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Definition Of A Semester Credit Hour

Academic credit provides the basis for measuring the amount of engaged learning time expected of a typical student enrolled not only in traditional classroom settings but also laboratories; studios; internships and other experiential learning; and distance and correspondence education. 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.

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke has adopted the Federal Definition of the Credit Hour. In accordance with this definition, 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

  1. 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
  2. At least an equivalent amount of work as required outlined in item 1 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. 

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. A credit hour is assumed to be a 50-minute period. In courses, such as those offered online, in which "seat time" does not apply, a credit hour may be measured by an equivalent amount of work, as demonstrated by student achievement.

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. Most laboratory courses carry one semester credit hour.  For a laboratory course, two hours of in class instruction are required per credit hour per week. One hour of out of class work and preparation is also required. Internship, practica, and field work, or practicum require a minimum of ten hours of student work, in and out of class combined, per week for each three hours of credit awarded.