Credit Hour Definition
34CFR 600 and 668 require that institutions submit their definitions and related policies regarding credit hours to their accrediting agencies and receive an official, recorded certification from that agency that the definitions meet the federal definition of a credit hour.
University of Cincinnati’s credit hour definitions constitute a formalization of policy in order to: 1) ensure compliance with federal and accreditation expectations; 2) ensure compliance also with Ohio Department of Higher Education’s credit hour definition; and 3) to provide consistency throughout the University. Courses may be composed of any combination of elements described, such as a lecture course which also has required laboratory periods or a lecture course having an additional requirement for supervised independent study.
UC requires this policy to be practiced by all faculty, full-time and part-time. All definitions and standards apply equally to courses offered both on and off campus.
UC Credit-hour Definitions
The requirements which follow represent minimums for average students and that some deviation in excess of these requirements may occur, particularly at the graduate and professional levels. Please note that each category of academic activity is followed by the applicable policy section. In the interest of accurate academic measurement and cross-campus comparability, the following policies and practices apply in controlling the relationship between contact hours, work outside of class, and credit hours.
34CFR 600 defines a credit hour as “[o]ne hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out of class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester.” In its 2011 December Meeting report, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity noted that a “semester hour approximates one hour (or 50 minutes) of classroom time and two hours of out-of-class student work each week in a 15-week semester or its equivalent.”
50 minutes of classroom time per week multiplied by 15 weeks results in 750 total minutes of classroom time per credit hour. This 750 minute classroom time (i.e., “instructional minutes”) total was adopted by the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) and informs ODHE’s credit rule definition for use by all Ohio institutions of higher education.
A. Formalized Instruction Requirement
A semester credit hour is earned for a minimum of 750 total instructional minutes of classroom instruction, with a normal expectation of at least two (or three hours for two sessions-a week classes) of outside study (homework, reading assignments, preparation for class) for each class session (meeting time). Typically, a Fall/Spring three-semester credit hour full-semester length course meets for three 55-minute sessions per week or for two 80-minute sessions per week for the length of the semester, resulting in the required 2,250 instructional minute minimum and 90 total hours of work outside of the classroom. This usually yields 16-15 weeks for fall and spring semesters, respectively, when including the final exam. Summer full-semester courses and fall/spring/summer intra-semester session courses increase the per-class meeting instructional minutes as appropriate given the number of class meetings so as to meet the 750 total instructional minutes per credit hour requirement.
Credit hours may be calculated differently for other types of instruction (e.g., laboratory experience, directed practice experience, practicum experience, cooperative work experience, field experience, observation experience, seminar, and studio experience) as long as the credit hour calculations align with commonly accepted practices in higher education and with the regulations of regional accreditors and the federal financial aid program.
B. Short Sessions and/or Flexibly Scheduled Courses
Credit hours may be earned in short sessions (fall/spring half-semester sessions, summer sessions, intersessions, etc.). Courses offered over a period of time other than a standard UC full-semester will require the same amount of classroom and out-of-class work per credit hour as is required of UC semester-long courses. The same amount of work will be distributed over a shorter period of time and may be allocated in various ways. Short session and flexibly scheduled classroom courses will adjust the per-class meeting instructional minutes as appropriate, given the number of class meetings, so as to meet the total instructional minutes requirement.
C. Credit by Examination
At its discretion, an academic college may award semester hour credits for mastery documented through credit-by-examination. When such credit by examination is allowed, it may be used to satisfy degree requirements.
Credits awarded for competency-based education shall be based on the successful completion of standardized examinations such as those in the Advanced Placement Program (AP), the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), DANTES Subject Standardized Test (DSST) Program or through portfolio assessment, institutional examinations conducted by the faculty of the institution in the appropriate discipline, or another assessment method approved by the Chancellor and the Secretary of Higher Education.
D. Distance Education, Online and Hybrid (Blended) Courses
UC’s credit hour policy and credit award practice for distance education, online and hybrid courses will be consistent and equivalent with the standards for courses offered through face-to-face instruction, although some or all of course content and faculty-student interaction occurs through one or more forms of distance education.
I. Federal Definition of a Credit hour
34CFR 600 (UC Government Publishing Office)
A. § 600.2 Definitions
Credit hour: Except as provided in 34 CFR 668.8(k) and (l), a credit hour is an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than
- One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out of class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or
- At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.
B. Report of the Meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, December 2010, U.S. Department of Education, pp. 25-26.
“A semester hour approximates one hour (or 50 minutes) of classroom time and two hours of out-of-class student work each week in a 15-week semester or its equivalent.”
II. Ohio Department of Higher Education: “Definition of Semester Credit Hour and Length of Semester Term; March 2010; Page 2.
Semester Credit Hour Definition: One semester credit hour will be awarded for a minimum of 750 minutes of formalized instruction that typically requires students to work at out-of-class assignments an average of twice the amount of time as the amount of formalized instruction (1,500 minutes). It is acknowledged that formalized instruction may take place in a variety of modes.
While awarding semester credit hours typically occurs for instruction delivered in accordance with an institution's standard semester calendar, it may also occur for instruction that may not follow the typical pattern of an institution's standard semester calendar as long as the criteria for awarding such credit is met.”
III. Ohio Department of Higher Education: “Guidelines & Procedures for Academic Program Review”; July 2016; Appendix A, page 53.
“Credit hour: A minimum of 750 minutes (semester credit hour) or 500 minutes (quarter credit hour) of formalized instruction that typically requires students to work at out-of-class assignments an average of twice the amount of time as the amount of formalized instruction. Credit hours may be calculated differently for other types of instruction (e.g., laboratory experience, directed practice experience, practicum experience, cooperative work experience, field experience, observation experience, seminar, and studio experience) as long as the credit hour calculations align with commonly accepted practices in higher education and with the regulations of regional accreditors and the federal financial aid program.