This policy documents the College’s adherence to federal, state and college guidelines for the application of credit hours to undergraduate and graduate courses. It explains the break-down of in-class contact hours and out-of-classroom activities associated with credit hour requirements. The Colleges operate on a four-credit hour per course system.
All HWS degree and certificate programs are approved by the New York State Education Department (NYSED). The HWS credit-hour calculations for degree and certificate programs follow NYSED guidelines, which are based on the U.S. Department of Education’s definition of credit hour. Because we are currently accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and are seeking initial accreditation by the New England Commission on Higher Education, we note that our credit hour definitions and calculations align with these institutions as well (see Appendix A).
Each of these policies mandate that each credit hour consists of a credit, point, or other unit granted for the satisfactory completion of a course that requires at least 15 hours (of 50 minutes each) of instruction and at least 30 hours of supplementary assignments (of 60 minutes each) for a total of 2550 minutes per semester hour. A four-semester-hour course requires a minimum of 10200 minutes.
Below we describe how HWS meets the minute requirement for a one credit/four semester hour course. This involves dividing the 15 hours of “instruction” above into two different categories: Faculty-Led Instruction and Equivalent Academic Activities.
- Faculty-Led Instruction
Faculty-Led Instruction is time when the faculty member is co-present with students and facilitating the learning experience. This includes instruction that occurs in classrooms, labs, field settings, art studios, rehearsal spaces, and other similar venues.
An "hour" of faculty-led instruction is defined as 50 minutes in accordance with the NYSED Credit Hour Definition; this meets the "reasonable approximation" clause of the federal and commission policies. This instruction occurs during the officially scheduled class time.
- Equivalent Academic Activities
Other classroom experiences and “equivalent academic activities” may be counted towards Faculty-Led Instructional Time. Equivalent Academic Activities is structured time that may or may not involve the faculty member being co-present with students. This instructional time is delegated and required by the faculty member as part of the course. Such time may include recitations, internships, practica, film screenings, mandated academic support services, campus lectures and workshops, interviews, and other similar endeavors.
This definition reflects the credit hour policy of the US Department of Education, which states that direct faculty instruction can be replaced by “…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.” An hour of Equivalent Academic Activities is defined as 60 minutes.
- Total Faculty-Facilitated Instructional Time
This is the amount of time involving Faculty-Led Instruction added to the time involving Equivalent Academic Activities.
- Supplementary Assignments
Supplementary Assignments is the unstructured time typically thought of as standard “homework” activities. These may include reading assignments, papers or essays, problem sets, group and individual projects, and other student work.
- Total Time Per Week
This is the amount of time involving Faculty-Led Instruction, added to the time involving Equivalent Academic Activities, added to the time involving Supplementary Assignments.
Courses within the Colleges utilize a combination of faculty-led instructional time, equivalent academic activities, and supplementary student work/assignments to meet the required time per semester (10200 minutes).
All classes meet for at least 180 minutes a week. Typical classtimes involve meeting once a week for 180 minutes, twice a week for 90 minutes, three times a week for 60 minutes, and other class times that exceed the required minimum class time of 180 minutes (e.g., studios and seminars)
When considered from the perspective of the semester, 10200 minutes is 170 hours of instruction. Typically, that will involve the following:
- Faculty-Led Instructional Time: 45 hours
- Equivalent Academic Activities: 5 hours
- Supplementary Assignments: 120 hours
Table 1. Example of the instructional and supplementary time required per course
Each semester of a one-credit or four-semester hour course consists of 50 hours of Total Faculty Facilitated Instructional Time in addition to 120 hours of Supplementary Assignments. This totals 170 hours or 10200 minutes.
Many courses with labs, studios, and rehearsals meet the minimum standards of Total Faculty-Facilitated Instructional time (50 hours) without the consideration of Equivalent Academic Activities.
Classes that do not yet meet the amount of required Total Faculty-Facilitated Instructional Time (50 hours), must meet those expectations by requiring a specific number of Equivalent Academic Activities (e.g., recitations, internships, practica, film screenings, mandated academic support services, campus lectures and workshops, interviews, and other similar endeavors).
All HWS course syllabi will state how the course meets the total instructional hours specified in the credit-hour policy through Faculty Led Instructional Time (e.g. lectures, discussions), Equivalent Academic Activities (if applicable), and expectations regarding Supplementary Assignments.
Appendix B includes template syllabi language that faculty may use for syllabi statements and specific disciplinary examples.
HWS converts semester credits and quarter credits to HWS course credits using the table below. Please note that this table does not apply to foreign institutions in all cases. Therefore, it is essential to have courses pre-approved by the Registrar’s Office.
HWS Course Credits
Department and Commissions Credit Hour Policies
United States Department of Education – Credit Hour Definition
The U.S. Department of Education defines credit hour as: 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 not less than:
- 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,
- 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.
NYSED – Credit Hour Definition
All courses and degree programs at the Colleges must comply with Section 50.1 (o) of the New York State Commissioner of Education Regulations:
Section 50.1(o): Semester hour means a credit, point, or other unit granted for the satisfactory completion of a course which requires at least 15 hours (of 50 minutes each) of instruction and at least 30 hours of supplementary assignments, except as otherwise provided pursuant to section 52.2(c)(4) of this Subchapter. This basic measure shall be adjusted proportionately to translate the value of other academic calendars and formats of study in relation to the credit granted for study during the two semesters that comprise an academic year.
Section 52.2(c)(4): A semester hour of credit may be granted by an institution for fewer hours of instruction and study than those specified in subdivision (o) of section 50.1 of this Subchapter only
Middle States Commission on Higher Education
A credit hour is a unit of measure that gives value to the level of instruction, academic rigor, and time requirements for a course taken at an institution of higher education. The Commission shall recognize that institutions may use different methodologies for determining the assignment of credit hours. The institution shall develop a methodology for assigning credit hours to courses and programs that accurately represents the level of instruction, academic rigor, and time requirements of a course taken. The institution shall demonstrate that educational programs are of sufficient content, depth, and program length appropriate to the objectives of the degree or credential. The institution’s methodology for assignment and award of credit hours shall conform to commonly accepted practices in higher education and be consistent with applicable laws and regulations wherein the institution operates. Both within and between institutions, consistency in credit hour determinations has implications for the transferability of credit and minimizing the loss of credit for students. The Commission shall review an institution’s policy, procedures, and/or methodology for determining credit hour to determine if the methodology used is a reasonable approximation of an amount of student work and is consistent with commonly accepted practice in postsecondary education.
An amount of student work defined by an institution, as approved by the institution’s accrediting agency or State approval agency, that is consistent with commonly accepted practice in postsecondary education and that (1) reasonably approximates not less than (i) One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of 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 period of time; or (ii) At least an equivalent amount of work as required in (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; and (2) permits an institution, in determining the amount of work associated with a credit hour, to take into account a variety of delivery methods, measurements of student work, academic calendars, disciplines, and degree levels. (federal definition in 34 CFR § 600.2).
Source: MSCHE Credit Hour Policy – Effective July 1, 2022
New England Commission on Higher Education
The Commission has adopted the federal definition of a credit hour: an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is consistent with commonly accepted practice in postsecondary education and that reasonably approximates not less than –
- One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of 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
- 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.
In determining the amount of work associated with a credit hour, the institution may take into account a variety of delivery methods, measurements of student work, academic calendars, disciplines, and degree levels.
Credit Hour Syllabi Statement Examples
In addition to attending three classes per week, you are expected to complete about eight hours of homework in preparation for those classes. You are also required to attend three Trias readings [film screenings, Fisher Center lectures, art exhibitions, debates, field trips, meetings with a writing colleague, structured peer review work, creative writing readings] over the course of the semester. Please consult the Trias Reading Schedule on the course schedule and plan accordingly.
In this course, you are expected to attend three hours of lectures and complete eight hours of homework—reading, writing, and listening—in preparation for those lectures. Additionally, in order to receive full credit for this course, you are required to attend three 100-minute HWS-sponsored music concerts over the course of the semester. Please consult the Concert Schedule on Canvas and plan in accordance with your interests and availability. (Note: If your time investment in this course is substantially different from the expectations listed above, please reach out to me or your advisor as soon as possible; you may be completing the assignments incorrectly or you may be in the wrong course-level for your knowledge and experience.)
In this course, you are expected to attend all scheduled class and lab periods and to spend, on average, approximately eight additional hours per week preparing for class and completing labs and other programming assignments. There will be a final project instead of a final exam.
In this course, you are expected to attend two 90-minute class periods per week and spend approximately eight hours of out-of-class time on independent work (reading, papers, short assignments, etc.). In addition, you must participate in two weekend fieldtrips to local historical sites. If you are unable to visit these sites with the rest of the class, you must visit on your own, document your experience, and write a reflective paper based on your experience.
First Year Seminar
In this course, students are expected to do three hours of homework for each hour spent in class. Additionally, students will have to spend at least one half-hour each week watching short films, documentaries, commentaries, and interviews to enhance their understanding of the films watched. For each one of these additional filmic texts the student is to answer the following questions: 1) How does the short film enhance your understanding of the assigned movie for the week? 2) How does it change your interpretation of one scene in the movie? 3) What aspects of the movie does the video clarify? 4) Do you agree with the argument made about the assigned movie?