How Many Hours are in a Credit Hour?

How many hours are in a credit hour? It’s a common question, and the answer may surprise you. Check out our blog post to learn more.

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Introduction

In the United States, a credit hour is a unit of measurement for the formally calculated time spent in an instructional activity. One credit hour generally represents a minimum of one hour of scheduled class time per week over the entire semester or trimester. The number of weeks may vary depending on the research methods or teaching methods used. For instance, a three-credit hour class that meets for two 50-minute periods per week for 15 weeks would have 30Clock hours of instruction.

The number of credit hours attached to a course is an important determinant in degree progress and completion. In general, most full-time students take 12 to 18 credit hours per semester in order to complete a bachelor’s degree within four years.

What is a Credit Hour?

In the United States, a credit hour is a unit of measurement for educational purposes. Specifically, it is defined as “the value assigned to the acquisition of specific learning outcomes in higher education” and is used to measure progress towards degree completion.

So how long is a credit hour? The short answer is that there are generally around 45 contact hours (or “classroom hours”) in a credit hour. However, the definition of a credit hour can vary slightly from one institution to another.

At most colleges and universities, a credit hour is typically defined as:
-One fifty-minute class period per week for an entire semester; or
-One seventy-five-minute class period per week for an entire semester; or
-Two fifty-minute class periods per week for one half of a semester (i.e., one quarter or trimester).

How Many Hours are in a Credit Hour?

A credit hour is a unit of measurement used by colleges and universities to indicate how much time a student should expect to spend in class and on out-of-class assignments for one credit. The general rule is that one credit hour should represent approximately one hour of class time and two hours of out-of-class time.

The Federal Definition of a Credit Hour

In order to receive federal financial aid, colleges and universities must adhere to a credit hour definition established by the Department of Education. According to this definition, a credit hour is an amount of work that:

Is embodied in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that reasonably meets these outcomes; and
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 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) 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.

The State of Florida’s Definition of a Credit Hour

In the state of Florida, a credit hour is defined 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 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 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.

Other State’s Definitions of a Credit Hour

In addition to the federal definition of a credit hour, each state has its own definition of a credit hour. The state’s definition of a credit hour is important because it is used to determine the amount of time that a student spends in class and, ultimately, the cost of the tuition.

The following states have their own definition of a credit hour:

Alabama: “A credit hour is an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that reasonably approximates not less than one hour (50 minutes) 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 required in other activities as established by the institution including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.”

Arkansas: “The number of clock hours spent in classroom or direct faculty instruction and direct student engagement averaged over fifteen weeks for one semester or trimesterhour; at least thirty clock hours per semester or trimesterhourfor courses lasting fewer than fifteen weeks; at least forty-five clock hours per semesteror trimesterhourfor courses lasting fewer than ten weeks; equivalent amounts o fwork over differen tperiods oftime as demonstrated by instructional innovationandas approved b ythe department chairpersonor program coordinatorand the Vice Presidentfor Academic Affairsorsupervisorincases where instructional innovationinvolves extracurricular activities; orcourses offeredin flexiblescheduling formatssuch as weekend orother short-term offerings.”

Colorado: “In Colorado, a ‘credit hour’ means an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidenceof student achievement that is an institutionallyestablished equivalency that reasonably approximates not less thanone hour (50minutes)of classroomor direct fac ulty instructionand ap p roximately two hou rs outof- calendartudentwork eac h week fo r eac h semes ter o r ocean te r cr ed it ho ur pr es cr ib ed b yth e ins titu tio n fo ra thir d year on diplo ma pr og ra ms an d bey on d. As pres cri bed b y rule s fr ame din cooper ati on muni cipa lit ies withi n this Col ora do R evised Statu tes 39 – 28 -104….”

Connecticut: “One Connecticut unit shall be recorded for each course successfully completed which meets all 3 criteria below: 1. award at least three hundred fifty minutes (7 credits x 50 minutes), but not more than four hundred fifty minutes (9 credits x 50 minutes), total contact time per week per 3-credit course ; 2. require no more out-of class assignments such as homework and laboratory assignments combined than there are contact minutes in class; 3. require active participation through such methods as lecture/discussion/seminar/studio/clinical experience averaging not less than fifty minutes per week per course”

Florida: “One clock hour is defined as 60 minutes within which 50 minutes are devoted to assigned instruction and related scholarly activities .”

Conclusion

In the United States, one credit hour is typically equal to fifty minutes of class time per week. This means that a three-credit hour class will meet for three hours per week, while a four-credit hour class will meet for four hours per week. Some schools may have slightly different definitions, but this is generally the standard.

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