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Course Level Policy

A policy describing course levels and related criteria may assist members of the University community in making recommendations and decisions about appropriate course levels. It may also clarify issues regarding transfer of credit.

1. Course Numbering

  1. Non-Credit Courses
    • 001–099: Continuing Education not-for-credit courses, remedial or basic-skills courses, not applicable to degree requirements.
       
  2. Undergraduate Courses
    • 100–199: Lower level
    • 200–299: Lower level
    • 300–399: Upper level
    • 400–499: Upper level (may be dual listed with 500 level graduate courses)
       
  3. Graduate Courses
    • 500–599: Entry level graduate (may be dual listed with 400 level courses and may include limited enrollments by undergraduates)
    • 600–699: Graduate level (undergraduate enrollment only by exception)
    • 700–799: Advanced Graduate level (graduate students only)
    • 800–899: Doctoral level courses (graduate students only)
    • 900–999: Doctoral level project courses, dissertation, research, independent study (graduate students only)
       
  1. The following course numbers are reserved for the special use identified in the title and may only be used by programs that have received approval to offer the course.
    • 599: Special Topics (graduate level)
    • 699: Special Topics (graduate level)
    • 700–750: Capstone Courses (graduate level)

2. Explanation of Course Levels

  1. Lower Division Courses
    Lower division courses are numbered 100 and 200. Typically they require no or limited prerequisite background in the discipline. They are introductory courses or part of a series of basic courses in a discipline.

    Lower division courses increase the knowledge students have of subjects with which they are already familiar, introduce them to new subjects, and/or establish a foundation for study of a major subject in depth. They are courses that may be counted in majors, minors, electives, and/or the General Education Curriculum. They are used at the basic level in baccalaureate programs, and are used in the Associate level degrees.

    Lower division courses usually are tightly structured with the expectation that students receive guidance in the learning process. Learning at this level normally is informational and emphasizes learning skills and basic information; it usually entails the use of text materials or resources designed into the course or acquired through library or other resources. The intellectual skills emphasized in lower division courses include acquiring knowledge, comprehension, and application of knowledge. These competencies are stressed to a different degree in upper division courses. Evaluation of student performance at the lower level typically tests information, concepts, and skills, but may include aspects identified for upper division courses as well.
     
  2. Upper Division Courses
    Upper division courses are numbered 300 and 400. Typically they build on the knowledge and skills of the lower division. They may have one or both of the following characteristics:
    1. They require analysis, synthesis, and/or integration of knowledge and skills from several specific areas in a discipline or from related disciplines.
    2. They are built on a foundation of prerequisite lower division courses in liberal studies, a specific discipline, or a related field of study.
       
    Upper division courses enable students to study a major field in depth by building upon and integrating the knowledge gained in lower division courses. Upper division courses may also serve as an introduction to sub-fields within a discipline. Upper division courses are characterized by a more flexible structure that allows for a variety of approaches to the subject matter, a wide range of course material, an emphasis on independent study and/or research in the laboratory, library, studio, or community. Students are expected to accept increasing responsibility for their own learning. Upper division courses typically emphasize analysis, synthesis and evaluation. They may also call attention to the application of knowledge and other lower division levels of learning. Evaluation of student performance at this level stresses such outcomes as comprehension and understanding of concepts, the ability to solve problems, and the ability to integrate knowledge.

    Upper division courses may be counted in majors, minors, electives, and/or the General Education curriculum. They are used at the upper level in baccalaureate degree programs.
     
  3. Graduate Courses
    Graduate courses are numbered 500, 600, 700, 800 and 900. Typically, graduate courses are restricted to students who have successfully completed a baccalaureate degree. They also may have one or more of the following characteristics:
    1. They typically build upon a foundation of undergraduate courses in a single or related discipline.
    2. They require intellectual maturity of students and stress independent study.
    3. They emphasize the use of information resources, studio, laboratory, community, and field-based facilities in ways commensurate with the level of learning.
       
    The primary function of graduate courses is to broaden the perspective and deepen the knowledge students have of a particular discipline or professional field of study, or to provide students preparation in an advanced professional field that requires foundational knowledge and experience in a related discipline or field of study.

    Graduate courses are structured in a manner that allows for a variety of approaches to the subject matter, a wide range of source material, considerable student interaction, and a significant emphasis on independent study and/or research in the library, laboratory, studio, or community. They are designed to extend the knowledge and intellectual maturity of students beyond the baccalaureate level. They are intended for students who are capable of analyzing, exploring, questioning, evaluating, and synthesizing knowledge. Evaluation of student performance in graduate courses entails a variety of means and is commensurate with the level of complexity of these courses.
     
  4. Multiple Numbered Courses
    This is a concept used to manage curriculum and mentor assignments. In this approach, a given body of content is available in separately approved courses at the two different levels. It is assumed that each of those courses is needed, one for each level of curriculum. However, in the context of curriculum and resource management, the institution may make the decision to offer those two courses simultaneously by one mentor. Different levels of expectations would be stated for the students. Separate course syllabi outlining these different expectations or a segment of the common syllabi that clarifies these differences, based on the characteristics described in A, B and C above, would be made available and on file. Multiple numbered courses must be properly approved by the University's Academic Council, documented, and monitored for quality and maintenance of standards. Upper level undergraduate and entry level graduate courses may be dual numbered (400/500).

Colleen Schenk, BA

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