Honors Course Proposal Guide

Thank you for your interest in designing and teaching a course for the Honors College at UMass Lowell! Honors courses provide a dynamic, engaging environment where you will work with high-achieving students. Honors students are highly motivated and enjoy diving deep into topics they are familiar with or exploring something brand new. There are a variety of ways to get involved teaching Honors courses. This guide provides an overview of the types of honors-level courses offered at UMass Lowell and how to propose new courses. 

There are five different types of Honors courses: 

  • HONR Prefix Special Topics Courses, 
  • Honors Sections of Courses in Academic Departments, 
  • Honors Ready Courses, 
  • Honors-by-Contract Courses and 
  • Honors Project Courses.  

Honors College Learning Outcomes

Our Honors College Learning Outcomes should be a guide when developing an honors course or an honors component to a course. An honors course, add-on, or project must address at least one of the following outcomes: 
  • Generate new knowledge, solve an applied problem, or create an artifact then effectively contextualize and defend its meaning. 
  • Demonstrate an understanding of skills and dispositions needed for life-long, self-directed learning: curiosity, initiative, independence, transfer, and reflection. 
  • Research, interpret, and evaluate information through critical reading. 
  • Communicate ideas to diverse audiences through multi-modal representations such as: clearly written prose, verbal exposition, and audio/visual creations. 
  • Collaborate with peers and mentors from various disciplines and communities, contributing to group objectives. 
  • Assess and refine their ability to read, write, speak, listen, and study. 

Proposing an HONR Prefix Special Topics Course

Is something in which you have expertise and would love to teach that is not currently offered at UMass Lowell? Are you interested in working with students from across the university as part of an interdisciplinary experience? Want to prototype a new course with an engaged student population? We are always looking to expand our offerings and invite you to submit an Honors College (HONR prefix) course proposal. 
Proposals for HONR courses must be submitted to the Associate Director of Honors Scholarship & Curriculum Rae_mansfield@uml.edu by Dec. 15 or May 15 the year before the course would be taught (for example, to teach a course in Fall 2027, submit the proposal in December 2026 and to teach a course in Spring 2028, submit the proposal by May 2027).  
Your proposal should include: 
  • The type of Honors course you are proposing (AH, SS, STEM, Interdisciplinary Free Elective) 
  • 30-character title 
  • 50-character title 
  • 800-character catalog and marketing description for the course 
  • Honors Outcome(s) the course incorporates 
  • Honors Requirement(s) the course fulfills  
  • 2-3 sentence discussion as to why you are interested in teaching this seminar 
  • Skeleton syllabus outlining learning outcomes and types of assignments 
Honors Seminars currently come in 5 flavors: 
  • HONR 3100: Honors Project Workshop themed around interdisciplinary research methods  
  • HONR 3200: Special Topics in Honors is an interdisciplinary seminar that does not fit into a specific core curriculum category. These courses can be used as free electives, but students can petition to use certain HONR 3200 courses to fulfill core curriculum requirements instead. 
  • HONR 3300: Special Topics Arts and Humanities Honors Seminars 
  • HONR 3400: Special Topics Social Science Honors Seminars 
  • HONR 3500: Special Topics STEM Honors Seminars 
All Honors Special Topics courses are inquiry-based, push the boundaries of any individual major on campus, and integrate methodology, content, and/or approaches from two or more areas. These courses are usually capped at 19 students. 
If you are interested in proposing an Honors College Project course or a 2000-level Honors Special Topics course, contact Associate Director of Honors Scholarship and Curriculum Rae_mansfield@uml.edu to discuss your idea.  

Proposing an Honors Section of a Course in an Academic Department

If you are interested in proposing an Honors Section of an existing course that is not currently offered at the honors level, submit a joint proposal to Associate Director of Honors Scholarship and Curriculum Rae_mansfield@uml.edu and your Department Chair by the Dec. 15 deadline stated above.  
In your proposal discuss: 
  • Evidence of need for the course 
  • Number of dedicated Honors sections of the course 
  • What distinguishes the Honors section(s) of the course from the non-honors section(s) of the course 
    • Include a sample assignment for the honors section of the course and contrast it with a non-honors assignment designed to teach the same concepts 
  • Proposed course size (typically 19 students) 
  • How the honors section incorporates one or more of the Honors Learning Outcomes in addition to the established outcomes for the course 
  • Your chair may suggest you teach an Honors Ready course instead of an Honors section. If so, design and submit an honors ready component for your non-honors course (see below for more information) 
  • Some departments may proposal honors recitation sections of larger lecture courses 
  • In some departments, an honors section of a course may have additional credits (Example: PLAS Honors Capstone Project is 3 credits and PLAS Capstone Project is 1 credit) 

Proposing an Honors Ready Course

The Honors Ready designation allows courses to be taught as mixed sections of honors and non-honors students. The instructor prepares an honors component for the course before the semester starts and honors students in the course receive honors credit. Honors Ready courses may be offered at any level from 1000 to 4000. Graduate courses (courses that are 5000 and higher) cannot be converted to Honors as they are already accepted for certain honors requirements.  
The Honors Ready courses should incorporate additional work focused on critical thinking, synthesis of material, communicating information to different audiences, etc. The honors component should add depth to the course experience for the student rather than assign arbitrary additional work. Examples include requiring honors students to use more sources on a research paper, having the student conduct a presentation about a topic they have been learning more about for their honors portion, incorporating an experiential component, exploring topics related to the course but not traditionally taught, etc.  
To assess whether there is a need for more Honors Ready courses in your department, contact either your Department Chair, or, if the need comes from outside your department, contact the Honors College. If you know there is a need for an Honors Ready course, send an email inquiry by Dec. 15 that explains the need for the course and outlines the honors ready component of your syllabus. 


Honors-by-Contracts (HbCs) are Honors add-ons to 3000 / 4000-level non-honors courses. Both the honors student and the course instructor agree upon an honors plan of enriched-study and sign a contract of understanding that includes a copy of the syllabus and a description of the supplementary honors component. 
The add-on must be project-based. The purpose of the contract is not to increase the quantity of work, it is to engage with the material at a deeper level. For example, the student under contract can complete a lit review related to course content, lead a discussion on an assignment or course topic, or contract students course readings can be drawn from scholarly articles instead of the textbook. 
Students must submit the Honors-by-Contract form within the first four weeks of the semester in which the course is taken. All HbC add-ons must be approved by the Honors College via the HbC form. Students may use up to two approved Honors-By-Contracts to satisfy certain Honors Curriculum Requirements  
Honors-by-Contracts may not be applied retroactively. A student cannot receive credit for an HbC if the HbC form was not received by the Honors College before the semester deadline. 
If you have multiple students requesting HbCs in your course, consider proposing an Honors Ready version of your course. 

A Note on Honors Project Courses

Faculty in upper-level project-based courses may have Honors students inquire whether they can use the course to fulfill their Honors Project requirement (either the H7 or H8). This is at the discretion of the department and/or the instructor. For example, in most fields of engineering Honors students complete a supplemental research, prototyping, or design element in their Capstone courses to fulfill both the Honors Project and Engineering Capstone requirements. In other fields, students may complete a capstone plus a directed or independent study, or they may supplement their project within the capstone course. Projects may be completed individually, in pairs, or in teams. As the instructor of the 4000-level project-based course, you may serve as either a project mentor or committee member. 
If you are interested in serving as an Honors Mentor, read our Mentor Guide
For more information on the Honors Project, visit the Honors Project page.