ISOLDE: Independent Study, Online Learning, and Dual Enrollment at Joel Barlow

Welcome to ISOLDE, Barlow's program for Independent Study, Online Learning, and Dual-Enrollment/Early College. This page will guide you through the application process and expectations for each that will help teachers, counselors, and administrators connect you with learning opportunities that fit needs and interests that reach beyond our current course offerings.

First let's consider definitions to help you select the right program:

1. Independent Study is for students who design their own course of learning on a subject that is not offered at Barlow, an online courses, or through a local community college. Most students in independent study work with an in-house advisor on our faculty.

2. Online Learning is for students taking classes not offered at Barlow. Typically these would be offered through colleges, universities, or other accredited institutions.

3. Dual Enrollment courses are college classes that count for credit at both Barlow and towards a college degree. Our partnerships with Housatonic Community College, Norwalk Community College, and Sacred Heart University provide early college opportunities to Barlow students.

General parameters and requirements for ISOLDE:

  • You may be asked to submit additional information and to meet with counselors, teachers, and administrators and to attend an orientation before final approval to your application is given.

  • Students seeking to use ISOLDE to satisfy graduation requirements must consult with the relevant department chair for approval. Arrange this through your counselors.

  • Successfully completed approved AP and Honors courses automatically qualify for a weighted grade.

  • Students seeking a weighted grade for non-AP and non-honors independent study, online learning, or dual enrollment courses must prove to the relevant department chair that the proposed syllabus demands both A. significantly more rigor and B. a greater quantity of work than the most comparable non-weighted Barlow offering. Conversely, the student can seek to prove that the syllabus demands both rigor and a quantity of work that is the relative equivalent to the most analogous weighted Barlow offering. This can be arranged through your counselors.

  • Students may only take one ISOLDE course per semester including during the summer.

  • For all ISOLDE programs, families will be responsible for tuition, books, materials, testing costs, transportation, and any other expenses incurred through Independent Study, Online Learning, and Dual Enrollment.

Beyond what you see above, Independent Study, Online Learning, and Dual Enrollment have their own unique requirements:

Independent Study:

Since you plan to study something that is outside of the curriculum available at Barlow, online, or at our local colleges, you will have to create your own syllabus and compose weekly journals. You should consult with your prospective faculty advisor when crafting your syllabus. Mr. Smith along with your counselors can help you find an advisor if you don't have one in mind. 

 This syllabus includes the following elements:

  1. Purpose: Inquiry question & statement of intent
  2. Curriculum: A bibliography of proposed readings
  3. Work: A list and descriptions of what assessments and products of the work will be.
  4. Approval: The signature of your faculty advisor

Here's a link to the syllabus. 

Weekly Journals:

In addition to the assessments, students in Independent study are required to write dated weekly journals completed BY SUNDAY night BY midnight in a google doc shared with both their advisor and Mr. Smith, with the most recent entry at the top. Journals should demonstrate evidence of ...

  • Developing a new understanding of inquiry questions: consider how this week's progress helps to shape, guide, and sharpen an element or elements of understanding stated in the initial inquiry questions.
  • Considering progress towards final product: explore how this week's progress develops an understanding or actualization of the final product, performance, or exhibition and what has been learned in the process.
  • Reflecting on interests and awareness: synthesize how this week's learning and progress define and shape your own understanding of your interests, goals, personality, and direction in your project.
  • Contemplating newness in approach and process: here's where your research can play an integral role in your understanding, development, learning, and approach. Remember, you can read an article, read the internet, read the library, watch a youtube video, etc. Just post the link, and integrate the new learning into your process.

Here are some things to DO:

  • Think outside the box. Approach your learning in new ways and from different perspectives.
  • Be honest, be candid: explore and grapple with failure, ambiguity, expectations. Tell the truth.
  • Consider the role of others in your own reflection: engage in conversations with peers, parents, teachers – see what they have to say and how you can reassess your own understanding.
  • Consider the bigger picture: the implications, the subtleties, the peripheral, the overall experience of what your project entails.

Here are some things to CONSIDER:

  • Avoid reporting.
  • Don't categorize, itemize, and recount.
  • Minimalize the summary, summarize minimally: it's important to note what's happened during the week, but it's even MORE IMPORTANT to explore how those experiences are shaping your understanding and what you LEARNED from those experiences.

Online Learning:

Students choosing online learning are responsible for not just for Barlow's application form, but also for signing up and enrolling directly with the online course provider. They will also be responsible for checking in with their guidance counselors once a month to discuss progress.

Grades: It is the responsibility of the student to provide an official transcript of course completion including relevant grades to the head of student services no later than a week before any quarter closes. Failure to submit your marks on time can result in failing the course, delays of transcripts, incompletes, or no credit being awarded.

Therefore in courses with flexible deadlines, it is crucial for you to factor your instructor's schedule into your plans for when to complete work. 

Dual Enrollment: Early College Programs Barlow juniors or seniors with a 3.0 or better G.P.A. can choose to broaden their opportunities beyond Barlow's curriculum with the Early College Program. Enrolled students will earn dual credit for their course work. First, students will earn one elective credit per course towards their high school graduation. Secondly, students will also earn three transferable college credits per course that may speed up their post-secondary degree completion.

Early College Program courses can only be used toward elective credits and may not replicate/duplicate any classes (required or elective) offered at Barlow. Students can speak to their school counselor to see if this program is right for them, and they must also submit an application to the Director of Independent Studies and Online Learning.

High School Partnership

Joel Barlow High School has created an agreement with Housatonic C.C. and Norwalk C.C. to encourage eligible high school juniors and seniors to enroll in college-level full-credit courses with no cost for tuition under the High School Partnership Program.


To be eligible for community college courses through our high school partnership program, students and parents must submit the following to the partner community college:

  • A recommendation from their high school counselor
  • Current immunization records
  • A current Barlow transcript proving a minimum 3.0 GPA
  • SAT minimum scores of 530 in math and 25 in reading subset or a placement test
  • Completion of any prerequisite courses associated with the particular course you are seeking to take

Interested students should contact their school counselor and the Director of Independent Studies and Online Learning.

Housatonic Community College:
Earl Graham, Director of Admissions (for Easton & Redding students)

Norwalk Community College:

William Chagnon, Director of Admissions (for Redding students)

Click here to search for dual enrollment courses that fit your interests and your schedule. Note that some courses are offered partially or fully online.


Taste of College

The Taste of College Program is a special admissions category to encourage currently enrolled high school juniors and seniors who show exceptional academic accomplishments to participate in college level-courses. Students will receive three college credits after successful completion of the course. High school seniors must be recommended by their high school counselor. Course offerings vary each semester. A special reduced tuition per course is in effect for this program, with a maximum of two courses permitted during the summer. Students admitted under the Taste of College Program are responsible for the cost of their tuition, course texts, and transportation.

Interested students should contact their school counselor and the Director of Independent Studies and Online Learning. 

Sacred Heart University:

Christina Hamilton, Director of Undergraduate Admissions serves both Easton and Redding. In addition, students may be able to earn elective high school credits through the many summer programs and classes offered by accredited colleges and universities. Your school counselor or the Director of Independent Studies and Online Learning can review the coursework and answer any questions you have about obtaining credit.


Grades: Just as with Online Learning, it is the responsibility of the student to provide an official transcript of course completion including relevant grades to the head of student services as soon as they become available. Failure to submit your marks on time so can result in failing the course, delays of transcripts, incompletes, or no credit being awarded.


Please see your counselor or Mr. Smith in A107 if you have any questions.

Thank you,

Randall Smith
Director of Independent Learning


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