Office of Academic Affairs

Credit Hour Policy

I. General Policies

A. The definition of a credit hour unit is based, in general on contact hours plus independent work.  In this policy, the term contact hour refers to time spent in required instructional contact with the course instructor.
B. For undergraduate courses, each credit hour in lecture or discussion courses will typically require 50 minutes (one classroom hour) of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work for each week of a fifteen week semester (for a total of 45 hours per unit per semester).
C. For graduate courses, each credit hour in lecture or discussion courses will typically require 50 minutes (one classroom hour) of classroom or direct faculty instruction and three hours of out-of-class student work for each week of a fifteen week semester (for a total of 60 hours per unit per semester).
D. Since “seat time” is the federal standard for measurement with regard to the credit hour, in courses such as those offered online to which this standard may not apply, a credit hour shall be measured by an equivalent amount of work by students as defined by the appropriate University policies.
E. Guidelines for common course types are provided below.  For courses that do not fall into one of the categories listed below, the course description must explain the conditions for credit which must reasonably approximate the standard for lecture and discussion courses.  For instance, conditions for credit may be addressed by number of contact hours per week and/or expected time spent in independent work.
F. Courses may be offered for variable credit hours (either for a range of credits in a single term, or for a different number of credits from one term to another).

II.  Guidelines for Common Course Types for Undergraduate Courses

Course Type Typical Number
of Student Hours
in Class
Weekly per Unit 
Typical Number of
Student Preparation/Activity
Hours Out of Class
Weekly per Unit
Minimum Total
Hours per Unit
Number of Semester Credit
Hours Earned across 15 Weeks
Lecture, seminar, discussion, recitation 1 hour 2 hours 3 hours
weekly
1 unit
Activity supervised as a group
(laboratory, field trips, practicum, workshop,
group studio, physical education)
2-3 hours 0-1 hour 3 hours
weekly
1 unit
Independent study, individual
studio, tutorial, culminating
experience: study given initial
guidance, criticism, review and
final evaluation of student
performance by a faculty member 
0-1 hour: time
spent in initial
guidance, criticism,
review and final
evaluation of
student
performance 
2-3 hours 45 hours per
semester
1 unit
Practice (supervised clinical
rounds, visual or performing art
studio, fieldwork)
0-1 hour 2-3 hours in
supervised and/or
independent practice 
3 hours
weekly
1 unit
Practicum/Internship  N/A variable 45 hours per
semester
1 unit
Credit by Examination: student
showing mastery through credit-
by-examination 
N/A N/A N/A Units assigned at the discretion
of the University
Sessions (e.g. summer sessions,
intersessions, special sessions,
shortened sessions, term sessions) 
Variable but
proportional to
hours spent for
the same activity
during a regular term
Variable but
proportional to hours
spent for the same
activity during a
regular term
45 hours Units assigned proportionately to
those earned for the same
activity during a regular term;
units assigned at the discretion of
the University with no more than
one credit per week of full-time study

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

III. Guidelines for Contact Hours for Credential Courses (to be determined)

IV. Guidelines for Contact Hours for Common Course Types for Graduate Courses

A. Lecture or Discussion

One weekly contact hour per credit.

B.  Seminar

For each seminar, the average number of weekly contact hours may range from 2/3 of an hour to 2 hours per credit

(1)  There may be fewer contact hours per week for seminars which have higher expectations for outside independent work.
(2)  There may be more contact hours per week for seminars which have lower expectations for outside independent work.


C. Laboratory

One to four weekly contact hours per credit.

(1) There may be fewer contact hours per week for laboratories which have higher expectations for outside independent work.
(2) There may be more contact hours per week for laboratories which have lower expectations for outside independent work.

D. Independent Study (including Culminating Experience)

Contact between instructor and student is required, but variable and not necessarily on a weekly basis.

E.  Experiential (e.g.  Internship/Practicum/Field Experience)

Contact between instructor and student is required, but variable and not necessarily on a weekly basis. 

(1) Fewer contact hours will be necessary for an experiential course in which a considerable amount of the student’s time is devoted to reading, research, and other academic activities to which the field experience is supplemental. More contact hours will be necessary if the academic component involves a less significant proportion of the student’s time.
(2) Fewer contact hours in the setting will be necessary for an experiential course in which the student receives a significant amount of supervision and instruction from a regular member of the faculty. More contact hours in the setting will be necessary if the student receives less direct supervision, or less time devoted to instruction, from the faculty.


F.  Short Courses

The following guidelines will be used to determine the appropriate credit for post-baccalaureate courses of shorter duration than the regular full- or half-term offerings. 

(1) In short courses, the total number of contact hours and independent work expected will be equivalent to a multiple of 15 times the weekly amount given in each category above.  For example, a lecture or discussion course should have 15 contact hours per credit hour since these courses would normally have one contact hour per credit hour per week.
(2) All short courses shall consist of at least three separate meetings for each credit hour and shall extend over a duration of at least five days.

V. Implementation of the Credit Hour Definition

A. In order to address the WASC requirement to monitor the implementation of Sacramento State’s credit hour definition, for courses in the course approval process, course proposals should clearly indicate the course type.  It is not the intent of the Credit Hour Definitions given in this document to describe all individual courses across the University, but rather to describe typical practices within course types.  Programs proposing courses whose expectations lie significantly outside of those delineated in the Definitions above shall provide a justification within the course proposal. 
B. For existing courses, each department will review their current courses and determine if each course adheres to the guidelines delineated in this Credit Hour Definition Policy.  Existing courses that have expectations that lie significantly outside of those delineated in this policy shall provide a justification for the deviations.  Departmental course credit hour review will be requested every five years by the Office of Academic Affairs.