Credit Hour Policy


The U.S. Department of Education uses the “credit hour” as a measure of ensuring consistency both within and between institutions of higher education. This is necessary for ensuring the transferability of a “credit hour” and demonstrating that a course maintains sufficient academic rigor, content, and depth. Each institution is required to establish and enforce a definition of “credit hour” as a requirement for eligibility for federal funding. The current “Credit Hour Policy” recognizes the inherent differences of teaching and learning formats and/or delivery modality.


The U.S. Department of Education defines “credit hour” as:

“…An amount of work representing in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than:

(1)  One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work 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 in paragraph (1) of this definition 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.


Arcadia University has adopted a variant of the traditional “Carnegie Unit” as a measure of the academic experience associated with a “credit hour.” The Registrar’s Office utilizes this policy in the scheduling of courses each semester.

I. Traditional face-to-face lecture sessions:

a. A credit hour is associated with a minimum of 50 minutes per credit hour each week over a 14-week semester, plus a 15th week consisting of a final examination or project presentation.

b. This is applied in the scheduling of courses such that: A 3-credit course should meet no less than 2100 minutes during the course of the semester, and a 4-credit course should meet no less than 2800 minutes during the course of the semester. In addition, it is assumed that there are 2 minutes of work performed in preparation of, or as the direct result of, each minute in the class. In a broader context, for every hour in the class, there are two hours of outside student work associated with it. Outside work is typically categorized as reading, studying, problem solving, writing, or preparation.

II. Supervised group activities (such as laboratory, studio)

a. Laboratory or studio are associated with a minimum seat time of 100 minutes per credit or imputed credit (since laboratory and studio sessions generally carry no direct credit) each week over a 14 week semester. In addition, it is assumed that for every 2 hours of directed instruction in the laboratory or studio, the students perform an additional 1 hour of outside work on their own.

III. Supervised individual activities:

a. Practicum, clinical internships, and student teaching represent a minimum of 30 contact hours for each credit hour.

b. Thesis/Dissertation and Independent study represents a minimum of three hours of student work per week over the semester per credit hour

IV.  Variations

Courses that utilize different pedagogical approaches may seek variations from the standard credit hour definitions. The expectation is that quality, quantity, and rigor of learning and academic work associated with a “credit hour” will be consistent regardless of location, teaching mode, or class duration. Variations to the standard credit hour policy are considered for approval by the Undergraduate Academic Programs Committee or the Graduate Academic Programs Committee.

a. Web-facilitated face-to-face courses: Web-facilitated face-to-face courses use online content delivery for less than 30% of the course and blended courses use online content delivery for 30 – 79% of content delivery. These courses may have a proportional decrease in scheduled “seat time” associated with a credit hour with the expectation that the additional activities correspond directly to the reduced seat time.

b. Online courses: Courses that use online content delivery for greater than 79% of the course may meet infrequently or not at all in a face-to-face session during a semester.

c. Upper-level courses: Some four credit 300-level and 400-level undergraduate courses are scheduled for less than the 2800 minutes of seat time because of an expectation of more than 2 hours of “outside time” for every 1 hour in class. Graduate level courses meet or exceed 700 minutes of seat time per credit.

d. Non-standard course duration: Credit hours awarded for learning and academic work completed in short sessions (summer session, half-semester courses, etc.) will be comparable to the standard 14+1 week semester but distributed over a shorter period of time.