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

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.        Lab 

Generally two types of lab experiences are offered:

  1. Practical learning experiences in specially equipped facilities and specially designed learning contexts. Characterized by the candidates performing some activity designed to enhance understanding or knowledge of a particular topic, with the goal of candidate demonstration of an appropriate skill (i.e. a providing clear instructions, observing teaching while using a protocol, implementing concept attainment strategies, conducting student assessments), typically a minimum meeting of 50 minutes or more per week for 1 credit hour. Typically, outside preparation time of 50 minutes per week for 1 credit hour.
  2. Field application experiences based on content learned in a course. These field experiences use local educational settings as the learning “lab.” In the course, candidates learn about particular situations, behaviors, processes and protocols. In the learning “lab,” they use a framework provided through their course to execute this learning “lab” (usually a set of guidelines about where to observe and what observational data to collect). These learning “lab” experiences do not typically involve participation or actions from the candidate, who takes on a primarily observational role. They are monitored by instructors via specific assignments that the candidate must complete as part of the learning lab experience. The lab typically requires a minimum of 30 hours of lab experience and an additional 10 hours of preparation time per one unit of credit.

D.        Clinical Experiences

 

Clinical experiences are defined as “a part of the program that allows for observation, participation, studies of individual pupils or clients, individual field work, and practicums both on and off campus.” Required pre-service clinical hours (clock hours) in teacher education programs are generally associated with specific “field experience” or “student teaching” courses, receive course credit, and are graded “CR/NCR.”   Credit for clinical experiences in other programs is determined in accordance with recommendations of their specific accrediting bodies or applicable state regulation, typically a minimum meeting of 160 minutes or more per week of contact/”on site” time and non-contact/”off site” preparation time for 1 credit hour.  Generally, more required credit hours for a specific clinical experience involves greater levels of complexity, responsibility, skill and time as well as a greater number of learning outcomes assessed.

  1. Supervised Field Experience: a type of clinical experience that occurs primarily in an authentic professional context/setting. Candidates have limited responsibilities and execute a narrow range of tasks independently. All work is completed under the supervision of an in-service practitioner. All work is supervised and evaluated (by the in-service practitioner or proxy and/or a university supervisor).
  2. Supervised Student Teaching/Intern: another type of clinical experience that occurs primarily in an authentic professional context/setting. Candidates take on considerable responsibilities and execute a wide range of tasks independently. By the end of the student teaching/intern experience, candidates’ daily responsibilities and tasks should mirror those of the in-service professional. All work is completed under the supervision of an in-service practitioner. All work is supervised and evaluated (by the in-service practitioner or proxy and/or a university supervisor). Student teaching/interning is typically the culminating clinical experience in a program.

E.         Professional Practice: Professional practice is defined as “one or more credit-generating, academic/career related, salaried or non-salaried work experiences.”  Professional Practice work sites are located on the University campus and with business, industry, government and other agencies and organizations outside the University campus.

  1. At least one full-time five-day week of professional practice or the equivalent over a longer period of time will be required for one credit hour.
  2. Depending on specific curriculum, programs may require more than one week in order to award one credit hour.

F.         Independent Study

Independent Study will represent a minimum of three hours of student work per week per credit hour throughout the course of the semester or the equivalent work distributed over a different period of time.

G.        Workshops and Contract Courses 

Workshops and Contract Courses: Credit bearing courses offered for special populations by special arrangement will meet regular academic credit hour standards.

H.        Distance Education, Internet and Hybrid (Blended) Courses

Credit hour policy is consistent with the standards of courses offered through face to face instruction, although some or all of content and faculty-student interaction occurs through one or more forms of distance education. 

All definitions and standards apply equally to courses offered both on and off campus. Distance education, internet and hybrid (blended) courses adhere to campus standards for e-Learning and to credit hour policies adopted by the campus for different categories of courses.

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.