Course Policies

IP 4500.01

Fall 2021

Wednesdays 6.00-9.20pm

Lamson 124

Dr. Matthew Cheney,
Director of Interdisciplinary Studies

Office: Lamson 003

Matt’s Open Hours: The easiest way to meet is to make an appointment either via our own CoLab scheduler or using Navigate. But I will also be available in Lamson 003 on Wednesdays from 5-6pm and Thursdays 10-11am.

Any changes to these hours will be announced in Canvas.

IDS Office Hours: 

Monday through Friday, 8:00am–5:00pm. Virtual appointments are available any day of the week. In-person appointments and drop-ins are available Monday through Thursday.

Please enter through Lamson 003 and note that at this time masks are required while visiting our space.

What This Course Is

Interdisciplinary Studies Senior Seminar is an opportunity for Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) majors to show what they have learned and what they are passionate about. The core of the course is a capstone project that takes up the majority of the course time, and students have considerable freedom in what they choose to work on. At the end of the term, students share the results of their work at the IDS End of Term Celebration.

In addition to working on the project, students will also explore questions of interdisciplinarity and technology, using their ePorts as a tool to share knowledge, skills, and experience with whatever audience they choose. To do so, the course will examine questions of digital technology, the knowledge commons, privacy, and security. Through careful reading, thinking, and writing, students will decide how to communicate about the major that they have made and the work that they have done.

The underlying philosophy of this course is that of Open Pedagogy, which is itself a topic of conversation during the course. (If you want to learn about it now, check out this link to the definition at the Open Pedagogy Notebook.)

This is a hybrid/blended course that mixes online and face-to-face instruction so as to accommodate seniors’ varied schedules, goals, and preferences for how to learn. The ultimate goal of this course is to allow students the knowledge (of themselves and the world) that will inspire them with the confidence and curiosity necessary to be lifelong learners.


What Does It Mean That This Is a “Hybrid” Course?

This course is available both in person and online. You are free to choose how to interact with the course from day to day. It is a much better course synchronously (at the same time) than asynchronously (students interacting outside the scheduled class period), but it is possible to do the course asynchronously if you stay in close contact with Matt. If we have learned one thing doing this course during the pandemic, it is that the in-person/online part doesn’t seem to make a huge difference in students’ work, but the synchronous/asynchronous part does, and it really helps to do this course synchronously whenever possible.. 

You do not need to choose one mode of interaction and be stuck with it. You might want to come to class in person one day, join via Zoom the next day, catch up with things asynchronously another day. The choice is yours. Not all activities will be exactly the same (that’s impossible), but the course goals and learning outcomes will remain the same, regardless of how you interact with the course.

That said, I do think this is a significantly better course synchronously than asychronously. Significantly better. The more we can all be together at the same time, the better. But it is not a requirement for passing.

Details will depend on the work we are doing at the time, and more information will be shared with you via the weekly schedules and email.

Note on recording of class sessions: Our classroom is enabled for Zoom, and class sessions will be recorded so that asynchronous students can see them (and synchronous students can review them if they wish). The recordings will be kept on our Canvas page and will only be accessible to people with access to that page; the recordings will not be made public. You can always avoid being recorded by either attending class via Zoom and turning your camera off, or by attending class asynchronously.

What Does It Mean That This Is a TECO and WRCO course?

This course has been designated as a Technology and Writing Connection course for the purposes of General Education.

Technology Connection (TECO):

In the modern world, technology has application to every academic discipline, and educated people must have an understanding of technology that will allow them to adapt to rapid technological change.

Students take a three or four-credit Technology in the Disciplines (TECO) course specified as required for the major. This course may be taught within the major discipline or not. The course will help students examine the role of technology within their own discipline and within a larger societal and cultural context. The TECO course will provide students with hands-on experience using current technologies; with a broad understanding of the concepts underlying current technology; with an understanding of the potential ethical issues involved with the use of technology; and with an understanding of forces, based in the needs and values of our culture, that drive technological innovation.

Writing Connection (WRCO):

Students take a three or four-credit Writing course (within a major) that contains significant writing experiences appropriate to the discipline. These experiences must include Writing Across the Curriculum activities that facilitate student learning and help students become better writers. At a minimum these activities demonstrate three specific aspects. (1) Students in the course do substantial writing that enhances learning and demonstrates knowledge of the subject or the discipline. Writing assignments should be an integral part of the course and account for a significant part (approximately 50 percent or more) of the final grade. (2) The course demonstrates an approach to writing as a process where students have the opportunity to submit and receive feedback on multiple drafts of major assignments. (3) Students have the opportunity to write for formal and informal, graded and ungraded occasions throughout the course with an emphasis on the use of writing as a mode of learning.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, each student will:

  • have created a comprehensive capstone project that integrates their coursework, synthesizes the major themes and issues raised through the various courses they have taken, and draws conclusions related to their focus;
  • have brainstormed, developed, and revised written materials to support and communicate about their capstone project;
  • have reflected upon, and be able to articulate, how the integration of multidisciplinary approaches to knowledge and critical thinking within the focus of their major contributed meaningfully to their particular Interdisciplinary Studies degree;
  • be able to reflect on how their interdisciplinary course of study can and/or will impact their post-Plymouth life as well as society;
  • have a functional ePort (or equivalent) for use in future educational and career endeavors;
  • have reflected on and communicated the place of digital communication in interdisciplinary work and their own life;
  • be able to articulate to a general audience the skills, knowledge, and experience they have acquired through their education;
  • have learned and considered things we can’t possibly imagine yet, and shared new, unexpected, and original ideas into the knowledge commons.

What You Need to Bring to Class

  • Yourself. (Your full self, as much as possible. But we will accept your tired, bedraggled, distracted, and/or frustrated self, too.)
  • A laptop computer. You don’t need to own one. You can check one out at the front desk of the library with your PSU ID. (Tablets are okay for a lot of what we do, but not all of it. You will be happiest with a laptop.)
  • Some paper and something to write with. We won’t use them a lot, since most of what we do is digital, but now and then we do need to use the good old-fashioned tools.
  • A willingness to experiment. A lot of what we do is weird and experimental. Sometimes we’ll do things that don’t work. Sometimes we’ll do things that take a lot of trial and error. This is completely to be expected.

What You Do Not Need to Bring to Class

A textbook. We don’t have one.

What Should You Do If You Miss Class?

Here’s what I usually use for an absence policy. For a hybrid class during the time of COVID, it doesn’t quite fit. I think we need to talk about what “attendance” means in these circumstances. I’m putting this here because I think its principals are good ones to stick to, but our ACTUAL absence policy is  simple and flexible: Attend and engage to the absolute best of your ability, and when you can’t, try hard to let me know as soon as possible.

1 week of classes: Nothing. That’s fine. Stuff happens. I don’t even need to know anything about it, but if you want to let me know, I’m happy to hear.

More than 1 week of classes: Inform me of what’s going on as soon as possible. (Me = Matt Cheney,, Lamson 003.) I’m not going to yell at you, or, for that matter, criticize you in any way. I don’t need to see doctors’ notes. We just need to chat to make sure you’ve got a plan.

Note on Incompletes: A grade of IC (Incomplete) is possible if you are only missing 1 major assignment at the end of the term. More than 1 major assignment is too much for an IC to handle.


How Many Classes Can You Miss and Still Pass?

I hope you don’t miss any classes, because missing even 1 class may have an effect on your learning. (We only have 1 class/week, so missing 1 class means missing 1 week!) I have tried to make each class useful to you, and I have tried to make our class activities mostly things you couldn’t replicate on your own. We have a limited amount of time together, so we should use that time well. If you miss class, you will, indeed, miss stuff. More than that, we will miss you. Absences detract from the whole class experiences for everyone.

However, stuff happens. Life doesn’t stop just because you have a class. You’ll probably get sick at least once this term. Worse things could happen, too. So there needs to be some flexibility. How much? That’s hard to say. We’ll need to figure it out as we go.

Yes, there is a point at which you’ve missed too many classes for me to be able to say you should get credit for the course. This is not about whether you are a good person or not. It’s not a value judgment. It’s a judgment about what having this course on your transcript means. If you miss more than a week of class, you should get in touch with me and let me know what’s going on so we can make a plan and get you in the best possible shape to be able to pass.


How Will This Course Be Graded?

This is a Pass/No Pass (P/NP) course. There are benefits and detriments to that. We’ll talk about them in class.

You won’t receive any letter or number grades for this course beyond the P/NP at 6-week grades and the end of the term. No assignments will be graded in the traditional way.

We will keep track of assignments in Canvas as we go along so that you have a sense of your progress. There will also be a few self-evaluations that will help you know how you’re doing and help me understand what’s going well for you and what’s not.

How do you know if you’re passing? Ask yourself if you’ve done the work for the course. If you have, you’re passing. If you haven’t … we should talk and figure out a plan.

Bottom line: To pass this course, you must complete the capstone project and the portfolio, meeting all the guidelines for the project at an adequate level.

How to Get Help

In almost all cases, the best way to get help is to ask as soon as you know you need help. Contact me (Matt) or stop by the IDS Office in the basement of Lamson, which is open 8.30am-5pm every weekday and is filled with people whose job it is to help you.

Asking for help is GOOD! It shows that you are aware of what you need and that you are able to take some control of your life and education, even if it’s just to say, “I have no control over my life and education! Help!”

If you don’t understand course material

Tell somebody as soon as possible! Everybody struggles with the material for this course at some point or another. It’s totally expected. Don’t let things snowball. It’s easier to deal with difficulties earlier rather than later. The problem may not even be you; it may be a glitch in the course that you’re the first person to discover.
Everybody in the CoLab/IDS office can help you with course work. We’re open 8.30am-5pm every weekday. Drop in for help — it’s what we’re there for.

If you need accommodations for accessibility

We love our Campus Accessibility Office and work with them a lot. They’ll share official accommodation plans with us, but we strive to be accessible to all students, regardless of official status. If we’re not meeting your accessibility needs, let somebody know and we’ll do our best to adjust. We want this course to be a community of learners, and communities take care of their members. If we can do things to make it easier for you to learn and participate, please tell Matt. (You can even leave an anonymous note at the office if you want.)

If you are having problems with other stuff at the university

In the CoLab and IDS office, we’re happy to help, or at least guide you to other offices that can help. There are a lot of resources available on this campus, and it’s unlikely you know what they all are. You can also contact the Academic & Student Advocate, Dr. David Zehr. His office is in Frost House, his email address is, and his phone number is 603-535-3294. Dr. Zehr can help with all sorts of troubles.

If you are having problems with basic needs

You cannot learn well if you are anxious about food or shelter. We have some short-term resources to help at the CoLab, and there are resources on campus to help with longer term needs. We hope you won’t hesitate to let somebody in our office know if you need help with food and housing. Similarly, if you are struggling with transportation, with childcare, with — heck, anything: Let us know. We will try to help. Because if you are worried about these basic elements of life, you will not be able to be a good participant in our learning community, and we want you to be.
The Student Support Foundation runs a food pantry at the back of Belknap Hall which is available to all students, and they also have a program of emergency financial assistance. The CoLab has a small in-house food pantry in Lamson 003 where you can get supplies if you are hungry (we also stock menstrual products, gas cards, and a few other basics. If you need something and can’t find it, please see Hannah, Matt, Robin, or Martha). We are committed to helping you get your needs met so that you can focus on your studies.


For the sake of submitting your final term grade to the Registrar, I need to know the name by which PSU links you to your records. Other than that, you’re welcome to use whatever name you prefer in class, on your written work, and in the course spreadsheet, and we in the class will address you as you wish to be addressed. This is true, also, of the pronouns you want us to identify you with, if you have a preference. That’s just basic good manners.

You are welcome to make your ePort and all components of your Personal Learning Network pseudonymous or anonymous. You can easily do this by associating them with your Registrar-recognized name in the course spreadsheet. If you would prefer to use another name (or to be pseudonymous/anonymous) in the course spreadsheet as well, then you need to email me to let me know that is what you are doing. I will then be sure to associate your Registrar-recognized name with your preferred name in my private records so that you get credit for your work.

You can address me in whatever way is comfortable for you. Technically, I am Dr. Cheney. I am perfectly comfortable with you calling me Matt or Matthew or even just Cheney; those are all names various people use for me. I do not have a preference for pronouns.

Other course policies, university policies, & items required to be on this syllabus

Official University Absence Policy

The university has an excused absence policy that I am required to link to, but it doesn’t really apply to what we do. The best thing to do if you are absent is to communicate with me so we can try to figure out a plan. If you find yourself in a situation where you have numerous absences, you should contact the university’s Academic & Student Advocate, Dr. David Zehr, at or 603-535-3294, who can help you work through your options.

Snow Days

If school is canceled because it is unsafe to travel to campus, we will in most cases move some work online and stick to the syllabus. Given how much of this course is online, unless we lose power for an extended period of time, there is little reason for us to adjust the syllabus too much if class is canceled.

Official Catalogue Description

Gives senior-level Interdisciplinary students the opportunity to reflect on what they have accomplished through their program of study. Students examine current theories and debates in Interdisciplinary Studies, as well as consider the ways their coursework can be integrated with questions related to key categories of inquiry that shaped their programs, such as diversity, global awareness, and what it means to be an educated person. As part of this seminar, each student will undertake a thesis project that will bring her/his education to a culmination, thus providing a capstone experience. This thesis may take many forms (a long paper, a presentation, a multimedia project, a film, a web site, etc.), will incorporate both quantitative and qualitative thinking and the use of technology-related tools, and will be accompanied by a written piece that functions as a process paper, summarizing the project’s integrative construction and conclusions. Pass/No Pass. Prerequisite(s): Interdisciplinary Studies majors only. (INCO/WRCO)

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, each student will:

  • have reflected upon, and be able to articulate, how the integration of multidisciplinary approaches to knowledge and critical thinking within the focus of their major:
  • impacted their understanding of what it means to have an interdisciplinary studies degree,
  • contributed meaningfully to their particular interdisciplinary studies degree;
  • know the issues that currently shape the field of Interdisciplinary Studies, and be able to offer their own critical opinions on the theories and debates which shape their contours;
  • be able to reflect on how their interdisciplinary course of study can and/or will impact their post-Plymouth life as well as society;
  • be able to articulate how their own program of study contributes to their understanding of what it means to be “educated”;
  • be able to craft a well-written and well-designed multimedia article that works to engage their academic knowledge with a public audience of readers, and will have a functional ePort (or equivalent) for use in future educational and career endeavors;
  • be actively engaged with building your Personal Learning Network (PLN);
  • have created a comprehensive thesis project that integrates their coursework, synthesizes the major themes and issues raised through the various courses they have taken, and draws conclusions related to their focus;
  • have learned and considered things we can’t possibly imagine yet, and shared new, unexpected, and original ideas into the knowledge commons.

Academic Integrity

You must adhere to the Academic Integrity policy as outlined in the PSU Academic Catalog.


In addition to the grading information above, you should be aware of PSU’s Fair Grading Policy.


Please bring a laptop to every class session. (You do not need to own a laptop: Lamson Library will let you borrow one for free. Just bring your student ID to the circulation desk.) You are not expected to be a computer whiz — some students come to this course with an extensive background in computing, others don’t know how to turn a computer on. You are only expected to be open and willing to learn.

Accommodations (Official Statement)

Plymouth State University is committed to providing students with documented disabilities equal access to all university programs and facilities. If you think you have a disability requiring accommodations, you should contact Campus Accessibility Services (CAS), located in Speare 210 (535-3300) to determine whether you are eligible for such accommodations. Academic accommodations will only be considered for students who have registered with CAS. If you have a Letter of Accommodation for this course from CAS, please provide the instructor with that information privately so that you and the instructor can review those accommodations.

Photo credits:

Photo 1 by Todd Steitle on Unsplash

Photo 2 by Dominik VO on Unsplash

Photo 3 by Rúben Marques on Unsplash