Academic Credit Hours: What to Know | 2018-03-15 |

Academic Credit Hours: What to Know

M. M. Shahidul Hassan     15th March, 2018 10:45:34 printer

Academic Credit Hours: What to Know

Academic credits are a convenient numerical way to assess a student’s academic progress and to award certificates, diplomas, degrees, and other qualifications. Credits are also used to determine faculty-workload thresholds to qualify for the full time faculty status.


In most cases, the earned credits are identified by the term “credit hours”. As US universities operate on various systems, a variety of formulae is used to calculate, record, and interpret the amount of earned credits for awarding academic qualifications. Each university develops its own credit hour policy that conforms to the definition of a credit hour as specified by the Federal Government. Universities in Bangladesh operate on either semester or trimester system. But unlike United States Federal Government regulations in credit hours, Bangladesh government does not have any credit hour policy. There should be national credit hour regulations and each system must fall within the parameters of the regulations. Recently Bangladesh Parliament has passed the Bangladesh Accreditation Council. If there would have been government guidelines governing credit hour, accreditation council could examine the credit hours requirement for an academic qualification of an institution by conforming to national guidelines governing different academic calendars. Minimum credits requirement of an academic programme of semester system must be different in comparison to trimester system. Now time has come to understand how credits are awarded in different academic calendars and equivalency of credit hours specified by academic calendars. Three different academic calendars, for example semester, trimester and quarter are followed in the universities in USA. So we may first study how credits are awarded at American universities under different academic calendars, and we will learn the basic things about credits. Students receive credit hours based on the number of “contact hours” they spend studying per week in class. The Federal Government uses the Carnegie credit hour definition. 


A course with one hour (of 50 minutes) of instruction per week and a minimum of 2 hours of out‐of‐class student work (studying, homework, assignments, etc.) each week during a 15 week excluding final exams week semester is equated with one semester hour of credit or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time or the equivalent effort over a different time frame. One semester credit hour  for theory  course will be awarded for a minimum of 1×50×15 = 750 minutes of formalised instruction (contact hour) that typically requires students to work at out-of-class work an average  amount of time 1x2x60x15 = 1,800 minutes. It is acknowledged that formalised instruction may take place in a variety of modes. For a laboratory class, the hours per week are considered to be all in class with no outside assignments. The minimum contact time per credit is 2x50x15= 1500 minutes or 2 hours per week for the length of a regular semester. For individualised study credit (e.g. thesis, graduate project, independent or directed reading) one credit hour is defined as a minimum of 3  hours of direct instruction and /or individual work each week for fifteen weeks. Studio describes a class in which all students are engaged in creative or artistic activities, which are new and unique and not formulated in a lecture setting. For studio one credit hour is equivalent to 1.5 contact hour.  Online and hybrid courses must meet the same credit hour requirement as face-to-face courses. Faculty teaching online and hybrid courses must account for 12.5 hours of instructional time and 30 hours of student work for each credit hour. Contact time is satisfied through several means, which can include but is not limited to the following: a) web-based synchronous meetings using tele- and/or video-conferencing software at times scheduled in advance by the faculty member; b) academic engagement through interactive tutorials, video lectures, online chats, group discussions moderated by faculty, virtual study/group projects, engaging with class peers and computer tutorials graded and reviewed by faculty.       

A standard full-time study load is usually 30 (2x15) credit hours per year. Typically, in order to graduate with a degree, universities with semester calendar expect students to complete 120-130 credit hours for a Bachelor’s degree. A quarter system divides the academic year into four terms, and a typical quarter lasts 10 weeks.  The weight of each quarter unit (hour or credit) is approximately 2/3 that of a semester unit. In this case, a bachelor’s degree usually requires a minimum of 180 (120x3/2) quarter hours to complete instead of 120. A trimester system divides the academic year into three sessions.  Each session is 14 weeks (13 weeks of instruction with one week for exams) long. In trimester a bachelor’s degree usually requires a minimum of 138 (120x15/13) trimester hours which is equivalent to 120 semester hours.

 In order to bring credit hours into conformity with different academic calendars operated in universities in Bangladesh and also with universities abroad, we should have national definition of credit hour and credit hour policy. However, higher learning institutions must be given the flexibility to demonstrate their own methods of measuring student learning, so long as they result in institutional equivalencies approximate national definition of credit hour.


The writer is the Vice Chancellor of East West University