Academic Credit Hour Policy

Policy Title

Credit Hour

Policy Description

Saint Joseph’s University follows the guideline set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for determining the amount and level of credit awarded for courses, regardless of format or mode of delivery. These guidelines are in compliance with policies set forth by both the federal government and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Saint Joseph’s University follows a semester system with the fall and spring semesters consisting of approximately 15 weeks, which includes one week for exams. Summer terms are variable in length and adhere to this policy.

Policy Procedures

Implementation of Credit Hour Policy
Regardless of the format in which it is delivered, all courses taught at Saint Joseph’s University require equivalent student-instructor and student-student interaction. The online modality achieves equivalent interaction and learning through asynchronous discussions and group work, and a number of online courses also incorporate some face-to-face meetings. In addition, the expectation exists for online courses to include the same content and learning outcomes as traditionally taught courses. To ensure equivalency, faculty develop the online structure and content following the policy of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Standard 11: Educational Offerings, “ The institution’s educational offerings display academic content, rigor, and coherence appropriate to its higher education mission. The institution identifies student learning goals and objectives, including knowledge and skills, for its educational offerings.  (Characteristics of Excellence [2006], p 10.)”


Nationally Accepted Standards for Credit Hours and Semester Length
Every Saint Joseph’s course requires the equivalent of 50 minutes of instruction per week and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work, per credit hour, based on the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS™) definition for credit hour, which states that a credit hour is a unit of measure representing the equivalent of an hour (50 minutes) of instruction per week over the entire term. The University also follows the semester system as defined by IPEDS: a calendar system that consists of two sessions called semesters during the academic year with about 15 weeks for each semester of instruction. There may be an additional summer session.

Practices to Determine Amount and Level of Credit

The faculty is responsible for the curriculum. Credit values for courses are determined at the department level based on faculty expertise and course objectives. Upon departmental approval the course is entered into the online curriculum action system and undergoes additional evaluation as it moves through the course approval system. All curriculum and review/approval committees and bodies of Saint Joseph’s University are charged with following the policy on credit hours in their review and approval of all courses and for certifying that the expected student learning for the course meets the credit hour standard. Initial review is done within the colleges, and final review and approval is the function of the University Council. Approved courses are sent to the Registrar’s Office for inclusion in the University Catalog. The Registrar’s Office reviews the class schedules prior to the start of each semester to ensure that all classes are scheduled for the minimum number of minutes. Any discrepancies are brought to the attention of the appropriate department for correction.


Credit Hour Standard by Instructional Method

Lecture and Seminar : courses with multiple students that meet to engage in various forms of group instruction under the direct supervision of a University faculty member. A typical 3 hour course will meet 2100 minutes over 14 weeks.


Lecture hours required per credit

Credits awarded

Minimum contact time per week for 14 weeks

Minimum instructional time


50 contact minutes

700contact minutes


100 contact minutes

1400 contact minutes


150 contact minutes

2100 contact minutes


200 contact minutes

2800 contact minutes


Laboratory and Studio: courses with a focus on experimental learning under the direct supervision of a University faculty member wherein the student performs substantive work in a laboratory or studio setting. The minimum contact time per credit is twice that of a lecture (2:1 ratio)

Laboratory/Studio hours required per credit

Credits awarded

Minimum contact time per week for 15 weeks

Minimum instructional time

Lab/studio minimum instruction time per week

Lab/studio minimum


50 contact minutes

700 contact minutes




100 contact minutes

1400 contact minutes




150 contact minutes

2100 contact minutes




200 contact minutes

2800 contact minutes




Independent Study: courses of study in which a University faculty member regularly interacts and directs student outcomes with periodic contact. Minimum credit hours are determined based on lecture contact minutes with the face-to-face meetings and student work being equivalent to the values found in the lecture contact table.

Internship/Practica/Field Experience: courses of study in which a University faculty member regularly interacts and directs student outcomes with periodic contact. The learning experience may also contain a site supervisor and directed activity/learning outside of a lecture setting. Contact time requirements follow those of the laboratory/studio guideline.

Accelerated Courses: courses offered outside of a standard 15 week semester in which the credit hours offered are the same as standard semester courses. The content and substantive learning outcomes are the same as those in the standard semester. These courses must meet the definition of standard lecture contact time within the time frame the accelerated version is offered.

Online Courses: courses offered entirely online without regard to face-to-face meetings. These courses have the same learning outcomes and substantive components of a standard lecture course with alternate delivery method. Contact time is satisfied by several means which can include, but is not limited to, the following: a.) regular instruction or interaction with a University faculty member once a week for each week the course runs. b.) Academic engagement through interactive tutorials, group discussions moderated by faculty, virtual study/project groups, engaging with class peers and computer tutorials graded and reviewed by faculty.

Hybrid Courses: courses offered in blended format with 1 or more face-to-face class sessions and at least one or more online sessions, both containing direct interaction with a University faculty member. University faculty members demonstrate through the syllabi that the content and activities equate to a standard assignment of lecture credit.


Relevant Guidelines

Pennsylvania Department of Education (March 2008)


Curricular Credit Policy: Ensuring Quality and Transferability

The Pennsylvania State Board of Education has established regulations that are intended to ensure minimum standards of quality in higher education and for the orderly implementation of higher education in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is charged with implementing those regulations and providing oversight in their compliance. To that end PDE establishes this policy to promote understanding of and compliance with the State Board of Education regulations in order to ensure quality and to facilitate transferability in awarding college credit throughout the commonwealth.


The following salient points should be noted:


1) All academic degree granting institutions, regardless of charter or degree granting authority, must ensure compliance with State Board of Education regulations. This policy relates to 22 Pa. Code Chapter 31, §§ 31.21-31.22. Moreover, these sections of Chapter 31 have recently completed regulatory review and should be reviewed for compliance under the new language. (Please refer to the specific language online at, ‘Browse’, select ‘Title 22 Education’, then refer to the relevant chapter and sections. For community colleges, the relevant regulations are at 22 Pa. Code Chapter 35 § 35.23, and Chapter 335 § 335.12 and § 335.43.)


While much of Chapter 31 does not apply to Pennsylvania community colleges, in the interests of ensuring transferability of credit as required under Chapter 335 and for the orderly implementation of higher education, PDE sends this policy to inform community colleges of what is required of other colleges, universities and seminaries at §§ 31.21 and 31.22.


2) At § 31.21, one college semester credit is defined as 14 hours of classroom instruction and one college quarter credit is defined as 10 hours of classroom instruction. A three-credit semester based course, for example then, would need to meet for 42 hours of rigorous college classroom instruction over the semester. A three-credit quarter based course would need to meet for 30 hours of rigorous college classroom instruction over one quarter.


3) The regulations are not framed in terms of minutes and PDE does not accept compliance in terms of minutes. Courses must be scheduled for the correct number of hours per credit awarded. For example, even if a 15-minute break is taken, a three hour seminar should be scheduled for a full three hours from 2pm to 5pm, not 2pm to 4:45pm.


4) At § 31.22, the academic calendar requirements state that the hours of classroom instruction cannot be calculated to include exams (i.e., final exams), holidays and registration. A typical semester course meets for 14 weeks of instruction, so a typical three semester credit class must be scheduled for 42 hours of instruction over a 14 week period, after which the final exam may be given in the 15th week. Moreover, the scheduled weeks of class may not include holidays. If a holiday is observed and class cancelled, a make up for the hours lost must be scheduled to ensure that students are offered the required hours of classroom instruction. For example, all classes scheduled for Thursdays that are cancelled due to Thanksgiving must have make up time scheduled.


5) Both § 35.23 and § 31.22 allow for “innovative calendar arrangements”, such as accelerated, weekend, summer session, Winterim or other formats alternative to the 14 week semester. Therefore, for example, if an institution wishes to offer an accelerated course, the total required number of hours of instruction per credit would need to be fit into a shorter calendar period. The total number of hours of classroom instruction required for the amount of credit awarded the course would not change.


6) § 31.21 allows for determining activities that are “the equivalent” of classroom instruction. For example, if the course is offered in part via online technology, such as WebCT or Blackboard, then the faculty as a whole need to agree upon criteria for determining what online activities constitute the equivalent of classroom instruction for uniform implementation across the institution. Establishing such criteria across the institution and identifying the number of hours each activity would represent as equivalent to instruction will help ensure that the amount of credit awarded per course complies with Pennsylvania regulations.


To identify high quality curricular content that is the equivalent of classroom instruction, the following should be considered. The activities that are the equivalent of classroom instruction would best be:


_ directly related to the objectives of the course/program,

_ be measurable for grading purposes,

_ have the direct oversight or supervision of the faculty member teaching the

course, and

_ in some form be the equivalent of an activity conducted in the classroom.

The equivalent content should not be:

_ Homework assignments

_ ‘time spent’, that is, a calculation based on the amount of time the student

spends accomplishing a task


In addition to the Registrar or other administrator setting the academic calendar, each academic administrator and each faculty member writing syllabi and planning for classes should be aware of these regulatory requirements. Adherence to these regulations should enhance the quality and rigor of higher education across Pennsylvania institutions and ease transferability of credit and courses as needed by students.


Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Credit Hour Policy
Effective August 23, 2012, Rev. October 30, 2012


U.S. Department of Education

Credit Hour (CH)


Program Integrity Questions and Answers


MOC 1/8/2014: Final Approval from Provost