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Credit Hour Policy

Guidelines for Instructional Time Equivalencies Across Formats/Assignment of Credit Hours

In accordance with its accreditation by the Middles States Commission on Higher Education and other discipline-based national accrediting associations, Lackawanna College also complies with and endorses the requirements of the Pennsylvania Department of Education on what constitutes a semester credit hour of instruction as set forth in Chapter 31.21 on curricula as amended.

The standard states that “a semester hour represents a unit of curricular material that can normally be taught in a minimum of 14 hours of classroom instruction, plus outside preparation or the equivalent as determined by the faculty.” Thus, a 3-credit course represents the equivalent of 42 hours of classroom instruction or its equivalent, not including final examination or homework as normally interpreted.

The following guidelines are intended to assure compliance with standards across the various course delivery formats offered by the institution, a consistency in when and how the equivalency is applied across formats, and the maximum opportunity for faculty to exercise academic freedom in meeting the extant standard while achieving the goals, objectives, and outcomes of the specific course.

Semester Format

Ordinarily, courses offered within a traditional semester format (14 weeks plus one week final examinations over 2 semesters) will meet the 14-hours-of-classroom-instruction-per-one-semester-credit-hour (i.e. 42 hours for a 3-credit course, 56 hours for a 4-credit course, etc.). However, if a class or classes in a course must be cancelled due, for example, to the closing of the University for inclement weather or the illness or other appropriate unavailability of the faculty member, then additional structured instructional activity (or activities) would be required to meet the equivalency standard. Wherever possible, this contingency should be explained in the syllabus and documented accordingly.

Courses held outside of the regular semester (during intersession and summer) meet the same credit hour guidelines.

Online and Hybrid Courses

Online and hybrid courses adhere to the credit hour policy through the policies and procedures established and required by the FALCONS model as described extensively in the FALCONS Manual. The philosophy of the online design includes active and interactive teaching and learning with continually evolving connections between teacher and students and among students; and dynamic, relevant, revealing assessments intended to ensure student retention and success.

Indeed, according to PDE requirements, online courses must demonstrate that they include “activities that are the equivalent of classroom instruction.” This means that the instruction occurring within the online environment must mirror the faculty/student relationship established in the traditional classroom, including the credit hour equivalent. For example, for a class worth three credits, at least 45 hours of ‘classroom equivalent instruction’ is required.

According to the Pennsylvania Code Chapter 31, §§ 31.21, activities that are considered the equivalent of classroom instruction:

  • Are directly related to the objectives of the course;
  • Are directly measurable for grading purposes; and
  • Have the direct supervision or oversight of faculty member teaching the course

The equivalent should NOT be:

  • Homework assignments
  • “Time spent” – a calculation of the time a student spends accomplishing a task.

Research on best practices is the foundation of Lackawanna College’s FALCONS model (Appendix B, p. 25), which guides the design, function, and evaluation of the courses within the School of Distance Education.

Instructional-Related Learning Activities An array of instructional-related or student engagement activities can be utilized to achieve the equivalent of the 14-hours-of-classroom-instruction-per-one-semester-credit-hour, not including a final examination.

Choosing a particular “learning outside the classroom” activity or combination of activities is the responsibility of the faculty in terms of achieving the stated goals, objectives and outcomes of the course, enhancing cooperative and collaborative learning in an instructor-mediated environment, demonstrating an awareness of the various learning styles and experiences of the students, and in the determining of equivalency to a semester-credit-hour.

The following examples are some of the options that may be considered for utilization:

  • Discussion Board structured to provide guided or instructor-mediated threaded discussions with specified timeframes and expectations for participation;
  • Chat rooms for class or group projects that provide opportunities for collaborative learning that have specific expectations for participation and feedback;
  • Case studies and problem-solving scenarios relative to course goals and objectives utilizing higher-order analytical skills with instructor and class-designed feedback;
  • Blogs, journals, or logs in which students share the most relevant aspects with instructor and classmates;
  • Web Quest activities in which students find Internet sites that address specific course objectives and are shared with class and instruction mediation;
  • Library research in which instructor directs students to locate certain information or resources either online or in situ, relate them to course objectives and present them to the class in a designated manner;
  • Lecture materials – written transcripts or audio recordings – from which students are expected to develop questions, comments, or observations shared with class and instructor through discussion board postings or participation in chat rooms;
  • Instructional CDs
  • Field trips or tours in which students may participate as an individual or group in analyzing an activity (concert, museum, art exhibit, religious service, political debate, etc.) and prepare a paper or presentation to share with instructor and class;
  • Final group projects which represent a culmination of learning objectives and students collaborative via e-mail, chat-rooms, discussion boards, and “face to face” contract to research, analyze, synthesize and prepare projects with the instructor receiving periodic updates and providing feedback. Instructors should establish and control the learning-based interactions (when, where, and why), including frequency, duration, evaluation and assessment techniques. These guidelines recognize the need for the faculty to actively manage the learning space, both in and outside the traditional classroom.

Out of Class Requirements

In addition to the in-class, “face-to-face” requirements, students are also expected to spend TWICE the amount of time on outside of class learning activities, as follows:

Credits AwardedIn-Class RequirementsOut of Class Expectations
One15 hours (14 instructional hours, plus 1 hour of examination) 30 hours
Two45 hours (42 instructional hours, plus 3 hours of examination) 90 hours
Three60 hours (56 instructional hours, plus 4 hours of examination) 120 hours

Other Information

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has developed certain parameters to assist in developing curricular content that is equivalent to classroom-based instruction. According to Pennsylvania Department of Education clarification: equivalent content should:

  • Be related directly to the objectives of the course/program;
  • Be measurable for grading purposes;
  • Have the direct oversight or supervision of the faculty member teaching the course;
  • Be equivalent (in some form) of an activity conducted in the classroom.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education states that equivalent content may not be homework assignments or focused on “time spent” (the amount of time the student spends accomplishing the task).

All academic activities such as labs, internships, externships, and clinicals require the same minimum amount of hours as stated above.

Internship Hour Guidelines

Lackawanna College offers internships for specific majors. The program is designed to provide student interns the opportunity for meaningful career-related experience in their majors. Student interns are expected to practice and expand upon their knowledge and skills learned in the classroom in a hands-on work environment. Internships should provide a better understanding of their major while facilitating the transition from the classroom to the career environment.

All internships require a minimum of 45 hours per credit. Three semester hours of credit requires a minimum of 135 hours on site.

Online Student Credit Limit Policy

In congruence with the College’s mission, students may take advantage of the online course delivery method in order to overcome obstacles to their learning such as distance, time, transportation, and family or work responsibilities.

Lackawanna College currently offers an assortment of online courses in each academic Division. However, Lackawanna College is not currently approved to offer online degrees; and students are unable to earn a completely online degree, as some required core courses, such as Effective Communication, are not offered online.

Further, any student who has applied a Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) state aid grant to their tuition may only maintain their award if 50% of their coursework is completed on-ground in the traditional classroom each semester.

Students who do not qualify or are not using PHEAA, may earn their credits in any medium in any semester without restriction by the Financial Aid Office. Moreover, it is the right of students who wish to forgo their PHEAA award and utilize their own personal funds to exceed the 50% cap to do so.

Lackawanna College maintains an electronic alert within Jenzabar, the College’s information system, which places a temporary hold on student accounts once 50% of their total curriculum credits are registered as online courses. At this time, the system will not allow for students with this hold to register for an OA or OM section without approval.

Students, advisors, Student Affairs, and Financial Aid will collaborate to review and discuss the student’s state aid status and registration options before proceeding. In this way, no student will violate accreditation or grant restrictions in fulfilling their degree requirements.