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Academic Credit Hour

Title: Academic Credit Hour Policy
Effective Date: October 31, 2014
Responsible Office: Provost
Last Updated: August 30, 2023

I. Scope

This policy applies to William & Mary (W&M) as a whole university, including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (the university).  This policy applies to all courses for which William & Mary credit is awarded, at all levels and in all schools and programs. The policy does not address non-credit instruction or continuing education units (CEUs).

II. Purpose

This policy defines and provides requirements for the awarding of academic credit at William & Mary. It aligns with requirements articulated by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE), the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

III. Definitions

Clock Hour:  In alignment with 34 C.F.R. 600.2 and the Virginia Administrative Code (8VAC40-31-10), W&M defines a “clock hour” as 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, practicum, studio session, or internship in a 60-minute period; or
  3. In distance education, 50- to 60-minutes in a 60-minute period of attendance in:
  • A synchronous or asynchronous class, lecture, or recitation where there is opportunity for direct interaction between the instructor and students; or
  • An asynchronous learning activity involving academic engagement in which the student interacts with technology and participates in one or more relevant learning activities.

Credit Hour:  For purposes of the application of this policy and in accord with 34 C.F.R. 600.2, 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:

  1. Not less than one hour 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 the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time, or
  2. At least an equivalent amount of work as required outlined 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.

Delinked Courses: At William & Mary, some courses diverge from the traditional definition of a credit hour.  In such courses, the ratio of contact hours to out-of-class hours is different from the traditional 1:2 ratio required in the definition of a credit hour above. In such cases, credit hours and contact hours are considered to be “delinked.”

IV. Policy

A.  Except for courses that have been approved as “delinked courses,” all courses at William & Mary must conform to the definition of credit hour as given in this policy, regardless of the mode of delivery, including, but not limited to: self-paced, asynchronous online, synchronous online, hybrid, lecture, seminar, and laboratory courses.

B. William & Mary further acknowledges credit-hour stipulations required by accrediting agencies for  specific schools, programs, and levels.

C. In 8VAC41-30-10, “Regulations Governing Certification of Certain Institutions to Confer Degrees, Diplomas, and Certificates” the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) notes: “Emerging delivery methodologies may necessitate determining a unit of undergraduate or graduate credit with non-time-based methods. These courses shall use demonstration of competency, demonstration of proficiency, or fulfillment of learning outcomes to ensure these courses are equivalent to traditionally delivered courses.”

 D. Delinking

  1. Delinked courses must meet the same total hours (contact + out-of-class) required for a traditional course of equivalent credit hours. That is, the sum of contact hours and out-of-class hours for delinked courses shall, at a minimum, equal 45 hours per credit hour over the course of one academic term (e.g., semester).
  2. Each academic dean shall establish a delinking policy for their primary academic unit (school). Such policies shall detail how courses requesting approval for delinking are reviewed and approved, how approved delinked courses are monitored for compliance with this policy, and, if relevant, school-specific delinking requirements if different from the minimum requirements of this policy. Schools shall maintain documentation of such approval and review and shall provide that documentation to the Office of the Provost upon request.

E. Responsibility

  1. Academic deans, department chairs and program directors ensure that credit hours are appropriately awarded in accordance with this policy and federal regulations.
  2. Faculty committees governing educational policy in each school ensure that the proposed instruction, required learning activities and stated learning outcomes meet this credit-hour standard for all course proposals and delinking approval requests.
  3. Faculty committees governing educational policy shall periodically review sample syllabi for all previously approved delinked courses to ensure ongoing compliance with this policy and their School’s delinking policy.
  4. When building the schedule, the University Registrar’s Office, academic deans and academic program/department staff are responsible for ensuring that credit hours are accurately established.
V. Approval and Amendment

This policy was approved by the Provost effective October 31, 2014 and revised by the Executive Leadership Team on August 30, 2023. The revisions included defining a clock hour in the Code of Federal Regulations and adding university requirements regarding course delinking.

VI.  Related Policies and Documents

34 C.F.R. 600.2

Virginia Administrative Code 8VAC40-31-10

SACSCOC Policy on Credit Hours