UPM #29 – Definition of a Credit Hour
Effective Date: May 2020
This memorandum is intended to document the existing policies and procedures for determining the credit hours awarded for all courses and programs, regardless of academic level, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill adopted the Federal Definition of the Credit Hour at the Faculty Council meeting on February 10, 2012.
Federal Definition of a Credit Hour
For purposes of the application of this policy and in accord with federal regulations, a credit hour is 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 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 outlined in item 1 above 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.
Application of Credit Hour Policy
This credit hour policy applies to all courses at all levels (graduate, professional, and undergraduate) that award academic credit (i.e. any course that appears on an official transcript issued by the University) regardless of the mode of delivery including, but not limited to, self-paced, online, hybrid, lecture, seminar, and laboratory. Academic units are responsible for ensuring that credit hours are awarded only for work that meets the requirements outlined in this policy.
The expectation of contact time inside the classroom and student effort outside the classroom is the same in all formats of a course whether it be fully online, a hybrid of face-to-face contact with some content delivered by electronic means, or one delivered in lecture or seminar format. Courses that have less structured classroom schedules, such as research seminars, independent studies, internships, practica, studio work, or any other academic work leading to the award of credit hours, at a minimum, should state clearly learning objectives and expected outcomes and workload expectations that meet the standards set forth above.
Campus Processes – Academic Calendar
- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill adheres to the Carnegie unit for contact time (750 minutes for each credit awarded).
- The University Registrar chairs the University Calendar Committee that prepares and recommends the annual Academic Calendar for approval by the Chancellor no less than 18 months in advance of the planned academic year.
- The Academic Calendar must have a minimum of 750 minutes of instruction per credit hour. The standard meeting times for courses are a 50-minute, Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule and a 75-minute, Tuesday-Thursday schedule.
- The calendar is planned with a minimum of 42 Monday-Wednesday-Friday meeting days and 28 Tuesday-Thursday meeting days.
- For the standard 3-credit hour course, 2,100 minutes of instruction, prior to the final examination period, are required.
- The policy allows a mandatory final examination period to be counted in the minutes of instruction.
- The University has a final examination policy that adds an additional 180 minutes of instruction, resulting in a minimum of 2,280 minutes of instruction for every planned term in the Academic Calendar for the standard 3-credit hour course.
- The calculation for summer sessions follows this same standard of 750 contact minutes for each unit of credit which means longer class meeting times over the course of the two summer terms.
The University Registrar maintains the official Academic Calendar.
Campus Processes – Curriculum View
The Administrative Boards or Curricula Committees of each College or School within the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 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. The determination of credit hours is made when a new course or a revision to an existing course is proposed. The submitted syllabus is examined for contact time as well as for assignments and evaluation mechanisms.
- Academic Calendar: This is also referred to as the Chancellor’s calendar. It provides an overview of the university’s official academic calendar for current and future academic years and includes information such as first and last day of class for a standard semester, holidays and commencement.
- Credit Hour: this is also referred to as a semester credit hour or units. A credit hour is an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill adopted the Federal Definition of the Credit Hour at the Faculty Council meeting on February 10, 2012.
The Education Policy Committee reviewed and revised February 16, 2018.