4.9 Definition of Credit Hours

Federal Requirement 4.9: Definition of Credit Hours

The institution has policies and procedures for determining the credit hours awarded for courses and programs that conform to commonly accepted practices in higher education and to Commission policy. (See Commission policy “Credit Hours”). 

Compliance Partial Compliance Non-compliance

NARRATIVE

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (USF Sarasota-Manatee) has policies and procedures for determining the credit hours awarded for courses and programs, regardless of format or mode of delivery, in accordance with commonly accepted practices in higher education, Commission policy, the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) Administrative Code, and USF System academic policies.

Florida Administrative Rule 6A-10.033, Postsecondary Credit Definitions adopted by the Florida Board of Governors, defines one college credit as “the learning expected from the equivalent of fifteen (15) fifty-minute periods of classroom instruction; with credits for such things as laboratory instruction, internships, and clinical experience determined by the institution based on the proportion of direct instruction to the laboratory exercise, internship hours, or clinical practice hours.”

Florida Statute 1007.24 governs standards for statewide articulation and transfer and deals with common course numbering and transfer of credits. The Florida Statewide Course Numbering System Handbook defines “college credit” as it is used in articulation and transfer processes. State regulation ensures that USF System’s policies conform to commonly accepted practice in Florida higher education.

USF System Policy 10-065, Section I, Credit Hours, establishes USF Sarasota-Manatee’s definition of a credit hourThe policy’s purpose is to “ensure that all credit-bearing courses and programs offered by the University of South Florida System (USF System) meet the requirements of the Federal definition of a credit hour and the Credit Hours Policy Statement issued by the SACSCOC.” It defines the following: Direct Faculty Instruction or Traditional Class/Program, Distance Education, Online Learning, Correspondence Education, and Federal Definition of a Student Credit Hour.

USF System Policy 10-065, Section III. E. defines a student credit hour, using the Federal definition, 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 the following: (1) 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 (2) at least an equivalent amount of work as required in item (1) above for other academic activities as established by the institution including laboratory work, internships, cooperative education, practica, studio work, independent research, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.

Based on this policy, the USF System has also developed specific Guidelines for Establishing the Credit Awarded for Various Modes of Instruction. A brief summary of the guidelines follows:

  • For traditionally delivered lecture and discussion courses, one credit hour must include no less than one 50-minute period of direct faculty instruction each week for 15 weeks during fall and spring  semesters and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week . It is understood that the students’ work requirements may vary from week to week based on particular assignments. Equivalent time and effort are required for summer semesters or other shortened instructional periods. That is, for each credit, the students’ work load should require approximately 45 hours of effort.
  • At least an equivalent amount of work as described above is required for other academic activities, including laboratory courses, internships, clinical practice, field work, studio, and other academic work leading to the awarding of credit.
  • Credit for courses delivered by e-learning, hybrid, shortened, intensive formats, and other nontraditional modes of delivery will demonstrate equivalent time and effort through equivalency of learning outcomes and formal faculty review.
  • In determining the amount of course work to achieve learning competencies and outcomes, the University will take into consideration alternative delivery methods, measurements of student work, academic calendars, disciplines, and degree levels.

New course proposals, regardless of format or mode of delivery, originate with the college that will offer the course. Faculty from the college recommend the number of credit hours the course should bear. The new course proposal must include a sample syllabus, course outline, or other documentation that the number of credits assigned to the proposed course is in accordance with BOG and USF System requirements.

Through the Memorandum of Delegation, the USF System President delegated the authority to approve new courses to USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Regional Chancellor. The Regional Chancellor relies on the expertise of the Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, the deans, and the faculty to ensure that curricula conform to commonly accepted practices in higher education. For approval of new credit-bearing courses, USF Sarasota-Manatee’s governance structure includes a campus-wide Academic Programs Committee (APC), with responsibilities to the Faculty Senate. APC recommendations follow a formal system (APC Guidelines, New Course Process Flowchart, Instructions for Submitting Proposals)  and after recommending approval, route through the Academic Council for review. The APC Meeting Dates & Minutes webpage lists Courses Approved by the SCNS and meeting agendas and minutes documenting new course recommendations for approval. Further, the Academic Council webpage also lists the minutes documenting recommendations for new course approvals after they have gone through APC.

Upon approval by the Regional Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs transmits new course information to USF in Tampa for processing and entry into the Statewide Course Numbering System (SCNS) database and the USF System’s Course Inventory. The reason that the information must be transmitted through USF in Tampa is that the Florida Board of Governors, who have responsibility for the SCNS, prefer to work through one point of contact representing the entire USF System to simplify their work. Because the computerized student information system is a System-wide function, USF in Tampa has responsibility for maintaining course information in the Banner Student software system with input from USF Sarasota-Manatee.

Information on publication of policies relating to academic credit is provided in Comprehensive Standard 3.4.4 (Acceptance of Academic Credit).

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION AND EVIDENCE 

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