Honors Program Contracts
An Honors contract is an opportunity for Honors students to take a non-Honors course for Honors credit. The contract features individualized, enriched content, usually in the form of a research project that is founded on the course to which it is attached.
As an example, a student in HIS 15 (African American History II) may choose to do an in-depth investigation on the Great Migration, focusing on, say, the growth of African American communities in Southern California that resulted from it. The student will then produce, perhaps, a 6-10 page research paper and present his/her/their scholarly work to the HIS 15 class later in the term or at the RCC or UCI student research conferences.
The contract will be arranged between the student and the faculty member of the non-Honors course in advance of the semester's start. To get started on the contract proposal, read through the FAQ below and down these two documents:
Why are we offering Honors contracts now?
Contracts offer the “Honors experience” to more students and more instructors in courses that will not otherwise be available for Honors credit. Contracts are recommended by UCLA, and they are an established instructional model supported by the Honors Transfer Council of California.
What's the difference between a standalone Honors course and an Honors contract course?
Standalone courses have “Honors” in the description and “H” next to the course number and are taught in the smaller, seminar style course with about twenty students in each. Contract courses are non-Honors courses that meet the normal class cap (anywhere from 35 to over 50 students per section). At least three of your five Honors courses must be completed in the standalone format, and one or two of the courses can be in the contract format. But no class offered in the standalone Honors format can be taken as a non-honors course with a contract.
Will contract courses be offered only in the certain academic divisions?
Not at all. We plan to offer Honors contracts in any and all disciplines that meet our criteria and are interested in doing so, such as Ethnic Studies, English literature courses, Music, Physics, Astronomy, and so on. We want to provide access to courses that are not likely to be offered in the standalone Honors seminar format due to facilities limitations, scarcity of non-Honors course sections, among others.
If the non-Honors class is cancelled for low enrollment, but I still want to do an Honors contract, can I?
No. The Honors contract must be linked to a non-Honors (regular) class since that is where you will acquire the bulk of your subject matter knowledge—and course credit, of course.
Once I have entered into an Honors contract, can I withdraw from that contract and remain in the regular course?
Yes. You may choose not to or (for whatever reason) be unable to complete an Honors contract but complete all coursework for the regular course. If so, you will be able to earn course credit—but not Honors credit—for the class. In fact, theoretically you can fail to complete the Honors contract but earn an A in the regular course.
How will my Honors contracts be graded?
The Honors contract is graded on a “Pass/No Pass” basis and will in no way affect your grade in the course. In addition, your grade in the course is based on the same assignments and criteria as all of the non-Honors students. Successful completion of the Honors contract will result in your receiving Honors credit for the course on your transcript and a certificate noting the accomplishment. Note that you must earn a “C” or better in the regular course to receive this Honors credit.
Can I receive an ‘Incomplete’ for an Honors contract course?
If circumstances outside of the classroom warrant the faculty member to issue a grade of Incomplete in the standalone course, you must also receive an Incomplete for the contract. Likewise, you cannot receive an Incomplete for the contract if you are not eligible to receive an Incomplete for the standalone course. In other words, you cannot receive an Incomplete for only one or the other; it’s both or neither. Lastly, the completion deadlines for the two Incompletes must be the same.
How many student contracts can be assigned to one course?
Anywhere from one to five students. We want to ensure that both faculty and students can give the additional work the time and attention it will need.
Since faculty can only teach at most five Honors contracts students per course, what aree the criteria for prioritizing students if more than five request a contract in that course?
The Honors Advisory Council recommends the following criteria:
- How close is the student to graduation and program completion?
- Is the regular course part of the student’s major prep transfer requirements?
- Does the instructor have an established working relationship with the student that improves likelihood of contract completion?
But the faculty member has final call regarding which students he/she/they will work with.
What kind of projects are considered ‘Honors’ types of assignments?
Honors contract assignments/projects explore topics that are more advanced than regular, lower division course work; we encourage research beyond normal course assignment; you should rely more extensively on primary source documents; the project should require more critical thinking and extended analysis not expected in regular course work; and/or we encourage creative projects beyond the requirements of the regular course. While not an exhaustive list, many of the traditional types of assignments in Honors contract courses at other community colleges include:
- Research Paper
- Quantitative/Qualitative Research Project
- Creative Writing or Fine Arts work
- Research Journal
- Computer Program
- And more
What are the most common “pitfalls” for students?
- Students often choose a project that is way too BROAD in its ambitions. Often, they want to answer a question or complete a task that is simply too big for the time commitment and duration parameters of an Honors contract.
- On the flipside, Honors contract proposals are often too vague or are poorly written by students. Intellectual superficiality, grammar/spelling mistakes, or weak prose make a huge impression on the Honors Advisory Council reviewers. They take seriously their role as quality control for the Honors Program and only approve Honors contracts which meet high academic standards.
- Students often procrastinate and then get in over their heads towards the end of the semester. Professors and students who’ve experienced a lot of success with Honors contracts report that by setting deadlines, meeting regularly (ever 3-4 weeks), and requiring tangible outcomes along the way helps keep students on track.