701 credits.  Two U grades for 701 credits will result in dismissal from the program. In extenuating circumstances, faculty may use the X grade to indicate continuing progress toward completion of those requirements.  The X grade should be changed when the faculty member determines whether the student has successfully or unsuccessfully met the requirements for that semester; the X grades should be changed by the faculty no later than the last semester of study.

5. 702 Credit

The 702 credit is a Master’s Special Problems, Directed Study, and/or Examination credit.  Credits are variable and grading is satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S,U). Credit is awarded for a grade of S; no credit is awarded for a grade of U.  The S/U grade does not carry any quality points and is not calculated in the grade point average (GPA). Faculty should set course requirements for each semester that a student is enrolled in 702 credits, and provide an S/U grade at the end of the semester based on the student’s performance in meeting those requirements. Generally, students enroll in a minimum of 2 credits of 702 in the semester in which they take their final examination or present their special project. In the event of exam failure, a U grade may be assigned for that semester’s 702 credits.  Two U grades for 702 credits will lead to dismissal from the program. In extenuating circumstances, faculty may use the X grade to indicate continuing progress toward completion of those requirements.  The X grade should be changed when the faculty member determines that the student has successfully met the requirements for that semester; the X grades should be changed by the faculty no later than the last semester of study. For 702 credits prior to fall 2013, only the S/F grades may be used to replace the X grade. For 702 credits taken in fall 2013 and beyond, only the S/U grades may be used to replace the X grade.

6. 700/800-Level Research Credit

Each graduate program has associated 700- (Master’€™s) or 800- (Doctoral) level credits for research and advanced study. The 700-level credit is for students working on their master’€™s research, thesis and/or examination. The 800-level credit is for doctoral research, dissertation and/or examination. Credits are variable and grading is satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S,U). Credit is awarded for a grade of S; no credit is awarded for a grade of U. The S/U grade does not carry any quality points and is not calculated in the grade point average (GPA). Faculty should set requirements for each semester that a student is enrolled in research credits, and provide an S/U grade at the end of the semester based on the student’s performance in meeting those requirements. Generally, students enroll in a minimum of 2 credits of the appropriate 700/800-level in the semester in which they take their final oral examination. In the event of exam failure, a U grade may be assigned for that semester’€™s 700 or 800 credits. Two U grades for 700 or 800 credits will lead to dismissal from the program. Faculty should set requirements for each semester that a student is enrolled in research credits, and provide an S/U grade at the end of the semester based on the student’€™s performance in meeting those requirements. In extenuating circumstances, faculty may use the X grade to indicate continuing progress toward completion of those requirements. The X grade should be changed when the faculty member determines that the student has successfully met the requirements for that semester; the X grades should be changed by the faculty no later than the semester of the final defense. For 700 or 800 credits prior to fall 2013, only the S/F grades may be used to replace the X grade. For 700 or 800 credits taken in fall 2013 and beyond, only the S/U grades may be used to replace the X grade.

In addition, every semester, all full-time graduate students must enroll in a minimum of one credit hour of the appropriate 700, 702 or 800 level to document faculty and departmental efforts in graduate teaching. Full-time graduate students should enroll in 701 only in the semesters in which they are actively working on their capstone project or taking the final examination.  At the time of enrollment, departmental personnel (e.g. the graduate coordinator) assign the committee chair as the instructor for this individual instruction course with a 100 percent effort. If the student has not yet chosen a committee chair, the graduate coordinator enters the name of the appropriate department or program chair as the instructor. Departments will be surveyed each semester to determine committee chair assignments for part-time graduate students who do not enroll in a 700 or 800 course section.

7. 700/701/702/800 Credit Policy

Because 702,700 or 800 credits are associated with students’ work on research projects or special problems/directed study, a formal course syllabus is not required; however, students are still held accountable for meeting the expectations set by the faculty who are guiding their 702, 700 or 800 work, and for the standards of conduct and the academic integrity requirements to which all WSU students are held accountable. Students found responsible for academic integrity violations in their research or special problems/directed study work for 700, 702, or 800 credits may receive a U grade for unsatisfactory progress for that semester.  Repeated and/or serious offenses may result in referral to the conduct board and expulsion from WSU.  For graduate students, academic integrity violation may also result in the loss of teaching and/or research assistantships.  WSU’s Standards of Conduct can be found at here: https://conduct.wsu.edu/

8. Conjoint Courses

Quality graduate programs offer rigorous course work to their students. The graduate classroom experience should be qualitatively different than in undergraduate programs. Departments and programs should avoid all practices that may dilute the classroom experience for graduate students, including the practice of offering conjoint courses. Consequently, conjoint courses should be only offered in rare circumstances.

The total number of graded credit hours from conjoint courses allowed on a student’s program of study is determined by each graduate program. The number of conjoint courses in the program curriculum and the extent of their use on the program of study will be a factor in the Graduate School’s overall evaluation of the quality of the graduate program.

When absolutely necessary, departments may submit, as a major curricular change, a request to establish a 500-level graduate course having the same two final digits as a currently offered or newly requested 400-level course. The courses must meet the usual graduate standards with respect to content level, uniqueness, and appropriateness. The two component courses of each conjoint listing must be scheduled together in the same classroom, with the same instructor, and the same basic meeting times. The 400-level course of a conjoint listing shall not be offered for graduate credit and students may receive credit in only one component of a conjoint listed course. Additional graduate-level work is required of students enrolled at the 500-level. This work may include additional readings, papers, class meetings, or other items as may be appropriate for work at this level. An introductory statement to the effect that conjoint courses have separate requirements for the 500-level listing will be included in the catalog description and course syllabus.

To obtain conjoint listing, the department should submit the Major Curricular Change Form for courses with a detailed course syllabus, which indicates the specific requirements for 500-level enrollees and those for 400-level enrollees. The different requirements should be summarized on a separate sheet and approved by the department chair and dean of the college. The small class enrollment requirement will be fulfilled by enrollment of either five graduate students or ten students total. The Dean of the Graduate School and Provost may approve exceptions. (Senate 5/10/79; amended Graduate Studies Committee 12/17/79)

To obtain approval from the Graduate Studies Committee for 500-level credit in a conjoint course, the course application must detail how the additional work required of graduate students will provide additional depth in several of the areas covered in the course and how the course will provide for significant time for graduate students to interact with the instructor.

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