Study Groups Policy

Study Groups Policy


Office of Academic Affairs







Effective Date:


Implementation History:

06/30/1985 (original implementation date supersedes 1975 policy), revised 08/01/1991, 09/01/1995


Learning contract

Background Information:


Empire State University believes that the student's individual purposes, interests, plans and abilities must be taken clearly into account as learning contracts and degree programs are planned and implemented. This belief provides the basic rationale for the university's primary mode of study, the individualized learning contract. The university also recognizes that much significant learning occurs through group interaction and that students should be encouraged to enrich and enlarge their individual efforts through participation in courses at other colleges and universities, in workshops and seminars offered by employers, professional associations, community organizations, cultural institutions and other organizations. In addition, the university sponsors study groups, which allow students to share insights gathered from readings, writings and field experiences with fellow students and others.

At Empire State University, group learning experiences are intended for the development of outcomes and competencies that are enhanced by group participation and interaction during the learning process. Study groups provide an opportunity to increase students' individual competencies and to see one another as  important learning resources. The overarching purpose of study in a group is to facilitate the development of skills and competencies for the individual student not accomplished as effectively or appropriately in a one-to-one setting. Students are encouraged to take the initiative in organizing study groups.

Study groups also provide an important opportunity for faculty development by giving faculty a forum to develop or experiment with new areas of mentoring expertise alone or in concert with other mentors, to experiment with multidisciplinary approaches to a topic, to learn more about different student  learning styles and to provide variation in teaching style from mentored independent study.



Empire State University study groups are unlike classes offered by other colleges and universities. Study groups are structured around independent study activities supplemented by group meetings.

The principles described below maintain the university's emphasis on the individual student's learning and on helping each student discover and make use of the diverse resources available through the university and the community. These principles guide the development, use and context of study groups as learning opportunities at Empire State University.

  1. A study group may be a component of any individual learning contract. The contract is the framework within which the study group's learning activities and methods and criteria for evaluation are described and credit is awarded.
  2. Participation in a study group is generally open to any Empire State University student. Participation in a study group is undertaken in consultation with a mentor and in consideration of the appropriateness of the group process, topic, content, level and intended outcomes to the student's degree program.
  3. Group meetings enrich the learning experience by providing an opportunity for exchange of ideas, clarification of content and mutual support in the learning process. Such group activities may take a variety of forms yet are unlike a conventional class in that they emphasize independent study.
  4. Within any one study group, different students may participate in different ways according to their individual learning needs and interests. Various combinations of learning activities and variable credit are possible within the study group framework. The learning contract should specify the link between them.
  5. Study group leaders are Empire State University mentors, tutors or adjunct faculty who are familiar with the university's approach to individualized education. In all cases, the university provides careful orientation to enable study-group leaders to acquire the skills necessary for guiding independent study and individualized learning within a group context.
  6. Advance planning and preparation for a study group should take place in consultation with the center directors and faculty. Ongoing evaluation of study groups is an important part of the process of maintaining a high standard of academic quality.
  7. Public announcements of Empire State University study groups should take care to inform students of the content and unique nature of study groups and the central importance of the independent study components.

Applicable Legislation and Regulations

Related References, Policies, Procedures, Forms and Appendices

Learning Contract Study