Student Experience

All interested students are welcome to use our Independent Learning products. However, the courses are designed for gifted students and therefore require higher levels of thinking skills, content acquisition, and assessment. Students should possess a great deal of self-motivation, self-discipline, and love of learning—traits that are necessary to learn independently.

To determine if one of these products is right for you, view the syllabus and sample lesson available at each course's information page. Compare the content and skills from the course with what you already know to ensure that our product provides the appropriate level of challenge.

A student smiling and holding a pencil during class

Mentors

Independent Learning courses are designed to have students work with a mentor to choose what to learn, when to learn it, and at what pace. A mentor is an adult who guides the student in completing educational tasks while still allowing the student to take a leadership role in learning. This person could be a classroom teacher, parent, tutor, or other qualified individual who possesses subject-matter expertise. The mentor fulfills the role of coach and facilitator, and assists the student in achieving the appropriate knowledge and skills needed for academic enrichment and acceleration.

Although we do not provide a mentor, we have made it easy for an adult to step in and act in that capacity. Mentor resources are included with each Independent Learning course, including:

  • guidelines and suggestions for mentoring gifted students
  • helpful online resources and special web-based mentor activities
  • models of excellent student work to serve as inspiration
  • ideas for overseeing specific activities
  • suggestions for assessing student work using rubrics

Students and parents are encouraged to look to their community for a mentor who can provide one-on-one attention and guide students through the challenges of their courses. Ideally, the mentor should be knowledgeable in the subject area, able to answer questions, and able to assess student work using the rubrics provided.

The mentor does not have to be an academic professional. Subject knowledge, an enthusiasm for the topic, and the willingness to devote a few hours a week to mentoring are the most important criteria. For example, a potential mentor for Word Power could be:

  • a local professional who uses writing every day (journalist, editor, or author) and who would enjoy assisting the student with the course
  • a retired English teacher who lives nearby
  • a college student majoring in literature, creative writing, communications, or a related field who has the time to supervise the student’s work
A girl in class

Registering as a mentor

Students taking Algebra 1 Online will need to enter the name and email address of their potential mentor on the Mentor Registration page within the course in order to register that person and give them access to the mentor guidelines. The potential mentors will then receive an email that allows them to accept or decline the invitation. If they accept, they will then need to create an account to access the course and the mentor guidelines.

The mentor and student should then establish a learning contract (see below) to set a schedule and to finalize educational goals.

Establishing a learning contract

A learning contract is an agreement between student and mentor that helps decide what educational goals to achieve and when and how to achieve them. You should establish an agreement that suits your learning style, interests, and schedule, as well as the schedule of your mentor.

For more information about learning contracts read Learning Contracts, by J. S. Atherton on the Teaching and Learning website.

Course length

The program detail page for each product offers an estimate on how long it will take to complete each course. However, because Independent Learning products allow students to work at their own pace, these are only approximations. Students, parents, teachers, and mentors should carefully assess school schedules and extracurricular activities before deciding whether a course is suitable for a student outside of school, or how it can be completed within the school day or as part of homework. Those plans should be included in the learning contract described above.

A boy in class

Seeking credit

Some schools are willing to grant credit or placement for completing an Independent Learning course. However, TIP does not grant credit or issue a grade, so it is up to students and parents to work with schools to receive credit. You could also ask your school if the Independent Learning course may be used as part of a differentiated instructional option during the school day. 

If you’re interested in receiving credit for one of these courses used for at-home study, we recommend the following steps:

  1. Contact the school counselor, vice principal, registrar, or department chair (the person who would grant credit or placement for a student's work in the course) as soon as you purchase the product.
  2. The amount of credit offered differs depending on which course you take, so explain how much coursework your Independent Learning course requires. The details of length are included in the description of your course; it is either a unit (6–8 weeks) or a semester's worth (12–18 weeks) of gifted curriculum, with approximately 50–100 hours of coursework. Contact us if you need any help determining the length of your course. Often a school district will require a certain number of contact hours for the course to qualify for credit. If so, you should establish a learning contract with the mentor that meets contact hour requirements. However, many gifted students complete the course in fewer hours than the time estimate, as they work at a quicker pace. In that case, you will need to prove that the student's mastery of content and skill equivalent to school and state standards has been achieved within fewer contact hours than school policies require.
  3. Provide the school official with:
    1. A course description
    2. A course syllabus
    3. The student's portfolio of work
    4. Any evaluation rubrics and answer keys used by the mentor to assess student work
    5. All course materials (if requested)
  4. School officials will use the information provided to decide whether or not to grant course credit or placement. Many factors may influence a school's decision, including:
    1. State and local standards and graduation requirements
    2. Assignments and assessments (some schools may require the student to take a school or district-approved final exam, or ask school personnel to assess the student's work)
    3. The school's ability to match Independent Learning course content to a comparable course in the school

If the school official asks for a grade from Duke TIP, please note that Duke TIP is not a credit-granting institution, and thus Duke TIP is unable to issue a grade or transcript for work completed.