Graduate Courses & Other Academic Activities

Guidelines for Graduate Administrators

1. Introduction

These guidelines outline variations to graduate course delivery mode, format, and timing and/or weight. The School of Graduate Studies Calendar regulation on Graduate Courses and Other Academic Activities provides a definition and framework for a “regular” graduate course. An extract from the regulation is inserted below for reference. The full regulation is available in the SGS Calendar​. According to the University of Toronto Quality Assurance Process (UTQAP), all courses in a graduate program must be graduate-level courses.

Graduate Courses

All graduate programs are composed of a number of academic requirements that include graduate courses and other academic activities. A graduate course is a discrete, time-delimited unit of instructional/learning activity identified by a course code, in which students enrol. Graduate courses must be approved by Faculty Council or by the Council’s curriculum committee, as appropriate. All graduate courses must have an instructor in charge who has a Graduate Faculty Membership in the graduate unit(s) responsible for the course.

Graduate courses may vary in timing, weight, delivery mode, and format, and course codes may serve as markers for Other Academic Activities.

All graduate courses have course codes consisting of:

  • A prefix associated with the academic unit or program (three letters);
  • A four-digit course number; and
  • A suffix associated with the course weight (alpha character)
  • Normally, course weight is measured in full-course equivalents (FCEs) and is indicated via a Y or H suffix: Y (full course): 1.0 FCE, normally taken over two sessions (48 to 78 hours)
    H (half course): 0.5 FCE, normally taken over one session (24 to 39 hours)

A full graduate course (course weight of one full course equivalent or 1.0 FCE) should involve a minimum of 48-78 hours of organized activity (e.g., two lectures or three hours of laboratory work a week over two sessions); a half course (0.5 FCE) should require approximately half this time commitment. Normally the beginning and end dates for courses should coincide with the beginning and end dates of University sessions.

Extracted from SGS General Regulation on Graduate Courses and Other Academic Activities​​—see the SGS Calendar.

2. Variations in Delivery Mode

Hybrid and online courses are considered variations in delivery mode. The Guidelines for Online Learning in Graduate Academic Programs include definitions for in-person, hybrid, and online courses; these are extracted and included below.

2.1 In-Person Course

A course in which both the instructor and the student are in the same physical location at the same time for most or all of the teaching and learning involved in the course components, usually on campus. While online components may be included as part of the course design, they do not constitute the majority of academic activities.

2.2 Hybrid Course (also known as “blended”)

A course designed such that there is a mix of online and in-person interaction, involving the use of technologies to facilitate multi-modality, flexibility, and student engagement. Normally, a course is considered Hybrid if roughly between one-third to two-thirds of scheduled class time is replaced by online activities. Exams or other academic assessments may require attendance at a specific physical location.

2.3 Online Course

A course that is designed such that all of the instructional interaction occurs without the student and instructor being in the same physical location. Instruction may be done via synchronous or asynchronous web‐based learning technologies including, for example, online instruction, webcasts, videos, discussion forums, collaborative tools, self-directed learning modules, etc. Governance approval can specify that approval for online delivery applies only to summer offerings of the course.

3. Variations in Format

A graduate course has one course code and may have multiple meeting sections. The following definitions outline variations in format.

3.1 Cross-Listed Course  

A course belonging to one graduate unit (home unit) that, with permission, is offered to another graduate unit and is listed in that unit’s calendar entry. Permission must be given by both the home unit and the cross-listed unit. A course may be cross-listed to a collaborative program with permission of the home unit and collaborative program. Participating units agree that space will be available to students from the home unit and the cross-listed unit(s)/collaborative program(s). There is one course code associated with the home graduate unit.

3.2 Cross-Listed Undergraduate/Graduate Course

Occasionally a graduate unit may wish to offer an undergraduate course that is used also as the basis for a graduate course—undergraduate and graduate students share the classroom experience. Such courses have separate course codes, one for the undergraduate course and one for the graduate course. Each course requires separate approval, as an undergraduate course and as a graduate course; the proposal for each will indicate that the classroom is being shared between undergraduate and graduate students. There will be a separate syllabus for the undergraduate students and for the graduate students in the course. The graduate syllabus will list graduate-level requirements; graduate students will be evaluated at the graduate level according to the University Assessment and Grading Practices Policy.

3.3 Individual Reading & Research Course

A course delivered by a Graduate Faculty Member for an individual student, on a topic related to the student’s graduate program. Such a course is equivalent in terms of reading, organized academic activities and written assignments to a regular graduate course. Approval to enroll in this course is given by the graduate unit in which the student is registered and approval from the unit offering the course also is required. The graduate unit offering the course is responsible for entering a subtitle in the course offering that will appear on the student’s academic record.

3.4 Joint Course

A course in which two or more graduate units participate through shared resources (i.e., teaching, funding, etc.) to offer the course. Joint courses are available equally to students in the units and are listed in the unit entries in the SGS Calendar with one course code. A joint course has a three-letter course code prefix that begins with J (see the Glossary of Course Codes for more information). Joint courses require governance approval by each of the graduate unit involved in the course offering. The administrative rights (i.e., classroom booking, sessional information, etc.) reside with only one graduate unit at a time.

3.5 Laboratory/Studio Course

A course that varies only in the site and method of learning. Some units offer courses with laboratory/studio components. There is no particular course code or identifier for laboratory or studio courses. It is at the discretion of the unit if the course will be referred to as a lab or studio course.  

3.6 Other Academic Activities

All Other Academic Activities that are subject to assessment must be recorded on the student academic record. Thesis research or thesis writing, comprehensive or other examinations, major research papers, and placements or practicums are included in the definition of other academic activities. While not offered in a course format, each of these activities has a specific course code that is recorded on the academic transcript.

There are two categories of Other Academic Activity course codes:

3.6.1 SGS-Wide Activity

Examples of course codes used as SGS-wide activities are: DEX 5555Y (departmental exam marker), RST 8888Y (research marker), and RST 9999Y (research/thesis marker). For this type of Other Academic Activity, the graduate unit is responsible for enrolling each student in the course code. Continuous courses (e.g. RST 8888Y) will remain as “In Progress” (IPR) on the student academic record until the degree is conferred. Non-continuous courses (e.g., DEX 5555Y) remain IPR until the requirement is completed at which time the graduate unit is responsible for entering a final grade on the student academic record.

3.6.2 Program-Specific Activity

Examples of program-specific activities that use course codes are: placements or practicums, and major research papers (definitions of these activities to follow). For this type of Other Academic Activity, either the graduate unit or graduate student is responsible for enrolling in the activity course code. These activities are usually not continuous. Once the requirement is completed the graduate unit is responsible for entering a final grade on the student academic record.

placement is an academic activity that has a program-specific course code. A placement is usually referred to as an internship or practicum at the graduate level. A Placement may extend the learning activities out of the classroom and/or off campus. Examples of placements are: MSL 3000Y Internship, and CIN 1007H Internship in Cinema Studies. Course weights for these activities may be listed as 0 (zero), 0.5 or 1.0 full course equivalent (FCE); however, the course weight may not be representative in all cases of the number of hours associated with the activity.

A Major Research Paper (MRP) in a master’s program is another example of a program- specific activity. An MRP is identified with a graduate unit prefix, course number, suffix, and weight that usually represents the activity, e.g., CIN 1006Y Major Research Paper in Cinema Studies (1.0 FCE).  

3.7 Seminar Series Course

There are two types of Graduate Seminar Series:

  • Type 1: Credit / No-Credit, which has a Universal Prefix (SRM for master’s and SRD for doctoral level)
  • Type 2: Letter Grades, which has a specific Graduate Unit Prefix

See the Graduate Seminar Series Courses: Guidelines for Graduate U​nits​  for full details. Units may also use a program-specific course title.

3.8 Special Topics Course

A Special Topics course varies from a regular course in that the content may vary from offering to offering.

4. Variations in Timing and/or Weight

4.1 Compressed Course

A course that is offered in a compressed timeframe; e.g., offered over three consecutive weeks. If the course weight varies, see the definition of modular below.

4.2 Continuous Course

A course that extends throughout a student’s program. These courses will continuously roll over until a final grade is entered. The SGS Calendar uses a superscript zero (0) to signify a continuous course.

4.3 Extended Course

A course that partially continues into another academic session and does not have a standard end date. For example, a half course (0.5 FCE) that begins in September and has an end date of February 15. The SGS Calendar uses a superscript plus sign (+) to signify an extended course.

4.4 Modular Course

A course that varies in timing and/or weight. It may have non-standard weights (i.e., other than 0.5 or 1.0 FCE; 0.33, or 0.75 FCE, for example). Most modular courses are compressed, although they may be extended. Most have non-standard start / end and add / drop dates (i.e., the standard and end dates do not coincide with the standard SGS session dates). Modular courses with non-standard start / end dates require the graduate unit to establish suitable drop dates.


Guidelines for Online Learning in Graduate Academic Programs

Graduate Seminar Series Courses: Guidelines for Gr​aduate Units

SGS Glossary of Course Codes—​Primary Course Codes and Joint Course Codes

SGS Guidelines for De-activating/Archiving and Re-activating Graduate Courses

University Assessment and Grading Practices Policy

University of Toronto Quality Assurance Process

Revised: 28 May 2014; 24 November 2011; 5 March 2010​

Academic Year

In the School of Graduate Studies, the academic year begins in September and ends in August. The academic year is divided into three sessions:

  1. Fall session—September to December and designated YEAR9
  2. Winter session—January to April and designated YEAR1
  3. Summer session—May to August and designated YEAR5