Academic Program Measurement

Credit Hours

Federal regulations define a credit hour 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—

  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 the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time.
  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. 

To comply with the federal definition, courses offered at West Coast University have an expectation of two hours of work outside of class for each hour of lecture, and one hour of work outside of class for each hour of lab work.

West Coast University measures its academic programs in semester credit hours, which are defined as follows:

    1. For lecture classes, one semester credit is equal to a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 20 clock hours of instruction.
    2. For laboratory classes, one semester credit is equal to a minimum of 30 and a maximum of 40 clock hours of instruction.
    3. For Supervised Clinical/Practicum classes, one semester credit is equal to a minimum of 45 and a maximum of 60 clock hours. Labs in the Nursing are considered clinical for credit hour calculations.
    4. For externships/internships, one semester credit is equal to a minimum of 65 and a maximum of 85 clock hours.  In such scenarios, a student works in an agency or other professional setting under the supervision of a designated and University-approved practicing professional. 

Since in the above definitions, credits are translated to "clock hours," West Coast University defines a "clock hour" as a minimum of 50 minutes in which lectures, demonstrations, and similar class and related student learning activities are conducted.

Definition of a Credit Hour in an Online Class

Calculation of credit hours in an online or blended format course is based on the consideration of the following activities:

  1. The time spent in live instruction. Live instruction may be
    1. synchronous or instructor-led online time, or
    2. on-ground learning in the classroom 
  2. The number of screens viewed in the course of online instruction. The average time spent on a “screen” is generally calculated as being between 3-5 minutes per screen.
  3. The run-time for required media asset assignments calculated on a 1:1 ratio to seat time. Run time may be factored to account for expected multiple viewings of the asset for review and re-enforcement of the material. Assets may include
    1. self playing videos or animation, or
    2. audio podcasts and recordings
  4. Links to external learning assets – calculated as an average of the time required to consume content such as by
    1. reading an article
    2. watching a self-paced instructional video
    3. playing an instructional game
    4. or completing a simulation
  5. Assignments – The instructor expectation of time spent in online instructional assignments and activities such as:
    1. postings to group discussion sites/bulletin boards
    2. online group project work
    3. use of class social media sites for group discussion/participation
    4. student-teacher interaction

West Coast University strives to ensure an equivalency of effort and time invested by the student in learning activities, whether a course is taught in an online or on-ground environment. 

Periodic Review of Course Credit

WCU has two processes to regularly review the application of the University credit hour definition across all programs and delivery methods to assure that credit hour assignments are accurate and reliable.  

  1. Adherence to the institutional credit hour policy is evaluated regularly as part of the Annual Learning Outcomes Review or Program Review process.  For disciplines with a programmatic accreditor, the credit hour review is incorporated into the comprehensive self-study.  
  2. Assignment of credit hours for a particular course are reviewed and evaluated using the Course Approval Form, required when new courses are developed or when existing courses are modified. 
Program Deans, Chairs, and faculty are charged with the responsibility to demonstrate and document the accurate application of the WCU credit hour definition for instruction and out-of-class student work.  Course syllabi reflect course credit hours and the amount of student work required to earn the credits.  The credit hour definition is applied to all courses regardless of the number of academic weeks required for instruction.  Courses with same course title have a consistent purpose, scope, quality, assessment, as well as expected learning outcomes regardless of delivery method.