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Coursework Guideline

Guideline for Coursework IRB Application and Review

When a Coursework IRB Application and Review is Appropriate? 

The coursework IRB application and review is appropriate for research methods courses where students conduct a research study, collect and analyze data for the purposes of learning how to do research. In such courses, students engage in research activities as part of course assignment(s), and they engage in research activities under the supervision of the course instructor.

The application form must be filed out by each instructor that teaches such a course. In other words, the course application form is associated with the instructor not the course itself. If multiple instructors are teaching different sections of the same course, then each instructor must file a course application form. Once the course application form is filled out, the instructor does not need to resubmit the application when they teach the course again. There is no expiration date for course applications, however, minor revisions still apply if at any point the nature of classroom research changes. 

For students to conduct a research study under the Coursework IRB application and review, the studies they engage in for the purposes of training in research methods must meet the following criteria:  

  • The research project/activities involves no more than minimal risk to subjects; AND
  • The research project/activities do not involve vulnerable populations such as prisoners, people with diminished capacity for giving consent, and children; AND
  • The results will not be presented, published or distributed outside the classroom and/or beyond the CSUSM institutional setting (campus); AND 
  • The subjects/participants remain anonymous (no identifiable data will be collected) or confidential (identifiable data such as names will be collected but the researcher will be the only one who had access to that information); AND
  • The student, NOT the course instructor, is the principal investigator of the project. 

When Do Students Need to File a Separate IRB Application for their Research Projects They are Conducting as Part of a Course?  

If students are conducting a research project as part of a course where they are expected to engage in research activities but they do not meet the aforementioned criteria, then they need to submit a regular IRB application form that is appropriate for the type of study they plan to conduct (exempt/limited, expedited, or full).

For example, if students are working with a vulnerable population, the research project they are conducting as part of the course cannot be covered under the course application. Similarly, if students are collecting personal information such as names, addresses, etc. that are identifiable, their research projects cannot be covered under the course application. If the research project involves more than minimal risk (e.g. questions asking about sensitive topic), their research projects cannot be covered under the course application. Similarly, if the students plan to publish their work in a journal or present at a state or national conference, their research projects cannot be covered under the course application. In these cases, individual students must file a separate IRB application. 

Where Can Students Present their Research Project under Course Application? 

Students whose research project falls under the Coursework application can present their findings in class to their peers, and a student research conference/showcase on CSUSM campus where it is clearly marked on the poster or stated verbally during presentation that the project is a classroom project. The projects can be presented at campus events such as the CSUSM Psychology Student Research Fair, Sociology and Criminology & Justice Studies Student Research Symposiums, CSUSM Symposium on Student Research, and CSUSM Student Poster Showcase. 

Can Faculty File Course Application Form to Conduct Research in their Classrooms? 

No. If a course instructor would like to conduct research about their instructional practices, students' learning in the courses they are teaching, engage the students taking the class in cognitive tasks, interventions, or lab studies as part of his/her research, then they need to submit a regular IRB application. This type of study usually falls under exempt or limited IRB application categories.