Courses: Credit Hour and Regular and Substantive Interaction Guidance

Guidance on what constitutes regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors.

Policy

The Credit Hour

Policy Number

UW-1011

Responsible Office

Data, Academic Planning & Institutional Research

Type

University Policy

Rationale/​Purpose

The U.S. Department of Education requires an institution participating in Title IV (federal financial aid) to define a credit hour. Compliance is subject to external review by the delegated authority of the Higher Learning Commission, the university's regional accrediting agency.

Policy

  1. Application of the Policy

    Course proposals must include sufficient information to aid in the determination of a course’s credit hour value which is established at the time a course is approved through governance and finalized by the University Curriculum Committee. The credit hour designation is maintained across all course offerings and is communicated to students in the course syllabus or equivalent documentation, along with learning outcomes and/or objectives.

    As courses are delivered, departments and their instructors are expected to maintain the appropriate learning activities for students for the determined number of credit hours. All credit-bearing courses at UW–Madison have an instructor of record who meets the minimum qualification standards, who takes responsibility for the learning experience, and who assesses the academic engagement of students, as appropriate for the course format and mode of delivery.

    The 45-hour-per-credit standard conforms to the standard Carnegie unit of the federal definition that sets a credit hour as a course that meets weekly for a 50-minute period over a 15-week semester and expects two hours of student work outside of the classroom for every in-class hour.

    All courses are required to have stated learning outcomes or objectives. The learning outcomes are a feature of the course and are approved when the course is approved. Learning outcomes serve as a basis to determine if the amount of learning is consistent across different formats and modes of instruction. In relation to the credit-hour policy, a statement of what students will learn is necessary if credit is based on a demonstration by the student of learning equivalent to that established as the expected product of a period of study corresponding to a time-based credit-hour assignment.

    The credit-hour standard for the course, and the way that the credit-hour standard is achieved, are communicated to students as part of the course syllabus or equivalent documentation.

    Departments continue to be responsible for the consistent application of the credit hour, credit-hour policy, and for ensuring that a stated credit-hour standard is maintained as courses and instructors and mode of instruction or course formats change.

    All credit-bearing courses are to be scheduled in accordance with UW-Madison’s academic calendar and session dates calendar. The definition of a credit hour accommodates course offerings across fall and spring semesters, summer term and all sessions, and across all formats and modes of instruction including in-person, online, and hybrid. The credit hour policy provides flexibility to serve the university as methods of instruction continue to evolve.

  2. Regular and Substantive Student-Instructor Interaction

    1. For purposes of this policy, regular and substantive interaction involves engaging students in teaching, learning, and assessment, consistent with the content under discussion, and it also includes at least two of the following, regardless of modality:

      1. Providing direct instruction;
      2. Assessing or providing feedback on a student's coursework;
      3. Providing information or responding to questions about the content of a course or competency;
      4. Facilitating a group discussion regarding the content of a course or competency; or
      5. Other instructional activities approved by the institution's or program's accrediting agency.
    2. UW-Madison ensures regular interaction between a student and an instructor or instructors by, prior to the student's completion of a course or competency:

      1. Providing the opportunity for substantive interactions with the student on a predictable and scheduled basis commensurate with the length of time and the amount of content in the course or competency; and
      2. Monitoring the student's academic engagement and success and ensuring that an instructor is responsible for promptly and proactively engaging in substantive interaction with the student when needed on the basis of such monitoring, or upon request by the student.

    The requirement for regular and substantive student-instructor interaction sets a quality standard for UW–Madison instruction and recognizes the centrality of faculty and other qualified instructors in the student learning experience. The requirement for regular and substantive student-instructor interaction is mandated across all course formats and modes of instruction.

    A traditionally formatted three-credit course will typically include three 50-minute class meetings of instructors and students weekly over the 15-week semester. In a blended or flipped course format, substantive interaction may take the form of instructor-guided problem solving or discussion formats. In online/distance courses, the instructor must use technology and progressive disclosure of content to establish regular and substantive interaction. Independent/directed study, research, studio and performing art, internships, clinical placements, other workplace experiences, and other experiential learning must have distinctive levels of regular and substantive instructor interaction consistent with higher education standards.

  3. Exclusions

    UW-Madison must be authorized by the Higher Learning Commission and/or the U.S. Department of Education to offer all instructional programs. UW-Madison does not offer certain modalities or programs such as correspondence courses, and competency-based or subscription-based programs.

Related UW–Madison Documents, Web Pages, or Other Resources

External References

Approval Authority

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Policy Manager

Vice Provost for Data, Academic Planning & Institutional Research

Contact

Associate Director, Data, Academic Planning & Institutional Research -- Michelle Young, MEYOUNG@WISC.EDU, (608) 262-2143

Effective Date

06-15-2017
Source: View policy UW-1011 in the UW-Madison Policy Library

Procedures

Overview and Definitions

The UW-Madison credit hour policy states:

Generally, UW-Madison will follow the federal credit hour definition: one hour (i.e., 50 minutes) of classroom or direct faculty/qualified instructor instruction and a minimum of two hours of out of class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks, or the equivalent engagement over a different time-period. 

Alternatively, a credit hour will be defined as the learning that takes place in at least 45 hours of learning activities, which includes time in lectures or class meetings, in-person or online, laboratories, examinations, presentations, tutorials, preparation, reading, studying, hands-on experiences, and other learning activities; or a demonstration by the student of learning equivalent to that established as the expected product of such a period of study. 

In all cases, learning in for-credit courses is guided by a qualified instructor and includes regular and substantive student-instructor interaction

The phrase “regular and substantive student-instructor interaction” comes from the federal definition of distance education. While regular and substantive student-instructor interaction is specifically mentioned in the definition of distance education, it is applicable to any class regardless of instructional modality.

Distance education means education that uses one or more of the technologies listed in bullets 1-4 below to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor, either synchronously or asynchronously. The technologies may include:

  1. The internet;
  2. One-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices;
  3. Audio conferencing; or
  4. Video cassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, if the cassettes, DVDs, or CD-ROMs are used in a course in conjunction with any of the technologies listed in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this definition.

The U.S. Department of Education included the phrase “regular and substantive student interaction" in the 2010 release of the credit hour definition but did not provide a definition. In September 2020, the U.S. Department of Education issued this definition: 

Substantive interaction is engaging students in teaching, learning, and assessment, consistent with the content under discussion, and include at least two of the following:

  1. Providing direct instruction;
  2. Assessing or providing feedback on a student’s coursework;
  3. Providing information or responding to questions about the content of a course or competency;
  4. Facilitating a group discussion regarding the content of a course or competency; or
  5. Other instructional activities approved by the institution’s or program’s accrediting agency.

An institution ensures regular interaction between a student and an instructor or instructors by, prior to the student’s completion of a course or competency:

  1. Providing the opportunity for substantive interactions with the student on a predictable and scheduled basis commensurate with the length of time and the amount of content in the course or competency1; and
  2. Monitoring the student’s academic engagement and success and ensuring that an instructor is responsible for promptly and proactively engaging in substantive interaction with the student when needed on the basis of such monitoring, or upon request by the student.
1. At least weekly for classes of six or more weeks or at least three times per credit for courses shorter than six weeks.

Importance of Regular and Substantive Interaction

Understanding what constitutes regular and substantive student-instructor interaction is important for several reasons, including:

  1. UW-Madison is not accredited to offer correspondence courses. The core feature that distinguishes a distance course from a correspondence course is the presence of regular and substantive student-instructor interaction. If the university is found to have offered correspondence courses sanctions may be imposed including substantial fines and a requirement to repay millions in federal financial aid dollars.
  2. Interaction with faculty and instructional staff is a key component of the high-quality education UW-Madison offers. It is key to providing every student with the Wisconsin Experience.

Strategies and Ideas for Incorporating Regular and Substantive Interaction

Instructors can use the following strategies and ideas to incorporate regular and substantive interaction:

  • Design your course from the ground up to integrate strategic points for instructor interaction.
    • Regardless of modality, have a course schedule that includes written assignment due dates, exam dates, readings, and other assignments as relevant. Ensure that there are predictable opportunities for feedback throughout the semester.
  • Develop a communication plan to help guide and manage your interactions.
  • Regular and substantive interaction must occur between students and the qualified instructor(s). This may be supplemented, but not replaced, by interaction between students and teaching assistants or other program staff.

Things to consider when writing for the regular and substantive interaction element of a syllabus:

  1. Are there multiple components in the course? If so, these provide an opportunity to articulate various ways that interaction happens between the instructor and the student.
  2. Expand on the credit hour rationale. If the course meets for regularly scheduled class time, what kind of instruction/interaction is happening during those periods? Are there group activities with the instructor that happen outside of scheduled class time? 
  3. What other kind of activities are happening in the course (assessment, tutoring, answering questions)?
  4. Are there specific program accreditation needs being met by elements of the course?
  5. Is the course on a predictable schedule? What piece(s) meet and how often?
  6. How is the instructor monitoring the learning of students? What happens if students are not succeeding in the course?
  7. Student to student learning is important, but how does the instructor facilitate/guide these conversations/learning?
  8. What is the overall picture? The sample syllabus should provide an indication about what is happening in the classroom. As this is a sample syllabus, what happens in the actual course may be different than what is reviewed through the course proposal process.

Examples of Regular and Substantive Interaction

  • Participation in regularly scheduled learning sessions (where there is an opportunity for direct interaction between the student and the qualified instructor).
  • Provide personalized comments (in any medium) for an individual student’s assignment or exam.
  • Actively facilitate an online discussion.
  • Instructor posts announcements, email, or social media check-ins about academic aspects of the class.
  • Provide an overview video to accompany recorded lectures.
  • Identify students struggling to reach mastery through observation of discussion activity, assessment completion, or even user activity and offer additional opportunities for interaction.
  • Use of small working/study groups that are moderated by the instructor.

Examples of What is Not Considered Regular and Substantive Interaction

  • Assignment of recorded webinars, videos, and reading materials if the course design does not require the students to review the assigned material and then interact with the instructor
  • Contact with instructors not related to the course subject matter.
  • Adding numeric grades to the course gradebook
  • A student submits a quiz that is automatically graded.
  • Sending a welcome message during the first week of class and another around mid-semester.
  • Encouraging students to participate in an optional, one-time online review session before the final exam.
  • Reminding students of the course attendance policy.
  • Posting an announcement about an upcoming assignment deadline.
  • Providing an open-ended online forum that is not moderated by the instructor.



Keywordsonline, distance, engagement, credit hour   Doc ID107640
OwnerMelissa S.GroupAcademic Planning
Created2020-12-07 13:45:30Updated2024-06-25 15:47:11
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