Some background info: I'm a graduating Masters Students teaching a Web Development Class. This is my first teaching gig and this is a required course for CS students.

I have one star student who is already VERY good at web development. He overhauled three of the university's sites, making them more accessible, beautiful, and more performant. He is also pretty known among the faculty because of this. Let's just say that he knows the whole scope of what is being taught in my class, probably more.

What I want to know is if there is something that I can do to help this student? What I'm teaching him is probably just tickling his capability, and he is also very driven enough to create sites for our university. Can I talk about my department (CS Department) to let him skip my class/have him create sites for the uni instead? This student is very smart and I really feel he is much more engaged with doing real world sites (our sites) that I want to give him my time to support this instead of simple workload.

I have also talked to him about this and he really does think that developing real sites is fun.

So would it be unusual if I approach my department about this request? If not, how should I phrase this?

*Also, he closely works with me and a few other faculty for the site creation.

  • I am not sure I understand your question. You said "He overhauled three of the university's sites,". To me, this means he is already doing real world sites. And then you said "let him skip my class/have him create sites for the uni instead?". What exactly are you asking?
    – Nobody
    Jun 1, 2014 at 13:34
  • @scaaahu basically, support him in creating real world sites, and still have him pass or 'finish' my class or earn credit. At the very least maybe allow him to take another class (like letting him pass on a credit by examination).
    – user15966
    Jun 1, 2014 at 13:38
  • 7
    What are the requirements to successfully complete this course? I guess that some amount of homework is required in the syllabus, otherwise if there is only a final exam then the answer is trivial: he can take it without following the lectures. Jun 1, 2014 at 17:36

5 Answers 5


Talk to the person in your department who is responsible for overseeing the undergraduate education program (the title is usually a variant on "undergraduate advisor" or "director of undergraduate studies"). Such individuals usually have the authority to waive and approve courses that are not part of the "official" study plan when exceptional circumstances arise. This individual should be able to tell you what is necessary to obtain a waiver, and what could be used to substitute for it within the program.

  • Awesome thanks! I do believe someone in our department carries "undergraduate advisor" as a title.
    – user15966
    Jun 1, 2014 at 13:45
  • @user15966 Note that a waiver typically replaces a grade. If the student really is good at the topic you should ask him whether he wants the waiver (assuming you know you can get it) or whether he wants to follow the course anyway, and get the chance to produce a top grade. Jun 2, 2014 at 10:32
  • 4
    If the course is waived, there may still be credit requirements to make up, which means that the student can spend the equivalent amount of time doing something that's more productive/more appropriate, too. Jun 2, 2014 at 13:38
  • I am still an undergrad and a friend did exactly this for exactly this context several years ago Jun 2, 2014 at 17:33

I encountered a similar situation in the past. The student explained the situation to the lecturer and the lecturer agreed to give the student all the exercises in advance so that he could finish them in one go if he liked (instead of waiting and submitting a new exercise each week). The student did not need to attend class but had to do the final exam. That way the student didn't really get unfair special treatment (he got graded like the rest of the students) but could minimize the time wasted on something that he already knows.

  • 1
    While I'd appreciate my time being minimally wasted as a student, I'd still be a little upset having to pay tuition for a course that wasn't intellectually benefitting me.
    – Cornstalks
    Jun 2, 2014 at 16:46
  • 1
    @Cornstalks sadly for those of us still in undergrad there are far too many courses like that. Requirements are requirements and it has to be a special case to get out of it, at least at my school Jun 2, 2014 at 17:34
  • 1
    In my view, not being required to take a course when you can exhibit full mastery of its material is hardly "unfair special treatment". It is more like "fair special treatment", although it is less special than "nonstandard enough to require some human intervention in the mechanics of the degree requirements". In my experience different academic cultures have different attitudes about this: when I taught in Canada I was surprised that the attitude usually was: "You know the material? Great. Then just show up for the final exam and you'll get an A." In the US this is not the norm. Jun 2, 2014 at 17:48
  • Also, I have to point out that your proposal does not "minimize the time wasted on something that he already knows": the minimum amount of time to waste on something that you already know is 0 (you can pick the units). Jun 2, 2014 at 17:50

Having the student do free labor for the department in return for a course credit is somewhat evil. Paid work should be paid work.

At my school, if a student can prove they already have the skills that we teach in core chooses, we have the option of waiving those applicable requirements and letting them take higher level courses instead. The core course requirement is waived, but the number and distribution of courses required are usually not.

In any case, talk to your chair or DUS/DGS as appropriate.

  • The choice of credit or pay is something that should be up to the student to decide. Some students would rather have the course credit than the cash, others won't.
    – aeismail
    Jun 2, 2014 at 13:45
  • 2
    I disagree. It devalues what a course credit means (free labor for faculty!).
    – RoboKaren
    Jun 2, 2014 at 13:48
  • 1
    Perhaps we're working at cross-purposes. I was assuming that this was some sort of "independent project/study" arrangement, not something directly within a course. (But I'd also note that this is very much a cultural phenomenon.)
    – aeismail
    Jun 2, 2014 at 14:29
  • 2
    And why stop at labor=credit, why not substitute cash for labor so that you can buy an A in the course for $5000, which could then be used to hire other student workers.
    – RoboKaren
    Jun 2, 2014 at 14:44
  • 1
    I assume your research students are not in a core course when doing such research? And I'm assuming research leading to their degree is different from creating a website for the department.
    – RoboKaren
    Jun 2, 2014 at 21:55

He signed up for the course didn't he? I'd give him the same exams but different assignments. Sounds like you are teaching at a Tech School. Give him a University course. You have a Masters. Make him learn something. Let him work on something more scientific such as how to take the Opera source and replace the crippled WebView of Android with an Opera browser as well as make a one-size-fits-all by letting Opera be embedded in place of the UIWebView in iOS. I know, that's a bit extreme; but, you get the idea. Give him a challenge. I'm sure there is something in the Web Dev space which takes scientific level of understanding. At least he can catalog the various and nefarious async and two-way-data-binding frameworks and compare and contrast. Open the "Challenge" assignment to all of the class. You might have a few sleepers in there. make it worth an "A"; so, then legitimately everyone has the same opportunity. Just some ideas. (Teaching professional courses is even more extreme: almost always there's one person in the class who knows everything and several who know nothing.)

  • The problem with this is he's doing a lot more work for three or four credits to pass CS201, work that will not be reflected on his transcript. Jun 3, 2014 at 20:16

At my university we have a system set up so a student can challenge a class and if they can pass the final exam then they get the credit for the class on a pass/fail system. The other choice in most colleges is having the student adviser for the program waive the class. I am a Computer Science Major and I have had entry level computer courses waived by my adviser because I knew the material well enough to advance to higher courses.

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