Office of the Vice President for
Administration and Finance
SECTION: GENERAL INDEX: A-43
SUBJECT: DEFINITION OF A CREDIT HOUR
The University employs sound and acceptable practices for determining the amount and level of credit awarded for courses, regardless of the format or the mode of course delivery. UHV assigns academic credit for courses based on the rules and policies of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). The University may also offer courses in a nontraditional way (over the internet or through a shortened, intensive format) that does not meet standard contact requirements if the course has been reviewed and approved through a formal institutional faculty review process that evaluates the course and its learning outcomes and determines whether the course does, in fact, have equivalent learning outcomes to an equivalent, traditionally delivered course. All online courses, summer courses or other shortened course formats shall contain sufficient content to meet THECB requirements for contact hours.
Standard Contact Hour - 50 minutes of instruction with a 10-minute break per course.
Federal and State Requirements
Federal Credit Hour Requirements, 34 CFR 600.2 - 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 reasonable approximates not less than –
1) 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
2) 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. (References)
THECB Rules and Regulations, Chapter 4.A, Item 4.6 – Requires that traditionally-delivered three semester credit hour courses should contain 15 weeks of instruction (45 contact hours) plus a week for final examinations so that such a course contains 45 to 48 contact hours depending on whether there is a final exam. Every college course is assumed to involve a significant amount of non-contact hour time for out-of-class student learning and reflection. To ensure the quality of student learning, institutions should not allow students to carry more courses in any term (that is, regular or shortened semester), which would allow them to earn more than one semester credit hour per week over the course of the term. For example, in a five and a half week summer term, students should not generally be allowed to enroll for more than six semester credit hours. Institutions should have a formal written policy for addressing any exceptions to subsection (b) of this section.
Courses delivered in shortened semesters are expected to have the same number of contact hours and the same requirement for out-of-class learning as courses taught in a normal semester. Institutions may offer a course in a non-traditional way (for example, over the internet, or through a shortened, intensive format) that does not meet these contact hour requirements, if the course has been reviewed and approved through a formal, institutional faculty review process that evaluates the course and its learning outcomes and determines that the course does, in fact, have equivalent learning outcomes to an equivalent, traditionally delivered course.
Minimum Course Length Requirements
Minimum Course Length requirements are formally defined in the Faculty Manual and the Dean’s Guide to Duties and Dates. All UHV courses shall comply with Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board policies with regard to course length. (References)
Faculty Manual Requirements under Section 4.4.8, Minimum Length of Courses:
The “typical” three-semester credit hour course contains at least 15 weeks of instruction (45 contact hours) plus a week for final examinations so that the course contains at least 45-48 contact hours, depending on whether a final exam is included in course requirements. Summer courses or other shortened course formats must still meet the contact hour requirements. The final exam schedule is posted in the Academic Calendar maintained by the Office of Admissions and Records. Online courses are expected to contain sufficient content to meet these requirements for contact hours. Instructors are required to be available when classes start and to have regularly-scheduled course meetings through finals week. Departures from this schedule shall be approved in advance by the dean.
Deans’ Guide to Duties and Dates Requirements, Section 8.5, Minimum Length of Courses:
- The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board specifies the following policy with regard to course length. All UHV courses must comply with this policy. Deans are responsible for ensuring compliance during the scheduling process.
- The minimum length for organized courses offered by public, general academic senior and junior institutions, and Texas State Technical Institutes shall be as follows.
(1) All shortened courses shall consist of the same number of class contact hours as similar courses offered in a regular session or summer session, that is, normally 45 to 48 contact hours. Courses shall also have the same objectives, requirements, and quality of instruction as regular length courses.
(2) Students may not carry more courses at a time in a shortened format than will give them total credit of one semester credit hour per week of instruction
(3) No three-credit-hour course shall consist of fewer than nine days of classes offered over not less than three weeks.
(4) All requirements for three-credit-hour course shall apply proportionately to courses for one, two, four, or other credit hour values.
(5) The commissioner of higher education is authorized to permit exceptions to this section for research purposes, to determine the efficacy of teaching a specific course in a shortened format.
International Students Semester Credit Hours
Unless noted otherwise, credit for courses for international students is treated in the same manner as for resident students: Credit for courses at the University is measured in semester hours. Most courses meet three hours per week in the fall and spring semesters and have a credit value of three semester hours. These courses meet for nine hours a week during the five-week summer term and yield three semester hours of credit. Many graduate courses are taught in the evening only. Some courses are taught through the internet.
International students on F-1 visas must maintain a full course of study during the fall and spring semesters. Full-time for graduate students is a minimum of 9 semester hours (3 courses) and 12 semester hours (4 courses) for undergraduate students to comply with immigration requirements.
Only one online course may count toward the full course of study requirement each semester.
Distance Education Committee – Faculty Senate
Courses that do not meet standard contact hour requirements (online courses over the internet including summer courses and other shortened course formats) are to be reviewed and approved through a formal institutional assessment process that evaluates the course and learning outcomes. The faculty review process developed by the Distance Education Committee, Faculty Senate shall be used to insure that such courses meet SACs standards as well as the criteria established by THECB. (References)
Philip Castille, Ph.D.
Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs
Next Review Date: May, 2016