Background on Credit Hour Requirements
Due to regulations set by the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the U.S. Department of Education, the Higher Learning Commission (from which Ohio State receives its accreditation) must require institutions utilizing federal financial aid to document how in-class and out-of-class time equivalencies are determined for both on-ground and distance courses.
The Department of Education calls for approximately one nominal hour (50 clock minutes) of "class time or direct faculty instruction" and two hours of "out of class" student work (at minimum) per week, per credit hour for a C average. For a three credit semester-based course this equates to a total of 45 nominal hours (750 minutes) of direct instruction and 90 hours of out of class work total. This requirement can also be met through equivalent structured academic work, such as lab work, internships, practicum, studio work, and other academic work leading toward award of credit.
Institutions are differentiating components of their online courses between "class time or direct faculty instruction" and "out of class" student work in a number of ways.
Class time or direct faculty instruction
Generally, activities that would traditionally take place during class time or have an instructor oversight component are considered to contribute to the time for "class time or direct faculty instruction".
Examples: Discussion, getting instructor feedback, quizzes/exams, lecture, exploration of some tools/resources, exams, etc.
Out of class time
Generally, activities that would traditionally take place outside of the traditional classroom and are without instructor oversight are considered to contribute to "out of class time".
Examples: Computer set up, textbook/article readings, writing, project/assignment preparation and completion, study/prep time, etc.
Distance Education Process Integration
ODEE instructional designers will assist faculty partners in considering credit hour in the planning and finalization of a new online course. Using estimates from faculty expertise, the time "in class" and "out of class" will be projected in the planning phase of design and solidified and documented in the finalization of the course. ODEE's documents and templates will reflect this component of planning and finalization. Faculty who are not working with an instructional designer are encouraged to consider credit hour during and upon completion of a course design.
- Faculty are the ultimate decision-makers in determining their course's alignment to credit hour requirements and in making estimations about the length of time students spend "in" and "out" of class.
- Often, if the same outcomes are being met and similar activities completed for both an online course and an on-ground course then the credit hour equivalency will likely be the same or similar between the two.
- Stopping to consider credit hour is valuable during the early stages of course design and at the end of a design project as part of quality assurance. An important question would be "does the course appear to miss, meet, or exceed the requirements of credit hour based on typical weekly activities and assignments?"
- It is not recommended that time estimations related to credit hour be communicated to students. Credit hour requirements are not intended to serve as a guide for time management and could be misleading to students.
Ashford University. Credit hour equivalency definitions.
Charleston Southern University. (n.d.). Determining credit hours online.
Creighton University. (n.d). Credit hours and distance education courses: Background information and process.
Ochoa, E. (2011, March, 18). Dear Colleague Letter. Retrieved from https://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/GEN1106.html
U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). Program integrity questions and answers a Credit hour. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/reg/hearulemaking/2009/credit.html
U.S. Department of Education. (2011, March 18). Guidance to institutions and accrediting agencies regarding credit hour as defined in the final regulations published October 29, 2010. Retrieved from https://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/attachments/GEN1106.pdf