Proposing and Planning

Proposing and Planning an Off-Campus, Extra Cost Short Term Course

An “extra cost” Short Term course, with travel off-campus in Maine, elsewhere in the United States, or abroad, can provide a powerful field-based learning experience and an opportunity for exceptional faculty-student interaction. The courses also require considerable effort to plan and lead in the field, with the faculty responsible for both academic leadership and student support services. The points below are intended to assist faculty with the proposal process. These procedures apply only for courses with extra costs exceeding $500 per student.

Proposal Submission and Approval Dates: Proposals are due in the Off-Campus Study Office no later than October 1 for review.  Faculty are informed of the decisions by late October.  For guidance in crafting a viable proposal, please consult Stephen Sawyer, Director of Off-Campus Study, and your department/program chair.  Consultation with faculty who have led successful off-campus Short Terms is also helpful as is reading descriptions of past courses.

Off-Campus, Extra-Cost Short Term Course Proposal Form

Selection Criteria: The Off-Campus Study Committee evaluates proposals and selects a balanced set of courses for final approval by the Academic Affairs Council. There is no set “formula” for evaluating proposals; however, especially important are two categories of criteria:

1.  Qualities of the individual course:

  • the proposed number of students, with a preference for larger enrollments
  • the student-faculty ratio (see “Enrollment” below)
  • the number of days off-campus as it relates to the distance traveled and pedagogy
  • the relative pedagogical advantages of “teaching in the field”
  • the degree to which the course supports the on-campus curriculum and academic objectives of the College such as GECs, majors, minors, interdisciplinary programs, etc.
  • the overall cost of the course and the cost per student, with a preference for lower costs
  • the faculty member’s knowledge of the setting and experience with situations likely to be encountered
  • the availability of external funding and departmental support
  • whether the faculty member has led an off-campus course in the past, balancing a desire to include new faculty with the value of experience
  • the safety of the location and activities to be undertaken
  • the nature of the faculty member’s appointment, with a preference for long-term faculty (courses proposed by temporary replacement faculty are seldom approved)
  • the quality of the proposal and the detail in planning

2. Qualities of the entire set of proposed courses. Even among courses that fulfill the criteria noted above, enrollment needs and the limited budget for financial aid to support ECSTs require that they:

  • balance themes, locations, divisions, and pedagogies
  • provide as many opportunities as possible to students within the fixed budget
  • support the curricular needs of the College

Approval is always contingent on the course achieving the enrollment minimum set by the Committee and on the per student costs not increasing beyond that approved.

Enrollment: Each course generally has a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 16 students per faculty member. Faculty may propose courses with different minimum and/or maximum enrollments based on travel costs, travel logistics, the setting of the course abroad, and their own experience in overseeing students off-campus. When approving programs, the Committee may require the 12 to 16 student enrollment or may set different minimum and maximum enrollments based on these and other factors.

Timing: The time off-campus can be for all or for portions of Short Term. Often courses will be on campus for the beginning and end of Short Term. Other courses, with field trips in Maine, may be based on-campus with multiple field trips off-campus. Except in exceptional circumstances, the courses return to campus.

Structure: Some courses, especially those with less time abroad, may be entirely independent of any local organization and travel frequently. Other courses may be based at one site, often at an organization that provides support services and housing. Others may start out with the support of a local organization, but conclude with course travel.

Participants: Only the faculty member(s) approved to teach the course and the students registered for it may travel with the course. No family members, staff, or other individuals may accompany the course. Requests for exceptions to this policy must be made when proposing the course.

Cost and Budget: The extra cost per student is a key variable in determining the feasibility of the course, first by the Off-Campus Study Committee and then by individual students.  These costs should be itemized on the budget planning worksheet below.  It is wise to be realistic, even pessimistic, when calculating costs so as to avoid finding yourself underfunded or constantly worrying about money.  After developing a tentative budget, faculty consult with Heather Ward, Assistant Director of Accounting, 221 Lane Hall, x6444.  Her review is confirmed with her signature on the course proposal form.  Unspent funds are the property of the College.

Financial Aid: The College provides financial aid for qualifying students; however, all students must pay the first $500 as a non-refundable deposit. After this, aid is provided in the form of grants and loans. The aid budget is limited, which helps explain the careful review of the extra costs, the limited number of courses approved each year, and the retention of unspent funds by the College.

Recruiting, Applying, and Registration: Unlike an on-campus course, faculty actively recruit and select students for these courses since they need a minimum number of students to proceed and the composition of the course can greatly influence its dynamics. You should not propose an extra cost course unless you are willing to undertake this task. The recruiting takes place after Thanksgiving vacation and at the beginning of the winter semester with information sessions organized by the faculty.  More information on the deadlines for the current year is provided in the Timeline for Proposing and Planning an Off-Campus Extra Cost Short Term Course.