Credit Hour Policy

This policy describes how credit hours for all courses and programs are awarded at NAU.

Credit hour is a commonly adopted unit used by academic institutions to quantify the amount of time devoted to a course, including academic preparation expected for meeting the course outcomes. Students at NAU do not attend class in a physical location (unless attending an NAU site on a military installation) but the expectations for learning outcomes are analogous to those of a face-to-face class. The Department of Education recognizes that institutions are using new delivery models and as a result seat time is not the sole measure for determining credit hour equivalency. Academic programs at NAU are scheduled on both quarter and trimester calendars as well as, in some cases alternate calendars. In all cases scheduling is guided by the Credit Hour Policy.

Except as provided in 34 CFR § 668.8(k) and (l), a credit hour is an amount of student work defined by an institution, as approved by the institution’s accrediting agency or state approval agency, that is consistent with commonly accepted practices in postsecondary education and that:

  1. Reasonably approximates 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 trimester hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time, or;
    • At least an equivalent amount of work as outlined in paragraph (1)(i) 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; and
  2. Permits an institution, in determining the amount of work associated with a credit hour, to take into account a variety of delivery methods, measurements of student work, academic calendars, disciplines, and degree levels.

When instruction is offered in a compressed format, learning may be determined, organized, and evaluated as being equivalent when a clear demonstration of intended learning outcomes is apparent. This may be demonstrated through course assessment practices including but not limited to demonstration of mastery of competencies, portfolio submission, or a product demonstrating mastery of learning.

Credit Hour Standard by Instructional Method

In recognition of the dynamic nature of the online classroom and that classroom instruction may happen at any time, no distinction is made between classroom or faculty instruction and “out-of-class” student work. Time estimates for assigning credit hours are defined as the total time spent by students in fulfillment of course requirements, which may occur inside or outside the online course platform. For purposes of calculating the total time equivalent to credits, a standard semester is defined as 15 weeks, and a standard quarter is defined as 10 weeks. A standardized semester credit is equal to 42.5 expected hours of work for the entire semester (170 minutes x 15 weeks). A standardized quarter credit is equal to 28.3 expected hours of work for the entire quarter (170 minutes x 10 weeks). The number and kind of activities estimated to fulfill time requirements vary by degree level, student learning style, student familiarity with delivery method, and student familiarity with curricular content.

Online Courses: Contact time is satisfied by several means which can include, but is not limited to, the following: 1) regular instruction or interaction with a university faculty member once a week for each week the course runs or 2) academic engagement through interactive tutorials, group discussions moderated by faculty, virtual study/project groups, engaging with class peers and computer tutorials graded and reviewed by faculty.

Independent Study: Courses of study in which a university faculty member regularly interacts and directs student outcomes with weekly contact of at least 50 minutes per student.

Clinical/Externship/Internship/Practica/Field Experience: Courses of study in which a university faculty member regularly interacts and directs student outcomes with periodic contact. The learning experience also contains a site supervisor and directed activity or learning outside of a lecture setting. Required contact time is a minimum of 150 minutes each week during the 10-week period for each credit awarded.

Module Courses: Courses offered: a) that are shorter in length than the standard quarter and trimester, b) in which contact time is reduced or c) both shorter in length and contact time. The content and substantive learning outcomes are the same as those in the standard quarter.