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Credit Hour Policy

Memorandum # 19: Community College of Philadelphia Credit Hour Policy

Effective: January 13, 2023
Approved by:  President
Policyholder:  Executive Director, Enrollment Operations & Compliance

I. Purpose

This policy documents the College’s procedure for determining and verifying credit hours awarded for its programs and coursework in accordance with federal and state regulations, as well as the accreditation standards for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

II. Determining and Verifying Credit Hours

The College adheres to the definition of a credit hour as established by the U.S. Department of Education regulations, which is an amount of work that reasonably approximates not less than (i) one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two (2) hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time; or (ii) at least an equivalent amount of work for other academic activities as established by the College, including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, a semester credit hour represents a unit of curricular material that normally can be taught in a minimum of 14 hours of classroom instruction, plus appropriate outside preparation or the equivalent as determined by the faculty. 

The College adheres to the Carnegie unit for measuring credit hours: a minimum of 750 minutes of contact hours is required for each credit hour. The College defines “contact hours” as the time in which the student is involved in instructional contact with the faculty member(s) teaching a particular section. In accordance with the Carnegie unit, one contact hour is equivalent to 50 minutes of instruction. For the standard 3-credit hour course, 2,250 minutes of instruction are required. Final examination periods are not counted in determining the minutes of instruction. 

The Office of Curriculum Development is charged with ensuring courses meet the credit hour requirements set forth in this policy. The number of contact hours and out-of-class student work time required for each course is proposed by the academic department, reviewed by the College’s Coordinator of Curriculum Development, the appropriate Dean, and the Academic and Student Success Council which is chaired by the Vice President of Academic and Student Success, during the course, curriculum development, or revision process and is published in the Course Descriptions section of the online College Catalog. The College’s Academic Course Schedulers also review scheduled classes to ensure they meet minimum contact hour requirements. In the course of the curriculum development process, academic departments may require contact time beyond the minimum requirements. 

The standard meeting times for courses during the fall and spring semesters are a sixty (60) minute class that meets three (3) times per week, or a ninety (90) minute class that meets twice per week over the course of 14 instructional weeks, and one week for final exams. The calculation for shorter parts of term (e.g., summer session, 10-week session; 7-week session) follows the same standard of a minimum of 750 minutes of instructional time for each credit hour which means longer or more class meeting times over the course of the shorter parts of term.

Credit hours are determined for the various modalities of instruction available at the College as follows:

Lectures/Seminars. For standard lectures or seminars (i.e., courses with multiple students which meet to engage in various forms of group instruction under the direct supervision of a faculty member), total instructional minutes are calculated based on the actual meeting times for the course. 

The standard 3 credit lecture/seminar course meeting twice weekly for ninety minutes or three times per week for sixty minutes meets or exceeds the required 2,250 minutes of instruction.  

Online Learning Courses. Online learning courses are those courses that are fully online (synchronous or asynchronous), or hybrid (a combination of face-to-face and online elements).  Regular and substantive interaction between instructor and student shall occur in fully online and hybrid courses as in traditional courses. See Memorandum # 14, Standards for Distance Education Courses. These courses have the same learning outcomes and substantive components of a standard lecture/seminar course with an alternate delivery method. Contact time for online learning courses may be satisfied by several means, including but not limited to: regular instruction or interaction with a faculty member; academic engagement through interactive tutorials, group discussions, virtual study/project groups, peer engagement, or computer tutorials. Credit hours awarded for online learning courses must meet the requisite amount of instructional and student work time as set forth in this policy whether delivered online synchronously, asynchronously, or hybrid.  

Laboratories. Laboratories (including labs and studio sessions) are courses with a focus on experiential learning under the supervision of a faculty member in the classroom laboratory setting.  The minimum contact time per credit for laboratory work is typically two or three times that of a lecture (i.e., two (2) lab contact hours for one (1) credit, or three (3) lab contact hours for one (1) credit); which meets or exceeds the minimum contact hours required for the assignment of credit hours as defined by this policy. 

Internship/Practica/Partial Employment/Clinical Experiences. For those experiences which provide students with hands on field experience either on campus or off-site outside of the lecture setting (collectively “field experiences”), the faculty member or program director responsible for the field experience is required to keep records of the amount of supervised field experience and the amount of outside work assigned so that credit hours may be calculated. Credit hours for field experiences are determined in accordance with program accreditation requirements or as otherwise approved via the curriculum development process. The contact hours for field experiences must meet or exceed the minimum contact hours required for the assignment of credit hours as defined by this policy.

Accelerated Courses. Courses offered outside of the standard 15-week semester (e.g., summer sessions, winter session, and shorter parts of term) in which credit hours, content, and substantive learning outcomes are the same as standard semester courses must meet the requisite amount of instructional and student work hours within an accelerated time frame which requires appropriate adjustment in the length of the meeting times and/or meeting times per session. 

*Consistent with federal regulations, programs at CCP define the academic year for financial aid purposes to include at least 30 weeks of instructional time. In addition to the 14 weeks of courses, finals week counts as a week of instructional time each fall and spring semester for financial aid purposes only.  Finals week does not count toward the required contact/instructional minutes as defined by this policy.

III. Examples

Examples of how credit hours are calculated can be found here