Policy - Credit Hour
Policy on the credit hour at UW-Madison, including definitions, guidance, and exclusions.
This is a summary of the Policy on the Credit Hour. Click here to view the official policy in its entirety in the UW-Madison Policy Library.
A. Introduction and Context
- 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:
- 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 the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or
- 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.
B. UW-Madison Definition of Credit Hour – Policy Statement
C. Guidance for Application of the Credit Hour Policy
- The credit hour assignment for a course is set at the time a course is approved through governance, and finally by the University Curriculum Committee. The credit hour assignment is a feature of the course and is maintained across all offerings of the course. Course proposals will include information that supports approval of the assigned credit hours. As courses are delivered, departments and their instructors are expected to maintain the appropriate learning activities for students for the given number of credit hours.
- At UW-Madison instruction is scheduled during standard 15-week fall and spring semesters and in a summer term. Sessions of varying length are available in fall, spring and summer. The credit hour policy accommodates instruction in all of these semester, term and session lengths.
- 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.
- The 45-hour-per-credit standard is also flexible enough to be used with a standard 15-week semester offering or with sessions of a shorter length. For example, it allows a 1-credit course to be offered in as short a time as a week. It also provides a definition of a credit hour in cases where there is more student-instructor interaction and less out-of-classroom learning time than in the standard Carnegie unit definition.
- The 45-hour-per-credit standard is flexible enough to apply to all formats of instruction; it works for formats that are not tied to traditional “seat time” and do not readily fit within the traditional credit hour definition. Such formats include flipped/blended instruction, online instruction, and other emerging modes of instruction. This credit hour policy will be applied to independent/directed study, internships, coops, teaching practicum courses, clinical placements, clerkships, field courses, studio and lab courses, research study, and other kinds of for-credit experiential learning.
- In September 2020, the U.S. Department of Education issued the following definition of regular and substantive interaction. For purposes of this definition, substantive interaction is engaging students in teaching, learning, and assessment, consistent with the content under discussion, and also includes at least two of the following:
- Providing direct instruction
- Assessing or providing feedback on a student's coursework;
- Providing information or responding to questions about the content of a course or competency;
- Facilitating a group discussion regarding the content of a course or competency; or
- 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:
- 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
- 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 a feature that is preserved across all formats of instruction; the way that requirement is met will differ across different 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 addition, for online/distance courses the instructor uses 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 will all have distinctive levels of regular and substantive instructor interaction consistent with higher education standards. There is no single comprehensive definition for regular and substantive student-instructor interaction.
7. 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.
8. The credit hour standard for the course, and the way that the credit hour standard is achieved, is communicated to students as part of the course syllabus or equivalent documentation.
9. 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.
D. Accountability and Federal Compliance
E. Exclusions - Correspondence Courses and Competency-Based Education
F. Credit Limit Policy - Summer Term
Students are limited to course enrollment equal to one credit per week of session with the exception of the eight week general session. That session allows for 9 credits over the eight week period. The enrollment system does not allow students to enroll for more credits than their credit limit. In addition to the session credit limit, undergraduate students will be allowed to enroll in a maximum of twelve credits across the duration of the summer term.
Revised and Approved: University Academic Planning Council, 17 December 2020
Revised and Approved: University Curriculum Committee, 11 December 2020
Established and Approved: University Academic Planning Council, 15 June 2017
Established and Approved: University Curriculum Committee, 12 May 2017