Semester (Credit) Hour Definitions

Federal Regulation 34 CFR 600.2 provides the following definitions for clock and credit hours:

Clock hour: A period of time consisting of—

(1) A 50- to 60-minute class, lecture, or recitation in a 60-minute period;

(2) A 50- to 60-minute faculty-supervised laboratory, shop training, or internship in a 60-minute period; or

(3) Sixty minutes of preparation in a correspondence course.

Credit hour: Except as provided in 34 CFR 668.8(k) and (l), 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—

(1) 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 paragraph (1) of this definition 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.                               

At Westminster College, the standard unit of credit is a semester hour. The College meets these requirements using a 16-week semester calendar in which each class period meets at least 14 days each semester.

The standard course at Westminster is worth four semester hours. In every four semester hour course, students receive a minimum of 180 minutes of instruction per week, except for the final week of the semester during which each standard course has one 150-minute examination period. This means every standard course includes a minimum of 2,670 minutes of instruction. Additionally, a minimum of two hours of out of class student work is expected for every hour of instruction. Academic departments that offer courses bearing less than four semester hours of credit are responsible for ensuring that those courses conform to the federal guideline outlined above.

This semester hour policy applies to all courses, both undergraduate and graduate, that award academic credit (i.e., any course that appears on an official transcript issued by the College). Instruction time is the same regardless of whether the course is delivered face-to-face or online. Courses that have less structured classroom schedules, such as independent studies, internships, studio work, research seminars, or any other academic work that is awarded academic credit must also meet or exceed the federal guidelines.