Policies and Regulations
Policies and Regulations
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POL 02.05.02 - Definition of a Credit Hour

Authority: Chancellor

History:

  • First Issued: July 31, 2013

Related Policies:

Additional References:

Contact Information: Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Planning and Accreditation, (910-521-6180).

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 Pursuant to the Code of Federal Regulations, 34 CFR 600.2, the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC), the institutional accrediting body for the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, requires the university to comply with Federal Requirement 4.9 of the SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation. Federal Requirement 4.9 requires that the institution have policies and procedures for determining the credit hours awarded for courses and programs that conform to commonly accepted practices in higher education and to Commission policy. SACSCOC Policy Statement on Credit Hours adopts the federal definition of a credit hour for purposes of application.

1.2 The UNC Pembroke policy on the Definition of a Credit Hour will address the policies and procedures the university has established for determining the credit hours awarded for courses and programs and how the university will comply with Commission policy.

2. SCOPE

2.1 The UNC Pembroke policy on the Definition of a Credit Hour applies to all university personnel involved in determining the amount of credit to be awarded for a course or a program. These personnel include, but are not limited to, individuals in the Office of Academic Affairs (i.e. faculty members, department chairs, program coordinators, deans, associate vice chancellors, and the provost) and the chancellor who approve the creation or revision of academic courses and programs. It also includes administrative personnel in the Office of the Registrar who work with academic departments to determine the credit to be awarded for new or revised courses and programs. In addition, members of the Faculty Senate and its committees (Academic Affairs) and subcommittees (Curriculum), who approve the amount of credit to be awarded for new or revised courses or programs, must also understand and observe this policy.

3. DEFINITIONS

3.1 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. It is the unit by which an institution measures its course work.  The number of hours assigned to a course is a measure of the outcomes expected, the mode of instruction, the amount of time spent in class, and the amount of work that is expected outside of class to complete all course objectives. 

3.2 A contact hour is an amount of scheduled time spent in the classroom or under direct faculty instruction equal to fifty minutes per credit hour awarded.

4. POLICY STATEMENTS

4.1 Credit Hours

4.1.1 Academic credit has provided the basis for measuring the amount of engaged learning time expected of a student enrolled in traditional classroom settings and laboratories, studios, internships and other experiential learning, and distance and correspondence education.

4.1.2 Students, institutions, employers, and others rely on the common currency of academic credit to support a wide range of activities, including the transfer of students from one institution to another.

4.1.3 For several decades, the federal government has relied on credits as a measure of student academic engagement as a basis of awarding financial aid.

4.1.4 Credit-hour systems assign numerical credit to courses based both on the number of instructional hours per week over a standard academic term (semester or quarter) and the amount of preparatory time per week that students must spend outside the classroom.

4.1.5 A credit hour is expected to be a reasonable approximation of a minimum amount of student work in a Carnegie unit in accordance with commonly accepted practices in higher education.

4.1.6 In accordance with federal regulations and for purposes of the application of its policy on the Definition of a Credit Hour, the UNC Pembroke adopts the federal definition of the credit hour which is as follows:

4.1.6.a. Not less than one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours 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

4.1.6.b. At least an equivalent amount of work as required outlined in item 4.1.6.a. above 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.

4.1.7 This definition of a credit hour applies to all courses at all levels (graduate and undergraduate) that award academic credit regardless of the mode of delivery, including, but not limited to, online, hybrid, lecture, seminar, studio, and laboratory. Learning objectives, expected outcomes, and workload expectations that meet the standards set forth above should be clearly stated in all courses.

4.2 Lecture or Seminar Classes

4.2.1 For lecture or seminar class instruction, a credit hour is assumed to be a 50-minute period, with the class meeting 50 minutes per week for an entire fifteen week semester (or the equivalent of 750 minutes per semester). For each hour spent in class, students are generally expected to have two hours of outside of class responsibility (homework, assigned projects, class preparation, writing assignments, etc.).

4.3 Abbreviated Terms and Alternative Delivery Formats

4.3.1 Courses offered during abbreviated terms (eight-week terms, Maymester, summer sessions, etc.) must be equivalent in contact hours to semester-long courses, and the course work must be suitable to the compressed schedule required of an abbreviated or accelerated term.

4.3.2 In courses with an alternative delivery format, such as those offered in a hybrid or online format, in which "seat time" does not apply, a credit hour may be measured by an equivalent amount of work, as demonstrated by student achievement. Credit hours assigned are equal to those for the same course when taught in a traditional format. For online and hybrid courses, course instructional time includes direct faculty/student course contact within the physical and or virtual teaching space. Virtual teaching contact activities include, but are not limited to, student content creation via a website, blog, wiki, or other presentations system; communication via threaded discussion board, email, chat, texting or other social networking system; synchronous web-conferencing; and interaction in online simulations, games, virtual environments, or other experiences.

4.4 Studio and Laboratory Classes

4.4.1 Studio describes a class in which all students are engaged in creative or artistic activities, which are new and unique and are not formulated in a lecture setting. Most studio courses carry three semester credit hours. In studio courses, three hours of studio time and space (direct faculty instruction and out of class student work) per credit hour are required. Studio classes led by an instructor meet for a minimum of 1.5 hours per week for each credit granted; the remaining time is for out of class work and studio class preparation.

4.4.2 Laboratory describes a class in which all students are practicing an application of a scientific or technical nature that, for the most part, has already been delivered in the lecture class. Content in a lab is based on theory or content from an associated course. Laboratory classes adhere to the standard practice in higher education of using the equivalent of two hours (one hundred minutes) of laboratory time as the equivalent of one contact hour. Most laboratory courses carry one semester credit hour. For a laboratory course, two hours of in class instruction and one hour of out of class work and preparation are required per credit hour per week.

4.4.3 Many nursing courses require a combination of lecture and laboratory/clinical hours. For each credit hour awarded for the lecture portion of the course, two hours of work outside of class is required. For laboratory/clinical experiences, one semester credit hour is awarded for three contact hours of laboratory/clinical work. One hour of out of class work and preparation is also required per credit hour per week for laboratory/clinical instruction in nursing.  

4.5 Internships, Practica, Field Work, Experiential Learning, and Cooperative Education

4.5.1 Internships, practica, field work, and other external learning experiences provide opportunities for students to earn academic credit for approved work or research programs in cooperating business, government, or educational organizations. Practica are courses in a specialized area of study designed to give students practical experiences in specialized course of study. Experiential learning is a working and learning arrangement which involves the student, the university, and an organization (business, agency, etc.) where the student plans to work. Cooperative education is an arrangement whereby the university cooperates with an outside business or agency to help a student directly explore a career-related field as an integral part of the educational program. Credit for these courses is awarded according to work assignment and time commitment consistent with an equivalent amount of work for the credit hour standard as applied to courses.

4.5.2 Internship, practica, field work, experiential learning, and cooperative education require a minimum of ten hours of student work, in and out of class combined, per week for each of the hours of credit awarded. The amount of credit that can be earned in experiential learning courses varies from one to three semester hours in each course.

4.5.3 In social work, non-lecture instructional contact hours for field experience are counted toward the required number of instructional contact hours per credit hour awarded using a 2.5:1 ratio (two and one half hours of field experience time equals one instructional contact hour). Social work students must complete twelve hours of field experience course work. Students are expected to complete thirty-two hours of work per week for fifteen weeks in an assigned supervised field setting. Successful completion of a minimum of four hundred clock hours of field work is required to receive a passing grade for the semester. 

4.5.4 In counseling programs, non-lecture instructional contact hours for practicum/field placement are counted toward the required number of instructional contact hours per credit hour awarded using a 2:1 ratio (two hours of field experience time equals one instructional contact hour). Students must complete a total of one hundred clock hours at the field placement site.

4.6 Study Abroad, Independent Study, and Student Teaching

4.6.1 For study abroad, credit hours are awarded to reflect the amount and complexity of the academic work to be done consistent with an equivalent amount of work for the credit hour standard applied to courses. The amount of credit awarded for study abroad varies from three to eighteen semester credit hours. Short-term, faculty-led study abroad programs integrate traditional classroom learning with experiential learning and site visits. Summer, spring break, or short term study abroad programs vary from one to six weeks in length. Credit hours assigned to short-term study abroad programs should be equivalent to credit hours assigned to courses taught on campus. Fifteen instructional contact hours, (including pre-departure, during the program, and post-program), must be allocated for each semester credit hour awarded (forty-five hours for a three semester credit course).  A minimum of two hours of preparation outside of class (including pre-departure, during the program, and post-program), are required for each instructional contact hour.

4.6.2 For independent study or directed research courses, credit hours are awarded to reflect the amount and complexity of the academic work to be done consistent with an equivalent amount of work for the credit hour standard applied to courses.
 
4.6.3 The student teaching internship is required for students completing an undergraduate teaching degree. Nine semester credit hours are awarded for a semester long full-time internship experience in a public school setting. Students registered for these courses are required to be in the public school classroom during all hours of operation for fifteen weeks. For a thirty-six hour work week, non-instructional contact hours would be counted towards the required number of instructional contact hours per credit hour awarded using a ratio of 4:1(four hours of student teaching internship time equals one instructional contact hour). Master of Arts graduate programs in educational specialties require a ten-week, full-time internship experience in an off-campus public school setting appropriate for licensure. Three semester credit hours of are awarded for this internship experience.

4.7 Contact Hours

4.7.1 The University of North Carolina at Pembroke adheres to The UNC Policy Manual 400.1.6 and the Carnegie unit for contact time. The university ensures that every course offered for academic credit adheres to the standard minimum of 750 minutes of scheduled instructional time or the equivalent per credit hour per semester. The standard three credit hour course requires 2,250 minutes of instructional time per semester. The typical Monday-Wednesday-Friday class contains 50 minutes of instructional time, and Tuesday-Thursday classes have 75 minutes of instructional time. A mandatory examination period is considered part of the instructional time. The contact hour calculation for summer sessions follows the same standard of 750 minutes for each unit of credit, resulting in longer class meeting times during summer terms.

4.8 Institutional Responsibilities

4.8.1 UNC Pembroke will document compliance with Federal Requirement 4.9 (Definition of Credit Hours) as it relates to credit hours in preparing its Compliance Certifications in anticipation of reaffirmation of accreditation.

4.8.2 UNC Pembroke will address Federal Requirement 4.9 (Definition of Credit Hours) as part of its prospectus for a substantive change involving a program expansion or an application for a degree level change.

4.9 Commission Responsibilities

4.9.1 SACSCOC reviews the institution’s (1) policies and procedures for determining credit hours that the institution awards for coursework, including clock to credit hour conversions, and (2) the application of its policies and procedures to its programs and coursework. Following the evaluation, the Commission is obligated to make a reasonable determination regarding the institution’s assignment of credit hours and whether it conforms to commonly accepted practices in higher education. In doing so, the Commission may use sampling or other methods in its evaluation. As with the identification of non-compliance with other standards, the Commission is obligated to take action in accord with that used in relation to other standards of non-compliance. If the Commission finds systemic non-compliance with this policy or significant non-compliance regarding one or more programs at the institution, the Commission is required to notify the U.S. Secretary of Education.

4.9.2 The Commission is not responsible for reviewing every course and related documentation of learning outcomes; rather, the Commission will review the policies and procedures that the institution uses to assign credit hours, with the application verified by a sampling of the institution’s degree and non-degree programs to include a variety of academic activities, disciplines, and delivery modes. The review process for sampling encompasses a varied sample of the institution’s degree and non-degree programs in terms of academic discipline, level, delivery modes, and types of academic activities. In reviewing academic activities other than classroom or direct faculty instruction accompanied by out-of-class work, the Commission will determine whether an institution’s processes and procedures result in the establishment of reasonable equivalencies for the amount of academic work described in the credit hour definition within the framework of acceptable institutional practices at comparable institutions of higher education for similar programs.

5. PROCEDURES

5.1 Determination of Credit

5.1.1 Credit hour determinations at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke shall be made by the faculty consistent with common practices in higher education, guidelines of professional bodies and accrediting agencies, and federal standards. Faculty within the appropriate discipline determine the amount and level of credit awarded for courses as part of curricular and program development, planning, revision, and course approval processes.

5.1.2 Through the Curriculum Development and Revision process, the UNC Pembroke Faculty Senate participates in the determination of the credit hours awarded for courses and programs. The UNCP Faculty Constitution establishes that the purpose of the Faculty Senate is to serve as the principal academic policy-making body of the university.  It deliberates and acts upon recommendations concerning educational policies that it receives from its committees or university departments. Its actions are subject to review and approval by the chancellor.

5.1.3 The bylaws of the Faculty Senate establish that the Academic Affairs Committee, a standing committee of the Faculty Senate, considers all matters relating to curriculum.  The Subcommittee on Curriculum, a subcommittee of the Academic Affairs Committee, examines all proposals relating to the curriculum and make recommendations to the Academic Affairs Committee on the approval and revision of courses and programs.

5.1.4 In accordance with the Curriculum Development and Revision Process, faculty in academic departments initiate proposals for curriculum development and revision. In consultation with the Office of the Registrar, the department determines the number of credit hours to be awarded when a new course or a revision to an existing course is proposed.  Following departmental approval, a Course Proposal Form or Program Proposal Form is submitted for signature to the appropriate dean, registrar, and provost/vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. The Teacher Education Committee and the General Education Subcommittee also review the proposal if it affects the Teacher Education Program or the General Education Program. The Graduate Council must also approve graduate program curriculum proposals before they are submitted to the Subcommittee on Curriculum. When the required signatures are affixed, the proposal is passed to the Subcommittee on Curriculum. This subcommittee is composed primarily of faculty.  The proposal is reviewed extensively. The submitted syllabus is examined for credit hours assigned relative to the amount of in class time allotted and work required outside of class. A representative of the department whose proposal is being considered must be present at all committee meetings to clarify rationales, answer questions, and address concerns regarding the proposal.

5.1.5 Proposals that are approved by the Subcommittee on Curriculum are forwarded to the Academic Affairs Committee, a standing committee of the Faculty Senate, where it is again reviewed thoroughly for credit hour designation and amount of work required. Following action by the Academic Affairs Committee, proposals for new and revised courses are reviewed and acted on by the full Faculty Senate. The Faculty Senate is charged with following the policy on credit hours in their review and approval of all courses and for certifying that the expected student learning for the course meets the credit hour standard. All Senate actions involving curriculum development and revision must be approved by the chancellor.

5.2 Monitoring, Oversight, and Enforcement

5.2.1 The Office of Academic Affairs, which has supervisory authority over the university’s schools and colleges, and the Office of the Registrar, monitors compliance with this policy. Department chairs, which create the schedule of classes for each semester and summer school, are responsible for maintaining the credit hour standards.
 
5.2.2 The syllabus for all types of courses must contain information about the amount of credit to be awarded for successful completion of the class and the assigned meeting times of the class. It must also contain a statement about the amount of work expected outside of class and a course calendar. These elements constitute documentation that the course meets the credit hour policy requirements. In accordance with university regulations on Faculty Responsibilities with respect to Course Syllabi, as outlined in the Faculty Handbook, each faculty member is expected to have a formal syllabus for each course he/she teaches.  It is the responsibility of each department chair to collect from departmental faculty members syllabi for all courses taught in his/her department and to make certain the syllabi conform to the UNC Pembroke Syllabus Checklist. A copy of this checklist, completed and signed by the professor, must be attached to each syllabus. The Syllabus Checklist includes the specification that the syllabus will contain information about the amount of credit to be awarded for the course, the meeting times for the course, a course calendar, and a statement about the amount of work expected outside of class.

5.2.3 For abbreviated or accelerated term courses, courses are evaluated at the departmental level by the program coordinator/department chairs, at the college level by the dean, and at the university lever by the registrar before they appear on the University Schedule of Classes each semester.

5.2.4 All internships, practica, field work, and other external learning experiences are supervised by UNC Pembroke faculty, who assign grades in the courses. The amount of credit that a student can earn in Experiential Learning courses is jointly determined by the student and the student’s major advisor on the basis of what the student contracts to do. Eligible students who register for Experiential Learning courses are required to sign and carry out a written work-learning contract jointly developed by the student, the student’s advisor, and the organization providing the practical work experience. Credit for participating in Cooperative Education courses must be approved by the department chair, Office of Academic Affairs, and the registrar.

5.2.5 A student who wishes to enroll in an Independent Study course in a department must meet the requirements established by the department for Independent Study and submit a written request for Independent Study to the department chair.  The request must include a complete description of the Independent Study project and a schedule for the submission of the project. The request must be approved by the professor supervising the Independent Study project and the department chair. Upon completion of the project, the student must submit the project to the supervising professor.  The professor will evaluate the project and assign a grade.  A copy of the project must be submitted to the department chair who will keep it on file. Departments permitting Independent Study must have written guidelines setting out the requirements.

5.2.6 Faculty leading a short-term study abroad program must submit a Short Course Program Proposal, with syllabus, program description, and itinerary attached, to the Office of International Programs. The proposal form and the program description contain the amount of credit assigned to the course, and the itinerary contains the number of contact hours in the program. The proposal must be approved by the department chair, dean, director of International Programs, and the provost. To receive credit for study abroad, students who complete a study abroad experience lasting one week or more in a university-approved program are required to prepare a substantive report regarding their experiences while abroad or report on a particular point of interest they have researched while in a foreign country.

5.2.7 Policies that govern student teaching internships are based on national, state and university standards. Public school teachers who supervise student teaching interns must have at least three years teaching experience and be appropriately licensed. University program directors assign faculty members to supervise student teaching interns. Faculty supervisors are required by university policy to make at least four visits to the school site to complete extensive observations and documentation. These visits include a meeting with the intern and teacher. Interns, teachers, and supervisors are required to complete multiple midpoint and final assessments.

6. POLICY DISSEMINATION AND REVIEW

6.1 This policy is posted to the UNC Pembroke Policies and Regulations website where it can be accessed by the entire campus community. The Office of Academic Affairs is responsible for ensuring that this information is distributed to all academic departments through the academic deans.

6.2 The policy on the definition of a credit hour is reviewed as needed by the Office of Academic Affairs concomitant with changes in common practices in higher education, guidelines of professional bodies and accrediting agencies, and federal standards.