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4. Federal Requirement

Federal Requirement:

4.9 The institution has policies and procedures for determining the credit hours awarded for courses and programs that conform to commonly accepted practices in higher education and to Commission policy. (See Commission policy "Credit Hours.") (Definition of credit hours)

Statement of Compliance:   In Compliance.

Narrative:

The University of West Georgia bases the awarding of credit hours on section 3.4.1 of the Policy Manual of the University System of Georgia [1]. This policy, often referred to as the "750-minute policy" states,

               "All USG institutions shall be on the semester system (BOR Minutes, December, 1995).

The academic year shall consist of two (2) regular semesters, each not to be less than fifteen (15) calendar weeks in length, excluding registration.

A minimum of 750 minutes of instruction is required for each semester credit hour."

The policy reflects the fundamental and commonly accepted principles associated with the traditional Carnegie unit by establishing the minimum amount of direct instructional time that is required for the award of credit.  This comes with an expectation that students will be engaged with course content or activities for approximately twice as much additional time.  

The University of West Georgia expands on this definition by stipulating not only the number of hours of instruction, but also by stipulating the number of hours (or equivalent) that students will be required to devote to each course outside of class.  In doing so, the University policy explicitly aligns with both SACS and federal policies on the awarding of credit hours.  The policy approved by the Faculty Senate at the December 7, 2012 meeting [2] is as follows:  

"The University of West Georgia grants one semester hour of credit for work equivalent to a minimum of one hour (50 minutes) of in-class or other direct faculty instruction AND two hours of student work outside of class per week for approximately fifteen weeks.

For each course, the course syllabus will document the amount of in-class (or other direct faculty instruction) and out-of-class work required to earn the credit hour(s) assigned to the course. Out-of-class work will include all forms of credit-bearing activity, including but not limited to assignments, readings, observations, and musical practice.

Where available, the university grants academic credit for students who verify via competency-based testing, that they have accomplished the learning outcomes associated with a course that would normally meet the requirements outlined above (e.g. AP credit, CLEP, and departmental exams)."

Implementation of the policy is evidenced in the University’s academic calendar [3] and in established class periods published in information disseminated to students by the Registrar’s Office [4].  Each semester consists of a minimum of 15 weeks during which a traditional three-credit hour course meets for a minimum of three 50-minute sessions each week and students are expected to invest a minimum of approximately two additional hours in preparing for class, completing projects, or other activities.  In total, such a course would require that the typical student receives at least 750 minutes of "classroom or direct instruction" and a minimum of 90 hours "out of class student work" during the semester and, if completed successfully, would be awarded three hours of credit [5].  Similar expectations are held for all courses which award credit, regardless of the nature of the course (e.g., practica, laboratories, etc.) or the mode of delivery (e.g., online).

The course schedules established by the University conform to the basic principles of both SACS/COC policy and Federal regulation 34 CFR 600.2 [6] in terms that focus on the amount of time devoted to academic work for each credit hour earned.  However, as described in additional information provided by the Office of Postsecondary Education dated 18 March, 2011 [7] and as interpreted in SACS/COC policy, "a credit hour is a proxy measure of a quantity of student learning."  More generally, then, "a credit hour is a unit of measure that gives value to the level of instruction, academic rigor, and time requirements for a course taken at an educational institution" ([7], p.2) and "the credit hour definition does not emphasize the concept of "seat time" (time in class) as the primary metric" (p.3).  Adherence to accepted policies for award of credit hours at the University of West Georgia is one of several factors evaluated during the extensive process of internal review for approval of courses and programs, and is evident in the student learning outcomes established by each program (refer also to CS narratives 2.7, 3.4.6, and 4.4).

Application of these principles is also evident in the processes used by the University to determine award of transfer credit.  The Registrar’s Office has developed and applies "Principles & Procedures for Reviewing Transfer Credit from Non-Accredited Institutions" [8] and an "Undergraduate Transfer Course Equivalents Tool" [9].  These processes reflect an attempt to ensure consistent application of policies for award of credit that ensure compliance with institutional, system, SACS, and federal policies.

Supporting Documentation: